Will Quebec's Pontiac grab national Canadian headlines? Is Canada's Foreign Minister's head on the block?

Posted 02.21.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Pontiac is in the national news, almost. How so? Discussing an election this year, the Ottawa Citizen recently picked its "Ridings to Watch", and the Pontiac was on the short list as a "three-way race," putting Harper's foreign minister's future on the line.

Lawrence Cannon won 33 percent of the vote in the last election, reported the newspaper; that means 67 percent of our riding voted against him.

That means that if we elect someone else, the little Pontiac will deliver a national body blow to the reigning government.

How secure is Minister Cannon's toehold?

Apart from his not living here, the complaints on the ground are that he is seldom in our riding, given his oh-so-important duties on the world stage (assuring the world that Canada does indeed support democracy in Tunisia and Egypt, for example), plus the continued stagnation of the local economy and its near-zero job creation.

Showing up for a photo-op or to present a cheque hasn't impressed many voters, especially those families without work.

But he is not facing dramatic challengers, so far, except for Liberal Cindy Duncan-MacMillan. The NDP lost its two-time candidate and the Bloc has yet to name one, usually an unknown. While Mr. Cannon has been pronouncing on Haiti and the Middle East, Ms. Duncan has been pushing local issues, like the abattoir, and meeting local groups. Her credentials as someone focused on Pontiac will be hard to beat.

It is curious that with Ontario facing an election this fall, the Liberal government there is attacked by the provincial Conservatives as "saddling us with mounting debt," whereas Mr. Cannon's government has prided itself on the mounting debt it created in buying our way out of the last recession.

Why is debt bad in Ontario, but admirable in Canada?

Mr. Cannon's boss has a big idea: cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. His spin is "let the private sector drive growth," which will increase tax revenues for the government. This is the trickle-down theory, something we didn't hear about when the wealthy recently pulled the plug on the world's economies -- that was trickle-down! Still, "rewarding the wealthiest should be a hard sell," wrote one Citizen columnist.

Maybe Mr. Cannon will sell tax breaks for the wealthy, but his government's own Department of Finance reports that Canada's "high" corporate taxes are about the same as Germany's, and actually lower than tax rates in the US, France, Japan, and Brazil. Ireland has among the world's lowest corporate tax rates, and is facing economic collapse. An Abacus Data poll recently found 52 percent of Canadians oppose more corporate tax cuts. Is this a winning program?

So what can Mr. Cannon do to save at least one job here, his own? He can refuse to talk about tax cuts for the corporations which closed down Pontiac's forest industry, for one. Or suggest that if the wealthy classes get even more tax breaks, they might spend some of that windfall by buying cottages in the Pontiac.... likely he'll avoid tax breaks.

He could bring up a carload of government big shots to impress us with our proximity to the levers of power, but will he explain why those levers have remained unpulled for his last two terms? Or will we get a flurry of small cheques for clubs and buildings, almost as if our votes were being purchased?

Pontiac, a giant killer? We are one of the country's few ridings which can actually create a new government in Ottawa. Do we dare?

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/02.11