Monday, January 09, 2012

Chantal Hebert on grit Federalism

I like the way the Fathers of Coonfederation wrote our constitution. I believe in a minimal federal government. the grits believe in very big government. Chantal Hebert gives a little advice to the grits: pay attention to the division of powers.

In Liberal circles, what passes for federal leadership often amounts to a series of unsolicited interventions in provincial areas of responsibility.

Reading some Chr├ętien-era throne speeches, one might be forgiven for thinking the provinces did not exist.

Under Paul Martin the same philosophy resulted, most notably in the creation of a now-defunct federal body devoted to “learning”. (Its deathbed salvo was a lengthy plea for a federal education framework.)

There was also a failed federal attempt to deal directly with Canada’s big cities.

Ironically, over the Chr├ętien-Martin years, the social safety net was most significantly expanded in Quebec, with landmark provincial initiatives on the fronts of childcare, parental leave and pharmacare. And Alberta led the way to increased social spending.

As it happens, those two provinces have traditionally guarded their constitutional sovereignty over social policy most jealously.

More so than anything else — including the sponsorship scandal and the National Energy Program — that top-down Liberal view of federalism accounts for the estrangement of the West and francophone Quebec from Canada’s former natural governing party.

It is no accident that support for sovereignty has gone steadily down in Quebec over the past six Conservative years. Stephen Harper leads the least interventionist federal government in decades.

At their weekend convention, the Liberals will be asked to endorse a slew of back-to-the-future resolutions promoting so-called national strategies to deal with almost every issue under the sun.

Outside the convention hall, such resolutions will predictably be greeted with a collective yawn.


Anonymous said...

You've clearly never read the constitution. To be in the senate you had to be a wealthy landowner. England retained a reservation and allowance power to reverse Canadian legislation.

Ted Betts said...

You've clearly never read the constitution or read anything about the Fathers of Confederation, particularly Sir John A. MacDonald.

They envisioned a very strong central government, not the weak watery soup that Harper wants. It's why the Constitution provides for federal paramountcy and why anything not specifically covered in the Constitution is federal authority.

It goes beyond that too. It gives the federal government the power to veto provincial legislation and other powers over the provinces. Our federal government, Sir John's federal government, is too cowardly weak to exercise its full powers, but prefers to just give money away like Harper is doing.

Canada is the most decentralized country on Earth. And it hurts us and limits us.

Reid said...

Canada is the most decentralized country on Earth. And it hurts us and limits us.

BS! Switzerland is. And it certainly doesn't hurt or limit them.

Ted Betts said...

You could make the argument that Switzerland is more decentralized, I grant you that.

You could even argue that it doesn't hurt them, though I would say that is a matter of choice they have made. If they wanted to be a player in the international world or have the living standards of a Canada, then yes it certainly does hurt them.

But in the least, of 170+ countries in the entire world - a great many with far greater populations and some as large or larger and just as spread out (especially if you exclude the far north where no one lives) - then there is one single country only that is more decentralized.

And Harper wants to make us even moreso, despite what the Fathers of Confederation envisioned.

I Support Lord Black