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Tim Powers

It's the economy, stupid Add to ...

Just what was Michael Ignatieff doing yesterday giving a self-described "major" speech in Ottawa on the opening day of Parliament where, one way or the other, the economy is the issue speaking about foreign affairs? While Canada's position in the world no doubt matters at some level to voters, and should, a grand dialogue on African aid is probably somewhat lower on Canadians' priority list right now as they deal with the immediacy of their own economic circumstances. Unless Ignatieff is embracing his stereotype as an aloof public intellectual and doing some micro-riding targeting, yesterday's address makes him look totally disconnected from the current realities of the average Canadian.

Rob's attacks of yesterday on fiscal matters, though he was wrong on content, represent the approach you'd think a leader who has charged his opponent as not being up to the job would launch. Iggy may be avoiding this tactic for now as he has not advanced his own economic-management plan, his party so far has approved all of the government's fiscal policy and his own past pronouncements on tax increases or the carbon tax for a recession are cause for a public pummeling if he brings fiscal fire in his normal pompous, professorial way.

On EI premiums - a topic at least one Liberal, Rob, is properly interested in - how about some clarity? The EI premium freeze means that workers and business get two-year relief from the EI premium increases that they otherwise would face. The government has always been clear that this is a temporary, two-year measure to help get Canada through the recession. Lifting a two-year freeze is not the same as increasing premiums. It's misleading and false to claim that the scheduled expiry of a temporary freeze is the same as hiking premiums. Today, because of the freeze, EI premiums are lower than they otherwise would be. That's a real benefit to workers and employers. When the freeze is lifted, premium changes will be decided by an independent body, not the government.

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