Sunday, May 14, 2006

Harper Hardball and Softwood Bat

As we've learned over the past few days the Harper government is playing a kind of coercive procedural hardball with Canadian forest companies.

Some forest company executives have said that they were led to believe that if they can't find a way to endorse the Harper/Wilson/Emerson softwood capitulation then the Harper government won't be able to find a way to re-engage in negotiations with the US toward some other kind of settlement. Nor will the Harper government be willing to continue the financial assistance of the companies during the slowdown - and by extension the communities where those companies are the primary economic force.

This tactic by the Harper government, if true, approaches blackmail but is undeniably coercive.

Which leads me to wonder if they're capable of employing full spectrum coercion not just this narrow band version of it.

Might they be, for example, telling the Campbell government of BC that the financial support promised for the 2010 Olympics by the previous federal government is now conditional on BC signing on to the new softwood package?

Might the recent dust-up between McGuinty and Harper regarding Ontario's expectation that the Harper government honour the previous government's grants for infrastructure repair and power generation and so forth also be a sign of this kind of conditional coercive hardball?

Both scenarios are purely speculative on my part. There's no evidence to support either.

But if the forest company executives are right about the way the Harper government is pressuring them to support the softwood deal then it's not beyond reason to believe that the Harper government would use the same tactic on provincial governments.

If that turns out to be right as well, and they get away with it, it'll only be a matter of time until the strong arm gamesmanship is directed toward you and I, the people of Canada, and not just corporate or civic institutions.

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