The feud continuing to build between Ottawa and Queen's Park would seem to be a perfect opportunity for Stephen Harper... as John Ibbitson wrote last week when he was complaining about Harper wasting time on other things.
Here's the idea. If he wants to form a government (even a minority government) Harper needs a lot more seats. He's not going to get them in Québec in the next election. His only chance, really, is to break through in Ontario.
McGuinty has been complaining that the amount of money Ottawa takes from Ontario is what is making it so hard for this province to balance its budgets and spend on what it needs to spend on. The Hill Times credits this new push to the pressure the Ontario Liberals are facing from John Tory's PCs.
Harper talked about the "fiscal imbalance" issue in the last election, but as Paul Wells pointed out yesterday, there are two versions of "fiscal imbalance":
Although it uses Québec's term, Harper's 2004 plan for fiscal imbalance was really more in line with the complaints of Dalton McGuinty... and Albertans. He wanted to shift tax room to the provinces, which really gives money back to the "have" provinces and reduces Ottawa's role in redistribution.
Where a policy like this one could really work to Harper's advantage is in noting that the federal Liberals don't have the same sort of freedom to act. They can't match Harper's offer to Ontario because the Liberals really need to be competitive in Québec. Harper is toast in Québec, so he might as well make a real run for Ontario.
It might have appeared unseemly in the past for Harper to put this deal bluntly to Ontarians, but now that the provincial government is asking for it, it would seem to fair game.
Unfortunately, I don't think dwelling on same-sex marriage (etc.) is going to do it for him. On the other hand, if he were to seize the opportunity, he might be able to make true again the rule that we are to have different parties in power in Ottawa and Queen's Park.