PM offers $1B to ailing communities
TRACYVILLE, N.B. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced a $1-billion aid package to help single-industry towns suffering economic hardship because of volatile commodity and financial markets.
The money will be used for what Harper called a “national community development trust fund” aimed at helping vulnerable communities and laid-off workers.
Well gee, that's nice of him, right?
The money will come from a one-time allocation from the federal government’s budgetary surplus, which means the fund won’t survive unless the opposition parties in Ottawa agree to support the next budget.
The opposition parties have been pounding the Conservatives for months about their inaction on this front - expressing major concern about the forestry and manufacturing sectors - and now the Cons, knowing that there are rumblings of a possible spring election that could be the result of a budget rejection by any of the parties, have found a way to threaten the opposition to avoid that possibility: blackmail.
The Forest Products Association of Canada welcomed the news but said Harper and the premiers needed to give more help to an industry that employs 300,000 people.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union slammed the fund as a useless political gimmick which had no money specifically dedicated to the forest industry.
"Our union, our membership, our communities are outraged at this frivolous announcement ... our industry is bleeding. This isn't even a Band-Aid, it's not a stitch," union president Dave Coles told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Sidebar: It's interesting that the Cons chose $1 billion as the amount of the aid - the same amount they let US interests keep when they signed the softwood lumber agreement. It's a bit late now to be playing catch up.