Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is right to suggest the federal government and long-time Liberal MP Ralph Goodale may be playing election politics with the infrastructure money.
Unfortunately, that may be all Moe and the Saskatchewan Party are right about.
What they are most wrong about is to somehow imply the age-old practice of ward-healing in advance of the an election vote is something that was evented by the Liberals.
New Democrat. Conservative. Liberal. And, yes, even Moe’s Sask. Party government are guilty of this.
The latest in this summer saga between Ottawa and the province over millions in federal infrastructure dollars now comes down to petty political bickering over the funding of two pools in Regina.
Earlier, Moe and his Sask. Party government threatened to withhold its approval of federal funding over cultural and sports projects — the Gordie Howe Bowl and the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival in Saskatoon and the Globe Theatre in Regina.
What was at issue, at least according to the Sask. Party government, was that $300 million of available federal infrastructure funds were specifically designated for transit projects.
One gets that in less urbanized Saskatchewan, money for city buses may be less of a need or a priority.
But such disagreements are normally resolved behind closed-door discussions between the two levels of government. That Moe and the Sask. Party immediately elevated this to a public fight on social media with accusations spiced with heavy political overtones suggests something much more was in play.
What that “something” is pre-election politics — something that both Moe is as guilty of playing as much (or perhaps even more) than Goodale.
Just as the fight over the three projects seemed to be resolved through the Sask. Party government’s recent approval, Moe levelled political accusations why the federal government was focussing on funding two outdoor swimming pools in Goodale’s Regina-Wascana riding.
“This is an infrastructure fund that is put forward to ensure that we can move forward on provincial priorities,” Moe said last week.
“This is not Ralph Goodale’s re-election fund.”
This quickly drew the ire of the normally unflappable Goodale who accused Moe of “trying very hard to be unpleasant.”
The Regina-Wascana MP noted that the support for the repair of the inner city pools mostly serving low-income kids was requested by the city and no one will mistake Regina Mayor Michael Fougere for a Liberal partisan.
“The provincial government has said that those kids are a lesser priority than a landfill or a garage dump somewhere else,” Goodale said.
Moreover, while Moe said he found it odd that a pool in Goodale’s ridging would be “singled out of 400 applications”, Goodale countered that 21 of the 25 projects Moe’s government submitted for funding happened to be Saskatchewan Party ridings.
“So what do you read in that?” Goodale asked. “Surely that’s not partisan.”
Of the 25 projects, 13 have already been approved by Ottawa.
So, while Moe may be right that there may be some level of pre-election politics in play, he isn’t exactly providing the whole picture.
That whole picture includes the fact that support that other projects are being funded and that — while the pools may be in Goodale riding — funding for these necessary projects is a legitimate request supported by the city.
Second, you would be hard-pressed to ever find a letter from your government MP or MLA that doesn’t highlight the tax dollars spent in your riding on your behalf.
By Moe’s own assertion, this, too, should be considered taxpayers funding re-elections.
It’s also hard to ignore that two Moe’s own caucus members are now running as federal Conservative candidates against the Liberals.
There’s pre-election politics here — a lot of politics.
But as much of it is coming from Moe as it coming is from Goodale.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.