Ticket for the Gravy Train

The federal election, so far, has been all about the money:

$90,000 paid to quiet Mike Duffy, and locally, a $14 million promise from the prime minister’s to chip-seal 68 km of road to Dennis Bevington’s home turf in Fort Smith.

Questions from testimony at Senator Duffy’s trial followed Stephen Harper all the way to Hay River, traditionally a Conservative stronghold, and cast a shadow over his photo-op with the employees of Rowe’s Construction.

Harper’s visit put Sandy Lee in full political mode. Cut loose from the federal payroll the day the election was called, Environment minister Leona Aglukkaq’s personal agent in Yellowknife was on hand when the prime minister’s plane landed in the Hub.

Welcome to #HayRiver #NWT @pmharper !! Thank you for coming to see us so often! pic.twitter.com/nBN2ycLU4I

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— Sandy Lee (@nwtsandylee) August 14, 2015

Lee kept up a steady stream on social media, posting Harper’s every move as a counterpoint to sharp questions from reporters who flew in with the prime minister, and pressed him to explain how he could be unaware of the concerted effort in his office to lie about who covered Duffy’s expense tab.

Fulfillment of the pledge to improve Highway 5, like most of the $72 million the government had already promised to spend on the territory’s roads, depends entirely on the outcome of the election, which polls show is currently a close three-way race nationally. With no credible polling data up here, the local contest will remain an educated guessing game at best.

Hiving the announcement off from the other highway promises was consistent with Floyd Roland’s cynical campaign message: if the Territories want a seat on the federal gravy train, the Conservative candidate thinks he’ll have the tickets.

That may go some distance to explain why Harper looked the other way when Roland followed Joe Handley as premier, and the territorial government could have used some help paying for the Dehcho bridge.

Every seat will count in this election, and voters in the Northwest Territories are nothing if not unpredictable. They have shifted allegiance between Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats, frequently without regard for the national outcome.

It would be ironic if voters choose Roland only to see the rest of Canada give the big prize to Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair. It may come down to what message they remember when they mark their ballots.



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