Government and regulatory
Editorial: No side happy after this election
There really weren’t any winners in the federal election.
By Patrick Flannery
The federal election is over and I don’t suspect anyone is happy except possibly the Bloc Quebecois, who picked up just about all the support the NDP had built in Quebec. The Liberals paid the price for the scandals emitting from the PMO in the form of losing their majority, but the Conservatives were unable to pick off a severely wounded government.
The Conservatives seemed to be running a make-no-mistakes campaign, not releasing a platform until the last minute and restricting Scheer to statments that might have come out of an automated political rhetoric generator. On paper, it made sense what with a first-time leader and an incumbent that looked set to self-immolate. But the old adage in football is that the only thing a prevent defense does is prevent you from winning. As the only party running on a pro-business platform (sorry, M. Bernier, you never really achieved relevance) it would have been nice to hear the Conservatives articulate more clearly how they were going to be different from the others. Not that the horrible debate format allowed for that. There was no time given for anything but zingers and the amount of cross-talk just made the thing unwatchable.
Regardless, one thing emerged from it all: the majority of this country still supports free-spending government and action against climate change. What does this mean for the rental industry?
I have to say I was sickened by the spectacle of the leaders (Bernier and Scheer excepted) competing with one another for the title of who would damage Alberta and Saskatchewan the most. Four of the five leaders in the debate took turns making stronger and stronger statements against pipelines and the Alberta oil industry generally, with Blanchet finally challenging Trudeau to promise no pipeline would cross Quebec. Thanks to the format, Bernier never really got into the topic, but Scheer missed a golden opportunity to make a ringing endorsement of western energy and all the benefits it brings us all. Not that he needed to – the Conservatives swept the west anyway leaving an entire region of the country with no representation in federal government. I can only imagine how Albertans must have felt watching the industry that provides so many of your jobs maligned in this way. Rental stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan are now looking at the prospect of no relief from the endless court cases and throttling regulations that are holding their economies back. We published a lot of stories in this magazine four or five years ago about western rental stores making their fortunes in the booming oil sands. It feels like those stories are going to stay on hold for a while longer. I know, I know…climate change. You could shut down the entire Canadian oil industry tomorrow and not make the slightest difference. Sorry, but that’s what the science says.
Even with a minority government, it does seem that carbon taxes will be with us going forward given the apparently broad support across the country for the parties advertising them. In the short term, that will mean continued high fuel prices. How long before attention turns to fossil fuel-burning construction equipment of all kinds? Perhaps moving sooner rather than later to update your diesel and gasoline-powered machinery is advisable. And taking another look at the growing catalogue of electric options – particularly if some rebates and incentives get attached.
It’s jarring for those of us who remember the deficit panics of the early ‘90s to see the cavalier attitude displayed by governments toward deficits and debt today. Every single party in the election ran on a platform loaded with new spending. That can only mean taxes are ultimately going in the direction they always go: up. The silver lining is that if those taxes fund public work projects, rental stores can get in on the action. So there’s one reason at least why rental stores might be happy today.