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PM visits Shipyard for a picture

Prime Minister Stephen Harper graced us with his presence here in Halifax yesterday, to re-announce the shipbuilding contract and to give slightly more information about said contract. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to convince Harper and the Conservatives that the militarization of Canada is the wrong political decision, and in terms of an economic one I’d argue that money should be spend on social programs. That said, I guess I can’t deny that building the ships (which include icebreakers, Arctic patrol vessels and destroyers) in Halifax is great for jobs creation in this region, which is badly needed – something that no one could deny. However to be clear, I am absolutely opposed to the need to build war ships.

Interesting that he would come all this way! Unless of course, he wanted a photo op with workers in

hard hats… If only he would have actually interacted with workers, now that would have been a good photo op. But alas, journalists were denied this opportunity, and surprisingly, much opportunity to ask questions or even get close to Harper. So journalists and workers were on a level playing field in that sense.

Although all of this shouldn’t be surprising, as it seems to me a common theme these days with Harper. The last time I tried to meet up with Harper when he was in town was during the last election, during which he was keeping journalists at a fair distance and only allowing them a few questions at any given tour stop (which they had to ask by yelling, since they were so far away).

Closed-door meetings also seem to be a favorite of Harper. CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement coming into final stages of negotiations with the European Union, is a fine example. Harper, the International Trade minister and the negotiating team, will share little tidbits of what is being discussed. But the full agreement as it is proposed, or what Canada is asking for, excluding, etc., is not something they are willing to share. Also, Harper may appear to listen to public input, but only hears the stuff that reinforces his views. He ignores evidence that CETA will be bad for jobs in Canada, and any other well-founded argument raising concerns about the major impacts it may well have in this country.

Let’s not forget the Canada Health Accord, coming up for negotiation to establish a new accord in 2014 as the 2004 accord expires, which Premiers and Health Ministers have gathered in Victoria this weekend to discuss. The Federal government has recently threatened to drastically cut funding to the provinces for Health care, arguing that it is a provincial jurisdiction. And there are rumours that the Feds will attempt to achieve various bi-lateral agreements, instead of maintaining the one accord for provinces and territories across the country (minus Quebec, who for a variety of reasons have a separate agreement from 2004), effectively pitting provinces against each other instead of having them work together.

One last point of interest on Harper’s visit is that Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia, was not invited to the photo op. There is definitely some political game-playing going on there. Rumour has it that Dexter annoyed Harper by trying to take some credit for Irving winning the contract (the NS Govt ran a PR campaign, “Ships start here”, and Dexter had it on his agenda any time he met with Harper during the process). Hardly leading with his party’s grassroots and mandate in mind, the NS NDP government seems to be losing allies at nearly every turn.