Thursday, June 30, 2011


I believe in federalism and in the BNA act. I believe a decentralized federation is a good thing. I supported Meech Lake. I believe the federal and provincial powers elucidated by our founding fathers and Mother( HLIM Queen Victoria) should be respected. Meech's biggest opponent? The communist sympathizer, the centralizer extraordinaire, the constitutional vandal Trudeau. The wishes of the worst pm in Canadaian history is slowly being undone. There is much left to do!

Hébert: Meech Lake foes won the battle, lost the war

June 29, 2011

Chantal Hébert


When he stood up in the National Assembly to comment on the demise of the Meech Lake Accord in June 1990, then-Quebec premier Robert Bourassa could not have imagined that two decades later, one of his successors would be negotiating the social transfer for health care one-on-one with the prime minister of the day.

Nor could Bourassa have predicted that Quebec would spread its international wings to stake out positions independent and, sometimes, different from the federal government on issues as wide ranging as trade and climate change . . . and that the other premiers would follow suit.

The risk that the accord negotiated by Brian Mulroney at Meech Lake would neuter future federal governments was uppermost in the arguments of its vocal opponents, with the defence of provincial equality coming a close second.

Two decades later, it seems that in winning the battle, the Meech detractors lost the war.

Not only did the demise of the accord not prevent power from shifting from Ottawa to the provinces but the notion of provincial equality accelerated the movement.

The irony is that it was under the rule of the federal party that most viscerally opposed Meech that the current devolution was set in motion.

Over the second half of Jean Chrétien’s tenure, billions of federal surplus revenues were transferred to the provinces and/or spent on tax cuts. With that money went the federal capacity of initiate a top-down expansion of Canada’s social infrastructure.

In Chrétien’s wake, Paul Martin negotiated separate child-care funding agreements with each province. In the name of asymmetrical federalism, he offered Quebec different modalities in the 2004 Health Accord.

Martin did not invent that concept. It had enjoyed a golden age in the 1960s. But he gave it new life at a time of rising interest among the provinces in pursuing it for themselves.

Today, Stephen Harper is poised to rush through the door that Martin pried open in 2004


Anonymous said...

Jean Chrétien is widely believed to have reduced federal debt by downloading debt to provincial & municipal governments. A least that is how anyone wanting to put a negative spin tried to put it. Perhaps more accurately, Jean Chrétien relinquished the assets that held debt to the provinces & municipalities. Such assets may have been many since Pierre Trudeau crossed constitutional lines often and Brian Mulroney followed in using federal cash on a 50-50 sharing basis for provincial and municipal projects.

(1)Taxation, (2)borrowing, (3)inflation, (4)privatization and (5)transfer of assets to provincial & municipal government are really the only tools that the federal government has to reduce debt. You could add (6)increasing efficiency but big government is notoriously bad at being efficient. Economies of scale have gone beyond their usefulness in federal governments. Taxation stifles job creation in the private sector. Borrowing only delays the effects of debt. Inflation is a taxation, stifles saving and creates household debt.

That leaves privatization: Canadian National Railways comes to mind of how a crown corporation can become enormously efficient when privatized & publicly traded. Transferring assets to provincial & municipal governments offers efficiencies that have been self evident, micromanagement, reduced overlap of government, better decisions by the folks directly affected.

Alain said...

The writer is seriously mistaken in suggesting that those opposed to the Meech Lake Accord favoured Trudeau's big centralised federal government. I and many others voted against it due to the inclusion of a lot of other non related things with which I strongly disagreed. I continue to prefer the separation of powers between the federal and provincial governments as spelled out in the BNA over what we now have thanks to Trudeau.

ebt said...

Speak for yourself as you will, Alain, and I won't doubt you, but in fact the anti-Meech campaign relied very heavily on protecting big, top-down government (the preferred euphemism was "strong central" government). Good to know that you resisted, but many more didn't. In much the same way, I rather doubt that you have any interest in hurting, or "slapping down", or "teaching a lesson to" Quebec, but the opposition to Meech pitched itself as doing exactly that, and indeed that was the approach that won it the most popularity.

The campaign against Meech was one of the most disgraceful episodes in Canadian history and its success should be a matter of national shame.

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