Liberals charge Tories with "pork-barrel" politics; Tories call it a "shameful" attack

Some fairly heated political duelling this morning between Liberals, led by their leader Michael Ignatieff and MP Gerard Kennedy, and Infrastructure Minister John Baird.

The Liberals threw the first punch. Ignatieff, in Burlington, Ont. with Kennedy at his side, said Kennedy's research proves that Tory ministers are targetting federal economic stimulus spending at Tory-held ridings. Her'es Ignatieff's opening salvo:

Nothing is happening out there!

You need an opposition to stand up and say this isn't god enough on behalf of carpenters who want to work, on behalf of all Canadians who want to get back to work, on behalf of all of the Canadians who thought the infrastructure money thought would actually go somewhere.

It doesn't end there because the other thing that Gerard Kennedy's research has shown is there is a heavy systemic bias towards Conservative ridings, and Canadians don't want political games played with infrastructure money.

They want it to benefit all Canadians, not just the areas that voted Conservative. That's not how our government works.We’ve got to serve all of the people, whether they vote for you you or they didn't.

It's not that the money isn't getting out. Where it's getting out, it's going systematically to Conservative ridings, and we think this isn't good enough, and we want to say so loud and clear. It's one of the important reasons why our party is unable to continue supporting this government, and why we've withdrawn confidence from the government.

The Liberals have two pieces of ammunition to back up their claims. First, Kennedy himself did some research, making, he says, 1,000 phone calls to follow up on Tory funding announcements. Kennedy's report was released today. Second, reporter Richard Madan of CITY-TV has the Conservative candidate in a Toronto-area riding confirming to him in an interview that the Conservative governnment won't sign off on funding for a new medical centre in his region because the riding is currently held by a Liberal. The Liberals are telling every reporter they can to watch this piece.

An hour or so after Ignatieff's appearance, Baird held a press conference at a Burlington rail station to say Ignatieff's charges are a “major and unwarranted attack” on municipalities and provinces who, he said, are ultimately responsible for deciding what projects get going. He said the federal governnment has provided $7.8 billion to help fund 4,800 infrastructure projects across the country.

Here's the key attack line from Baird:

Today Michael Ignatieff, Gerrard Kennedy, and the Liberal Party had the audacity to launch a major and unwarranted attack on the hard work of small towns and big cities across the country.

This is downright opportunistic, and I believe it's shameful.

The Liberal facts are just plain wrong. The simple fact is the federal government is funding municipal projects identified as priorities and managed by those same municipalitiess. We trust municipal leaders. We trust municipal governments across the country.

Our role — the role of the federal government — is to green light the projects in concert with our provincial partners, and territorial partners, something we've been doing at a truly unprecedented pace.

What Mr. Ignatieff today is questioning is the competence and the ability of our municipal partners to manage and complete these important projects. This assault is wrong and without merit. Our government respects municipalities and has a lot of confidence in their abilities.

I’m disappointed that Mr. Ignatieff does not share that same confidence. The last time they made these accusations, Liberals conveniently left out major investments worth billions of dollars for transit in Toronto and Vancouver. And Mr. Ignatieff is at it again, trying to mislead Canadians.

This year, our government's infrastructure spending in communities of fewer than 100,000 people is more than triple what the previous Liberal government spent.In fact, within the first seven months of the fiscal year, we had committed more money from the infrastructure stimulus fund than the previous Liberal government spent in seven years.

8 thoughts on “Liberals charge Tories with "pork-barrel" politics; Tories call it a "shameful" attack”

  1. Ok, we knew these accusations would be coming, they are the obvious response such a massive stimulus package. And with the focus on getting the stimulus 'out the door' we could also reasonably expect some funds will be wasted on useless programs. Not good, but we might convince ourselves it is just the cost of doing business.
    But for the Conservatives to deliberately shun opposition ridings would be the worst kind of corruption. If this is true, we need better proof than the Liberals have offered. Their partisan interests on this file make their claims questionable at best.
    Even if we trust the Liberal numbers, the difference in spending could be the result of any number of factors … No doubt Conservative MPs have been pushing pet projects in their own ridings. Maybe Liberal MPs should also have been advocating their constituent's interests instead of refusing to consult, cooperate or take any responsibility for the solution to the the economic crisis:

  2. To the last poster. You can try to spind this any way you want but the facts remain. Some of the ridings with the biggest winfalls are held by senior cabinet ministers, such as Tony Clement, the Industry minister who has 5 times more projects in his riding than the Canadian average. This is a game changer, folks.

    « “Look at the field behind me, it is not getting done,” Ignatieff said.
    Burlington Mayor Cam Jackson said the Liberals picked the wrong field to stage their press conference. The park project just got environmental approval last week and wasn't planned for years.
    “This project was not slated to be done for seven years,” Jackson said.
    He added he won't criticize the Tories or the provincial government on infrastructure spending because he has projects happening all over his municipality. »
    Also, given the distribution of seats – 143 Conservative to 77 Liberal – it stands to reason more Conservative ridings would be getting stimulus funding, no?

    June 12, 2009 …..
    Total Project Amounts
    (Including all three levels of government)
    Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville: $5, 206, 555
    Township of King: $14, 560, 000
    Town of Richmond Hill: $22, 152, 435
    The Regional Municpality of York: $79, 035,000
    Town of Markham: $13, 200, 000
    Total amount of all projects: $134, 153, 990.00
    The governments of Canada and Ontario have taken steps to get shovels in the ground and to flow money faster for targeted infrastructure projects starting in the 2009 construction season. …”
    H/T commenter Bruce at BLY.
    Also posted at Susan Delacourt's blog.

  5. Ummm, Gabby — Oakridges-Markham is a Conservative Riding (Paul Calandra, prop.). Markham-Unionville is held by Liberal John McCallum and it is Markham-Unionville that CPC candidate Langdon says can't get fed money because McCallum is the MP. Great news for the CPC-held riding next door, though! (It's also important to point out that the amounts you referenced are combined federal-provincial-municipal funding.

  6. I'd be interested to know how many of the infrastructure proposals came from Tory-held ridings as opposed to those held by other parties. If municipalities in Tory ridings simply sent in more applications, then Ignatieff and Kennedy's thesis falls apart. If infrastructure proposals were fairly equal across ridings of all parties yet the municipalities receiving funding are predominantly Tory, then there are grounds for calling this “pork-barrel” politics.

  7. Ummm, Mr. Akin, you may have noticed
    1. I did not provide any commentary on the information, I merely passed it on.
    Because “Nothing is happening out there!!”
    2. Wiki lists Richmond Hill as held by Liberal Bryon Wilfert.
    3. As for your reminder “It's also important to point out that the amounts you referenced are combined federal-provincial-municipal funding” I thought that was obvious from the Town of York webpage itself.
    It reads: “(Including all three levels of government)”
    “The governments of Canada and Ontario have taken steps …”
    I'm gabby, but I try not to be redundant, though not always successfully.

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