I learned long ago that when Shelly Glover calls, you'd best drop what you're doing and listen.
Lots of reporters learned that lesson when she was the media spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Police Service. Some the hard way.
So it was déjà vu all over again this week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's right-hand woman in Manitoba called me out of the blue to vent.
Mercifully, not at me, but at Premier Greg Selinger and his New Democrats.
"I'm seeing stuff in the paper that makes no sense," she says.
She's referring to the ongoing tiff the province has with Statistics Canada and the alleged under estimation by 18,000 people by the federal number cruncher. The province says that miscount will rob Manitoba of $37 million in per capita-based federal transfer payments in the 2013-14 budget year and $100 million in each of the next five years.
The province is trying to negotiate that an independent arbiter review the situation, but StatsCan is sticking to its guns that it did its job correctly.
Glover also says StatsCan's work is sound and that the NDP is barking up the wrong tree.
"Once again, here we have the province making false statements — again," she says, adding the same process used to gauge the population has been used in the past without a peep from the province.
"(StatsCan) looked into it and after several reviews they found absolutely no basis to justify a population adjustment. They have said repeatedly that the used the same methodology as in previous census cycles and that all provinces and territories agreed to the methodology."
She adds the province had the third highest participation rate in the 2011 census among provinces and territories, despite the province's argument many Manitobans were involved in fighting that year's record-setting flood.
Glover also says she wanted to set the record straight in exactly how much money in federal transfer support has flowed Manitoba's way since the Harper government took office in 2006.
"We have record transfer support for the province," she says. "They say it's flat, but don't forget — we gave them extra through what was called the total transfer protection when the recession hit. We gave them extra which over time had to be reduced. They're one of the only provinces who got total transfer protection. They're also getting equalization, and we all know what equalization means.
"It means that it's for provinces who aren't able to sustain themselves, so they get help from others. Total transfer protection was one of those pots of funding that we provided to them to help them, and then all of sudden they turn it into an entitlement."
Glover then lists how much the province has got from Ottawa ("I hope you're writing this down", she says):
"There has been an increase of 56 per cent in transfers to the provinces and territories since 2005 under the Liberal government," she says.
For Manitoba, Glover says:
- Total major transfers are almost $3.4 billion in 2014, a 25 per cent increase since 2005.
- Health and social transfers: Almost $1.2 billion for health, an increase of $371 million since 2005. In social, it's $453 million, an increase of $120 million since 2005.
- Equalization payments are $1.8 billion this year, an increase of $149 million since the Liberals ruled.
"Where is that money going? You ask them. We transfer it and they spend it," she says. "They're playing politics with this and it's not a political issue. The numbers speak for themselves."
Glover isn't done.
She says the province's share of federal gas tax fund was $20 million 2005. It's now $66 million.
Plus coming down the pike is the new $53 billion Building Canada Fund of which Manitoba will get a cut for municipal infrastructure projects.
Despite the province spending the past couple of months announcing various highway and bridge projects, Glover says she hasn't met with anyone to decide which one will get federal help.
"That's why it's been so surprising to see them announcing all of these projects, and then saying afterwards that we expect federal funding, when that's not how we do business. You negotiate these things first and then you make the announcement and the ribbon cutting. That's how most people do it, but not in this province for some reason."
Glover also says the Harper government has reduced various taxes 160 times for Canadians and will be out of budget deficit next year.
"The Manitoba government has failed to do any of that," she says. "They continue to tax and spend. They have not tightened their belt like the rest of the country has had to do and they're looking to blame other governments, individuals, organizations, etc., and it's got to stop.
"They're looking silly."
That was fast.
From cabinet communications:
Regarding Minister Glover's call here are a couple of points for information
*Minister Glover was offered a briefing with Manitoba's chief statistician, so she as Manitoba's lead Minister could understand the issue from both sides and we could discuss how to reconcile it. Unfortunately she declined. This is clearly a dispute between the chief statisticians from StatsCan and Manitoba Bureau of Statistics. We're disappointed she won't stand up for Manitobans or at least hear the other side.
*The chief statistician has said repeatedly there is no dispute about the methodology used by StatsCan to estimate the population of provinces, but rather with how it was applied in this case to Manitoba and the very anomalous statistical results.
*Many federal MPs continue to send leaflets to their constituents claiming federal transfers are at a record level, but in reality 2014 is the fifth year in a row they have been flat, with no change at $3.36 billion. While Manitoba has had no changes to its transfers, other provinces have seen their federal transfers sky rocket over the same period, with Alberta getting 66 per cent more in federal transfers.
*Minister Glover is making a lot of false statements, including when she says that the Manitoba government has "failed" to reduce taxes. The Manitoba government has reduced income and property taxes many times. Manitoba is also on track to balance its budget in 2016, just one year after the federal government, and we're doing this without a penny more in federal transfers since the 2008 recession hit and forced every government in Canada into deficits.