On May 26, 2011, Quebec Conservative MP Christian Paradis began to assert himself in his new role as the federal Industry Minister in the most decisive way possible: he announced $4 million in funding for economic development in his own riding. It’s a relatively small announcement, and Community Futures grants are actually quite standard fare, not just in Québec. But still, the fact that Paradis’s first announcements as minister were money for his own riding is prompting me to announce a new project here at Sixth Estate: the Pork Barrel project, which can now be accessed on the top bar of this website.
I subscribe to the government’s RSS newsfeed, and I’m going to track new funding announcements over the next year to see where they go. I am, of course, prepared to be happily surprised if and when it turns out that funding is spread equitably around the country. But here’s what I expect to find:
- More funding for Conservative ridings. To an even greater extent than many previous governments, the Conservatives have in the recent past directed public money disproportionately to their own ridings, and away from the rest of the country. The ways in which this happened range from the large scale, like Tony Clement’s diversion of border and G8/G20 money into park bathrooms and gazebos, to the petty, like a new roof for Chuck Strahl’s church, to the almost Mafia-like, like privileging applicants from Conservative ridings in handing out money to protect religious communities from hate crimes.
- Disproportionate funding for Quebec. It’s hardly news that the Conservative government has (in the last five years) tried to buy off Quebec nationalists with extra money. They’re not even the first to try and do this. But the unprecedented rise of the NDP in Quebec has prompted a great deal of speculation that the Conservatives can, for the first time ever, afford to simply write off Quebec as politically lost territory. Even the US embassy appears to suspect that Quebec may be about to be cut off from the trough. Will it be? Let’s find out.
Government is supposed to represent and assist all Canadians, not just those who voted for the party in power. We’ll see, and as I say, I’m prepared to be surprised by the answers to both these questions.
In the meantime, I should point out that it would not be news if as much as 55% of federal financing went to projects in Conservative ridings. Just a couple of months ago, that would have been cause for suspicion, though certainly not alarm. Today, however, the Conservatives represent a slight majority of the country’s ridings, and so people shouldn’t be disturbed if a slight majority of federal projects occur in Conservative ridings. Indeed, if Conservative ridings get a minority of the pie, that would be surprising and newsworthy in and of itself, too. I welcome that possibility.
But for the moment, we have Christian Paradis’s direction of money straight into his own riding. So obviously we’re not off to a good start.Tweet