St. Andrews by the ‘red sea’

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There is nothing quite like an ancient hotel, full of political ghosts, creaking timbers and medieval-sized crackling fireplaces at which to stage a retreat for the reigning government of Canada in the middle of a Maritime winter.

Justin Trudeau’s cabinet may mouth “sunny ways” on cue.

I, on the other hand, prefer to invoke “The Shining”, if only as a mischievous branding exercise for those who would never consider themselves to be axe men and women, let alone psycho-killers, but who would, nonetheless, chop their courtiers in backs, fronts and necks if it suited their practical purposes.

After all, whose ideas will best suit the new “Emperor of Canada”? Whose will be dismissed and who will be admonished and vilified by the evolving sun king? Who will be pitched (at least, metaphorically) into the frigid Fundy?

The gabfest convened quickly earlier this this month, and ended just as precipitously, for Mr. Trudeau and his chief lieutenants at the only hotel worth mentioning in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Apart from their good company, the place was empty (golf season being months away).

I imagine each and all of them having slunk down the cavernous halls of that haunted establishment, preoccupied by the various obsessions of their own minds, muttering “red-rum” and “all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy.”

Honey, they’re home. Watch them now wield their rhetorical hatchets.

The venue may change from year to year, from ruling party to party, but the objective remains the same from generation to generation: political retreats are places where the weak are culled from the herd just in time for the next big policy commitment – in this case, that would be the federal budget next month, where cuts and spending will either broadly expand or savagely curtail the territories of individual, elected nobles in this country.

Did I say that this exercise resembled “The Shining”? Allow me to switch up my metaphors: Henceforth, think fulsomely about “Game of Thrones.”

Already, and somewhat unexpectedly, our Maritime knights in armor appear ahead of the pack. Having delivered to Mr. Trudeau in the past federal election the best margins in at least three ridings of any in the entire nation, the boons for this performance appear ready to flow.

As Adam Huras wrote in a report for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, “The Federal Liberals may pay a larger chunk of new infrastructure pending projects in efforts to get shovels in the ground more quickly, the government realizing provinces may not have matching funds at the ready.” Said Mr. Trudeau: “A certain degree of flexibility (is) in order to make these things happen.”

Added Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, “We want to have consultations with the provinces and territories and municipalities to see where there are capacity gaps, where are areas that we can improve – whether we continue to be one-third partners (with the provinces and municipalities) or whether we come up with increasing that (federal) support.”

Unsurprisingly, any change to national infrastructure share-funding agreements will benefit the Maritimes disproportionately, if only because this region has almost no money left to invest in its own roads, sewers, bridges, and waste disposal facilities (having spent the last largess-leveraged-Ottawa-vote-getting program on hockey rinks and home improvement grab-bags under the previous Stephen Harper administration).

Well done, Dominic LeBlanc, Government House Leader and New Brunswick’s man on Ottawa’s ground. You are certainly worth every vote your constituents gave you.

There is, indeed, nothing quite like an ancient hotel in the middle of winter to stage a true game of thrones.

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