Finance Minister Monique Jerome-Forget (at the time) announced that Quebec would harmonize its sales tax with the federal GST, in March 2009, just about two years ago.
Since then, failure to agree on a formula has cost Quebec close to 200 million dollars in lost interest, ironically more than double the amount asked by Quebec to help fund Quebec City's new arena.
With an election looming, it isn't likely that a deal will made this year or even possibly ever, if the Tories decide to hold back the payment as payback. LINK
Harper seems to have learned a valuable lesson back in 2008 when he pandered to Quebec, returning a billion dollars to Quebec and then seeing his electorial advantage evaporate over a 45 million dollar funding cut to the arts. So goes politics in Quebec.
After Harper determined that the political fallout in the rest of Canada was too large a price to pay for funding the new Quebec arena, he really had no choice but to give up on Quebec.
A 2 billion dollar payoff to Quebec in this budget would likely have kept the government alive with the Bloc Quebecois help, but it was correctly deemed too high a cost.
So the worst case scenario for Harper is that he's returned to power with pretty much the same amount of MPs as before, perhaps a couple more, but not enough for a majority.
If the Bloc picks up seats around the Quebec city area, it augers even worse for the province. With no representation in government, Quebec will continue to reap the bitter rewards of a vengeful Harper and ask anyone who knows, Harper is a spiteful sort.
Quebec's loss will be Toronto's gain, because that's where the Conservatives are building strength and the only real area in Canada with enough swing seats to provide Harper with a majority.
Another minority government will see the government's largess doted on Ontario with the Quebec portion of the pie getting just a wee bit smaller each go around.
There's talk of a deal being cooked up between Layton and Harper to save the government from collapse. For Layton's own sake it better happen, otherwise, it's likely his last campaign.
Quebec voters continue to play a dangerous game, their only two choices are to vote massively for the Bloc and hold off a majority government or vote for the Conservatives and get rewarded in cabinet.
Of course, right now, it remains Door Number One.....
But one thing is clear, 2011 is not 2008. Voters in the rest of Canada will not countenance sweetheart payoffs to Quebec anymore.
While Harper seemed to be dithering over the Quebec city arena financing, he was actually floating a trial balloon to see if he could somehow pass it off on the rest of the country.
Clearly he couldn't, a message from Canadians was sent and received.
So things are not looking so good for Quebec.
Not enough votes to separate and not enough juice in Ottawa.
So it's likely more of the same, a Harper minority government that will last another two years.
Here's my fearless predictions should an election be called;
- Same old, same old. Conservative minority government.
- Jack Layton will not survive as leader to the next election (Uncle Thom will become leader)
- Michael Ignatieff will not survive as leader to the next election
- Elizabeth May will not survive as leader to the next election
- Gilles Duceppe will return to Quebec to take over the PQ