Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Is the cabinet appointment of Montreal's Michael Fortier good news for big cities... or really bad news?

While I'm fairly nonplussed about David Emerson's defection to the Tories, Stephen Harper's appointment of the unelected Michael Fortier to the Senate and then Minister of Public Works in his cabinet raises my hackles. As Coyne puts it, "[I]t is a fine thing for a Prime Minister elected on a platform of democratic accountability, who promised he would not appoint anyone who was not elected, either to cabinet or to the Senate, to then turn around and do both at one go. And to appoint his campaign co-chair, to boot!" Word to Big Bird.

People curious as to who Fortier is and what he stands for must read this Feb. 2 interview with him by Suzanne Dansereau in Journal LesAffaires. This was from before Harper's Cabinet announcement, but Dansereau calls him "Un des cinq doigts de sa main." (One of the five fingers on Harper's hand. Uh, it sounds better in French.) She begins the business magazine article noting: "Si vous êtes en train de revoir votre liste de contacts dans le milieu des affaires à la suite de l'élection des conservateurs de Stephen Harper à Ottawa, je vous conseille d'y ajouter un nom : Michael Fortier..." (If you're revising your list of business contacts after the election of Stephen Harper's conservatives in Ottawa, I advise you to add a name: Michael Fortier.)

Here's an excerpt from the interview, the end of which David Miller and the New Deal for Cities folks will be particularly distressed about:
[Fortier:] "Les péquistes m'ont enlevé mon drapeau - le fleurdelisé, qui est devenu un symbole souverainiste - et les libéraux m'ont enlevé mon drapeau, devenu un symbole de scandale. En devenant conservateur, je récupère les deux", dit-il.

Avec sa chemise à carreaux rose et sa cravate dans le vent, Michael Fortier est à des années-lumière du stéréotype redneck du conservateur de l'Ouest.

À ce sujet, il dira que "les points communs entre les Québécois et les gens de l'Ouest sont plus nombreux que les divergences". Au premier chef, la soif de respect des champs de compétences. "Le gouvernement Harper va commencer par ça, et bien des problèmes se régleront, dit-il. Elle est finie l'époque où le fédéral menaçait de passer par-dessus les provinces pour donner de l'argent aux villes. Le ton vient de changer. Les provinces, même libérales, vont apprécier."
My emphasis for Mayor Miller et al.

Here's a translation for you Bev Odas out there:
Says Fortier, "The Pequistes took away my flag -- the fleur de lys, which became a sovereigntist symbol -- and the Liberals took away my flag, which became a symbol of scandal. By becoming a Conservative, I got them both back."
With his checkered pink shirt and his tie flapping in the wind (?), Michael Fortier is light-years away from the stereotype of the Western conservative redneck.
On this subject, he says that the "points in common between les Quebecois and the people form the west are more numerous then the divergences." First of all, the respect for the provincial-federal division of powers. "The Harper government will start with that, and many problems with be solved," he says. "The era where the feds threaten to go over the provinces' head to give money to cities is over. The tone has just changed. The provinces, even the Liberal ones, will appreciate this."
Can you find a positive spin to put on that, D.M.?

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