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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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The Bigger Questions

Over at BlogsCanada Egroup there is a discussion of bigger questions, namely, wither Canada in the wake of last weeks events and Gomery. Go read the whole discussion. More for my own reference, I am posting two comments I made there here,

Canada sans Quebec
Let's start with Quebec.

For a long time I have thought it would be best for Quebec to just go. Have a referendum on a clear question without the feds violating Quebec election laws and, if the soverigntists win (which they almost certainly will), go.

I have some time for the arguments that Northern Quebec and the Island of Montreal should hold concurrent referendums on whether or not to remain in Canada. But not enough to go to war over it. Let's face it, anglo Montreal has been hollowing out for years and the majority of non-francophones left are actually immigrants and allophones. And I'm afraid that I have not the slightest interest in going to war with my many French Canadian friends to try and steal the hydropower which they built in Norther Quebec. (I would feel quite differently if the Cree had built it; but they didn't and they are welcome to the several gazillion square miles of muskeg which surround the hydro installations.)

That said, what would change with a "Oui" vote? Not much. Quebec would be able to negotiate its way into NAFTA, it would no longer have to deal with nosy feds pushing one size fits all health and education policy. It already has its own pension plan, collects its own taxes and has its own police force. It even has its own foreign policy establishment.

So what changes?

Essentially, Ontario becomes even more oversized than it is now. And much richer as it will no longer have the economic drag of transfer payments and Bombardier style sweetheart deals to finance.

Alberta and BC become richer and even the Maritimes are better off because what equalization there is will go to provinces with much smaller populations.

Quebec will be free to pursue her destiny as she sees fit. And Quebec may be richer as she will no longer be on the receiving end of the transactions of decline embodied in transfer payments which have lef her with an underdeveloped industrial, service and high tech economy. It will be tough for a few years but it will get better as the Quebecois find their feet as a nation.

Where, exactly, is the downside here?

Indeed, can anyone provide me with a reason why we should not be encouraging Quebec to stand on her own two feet and moving on?

Decentralization and the Pushy Feds

"get rid of government programs we don't like in our neck of the woods' then an honest reason for devolving powers to the provincial level."

Well, yes.

Part of the reason so many people in Canada favour further decentralization is that they do not like the programs initiated by the federal government. The CRTC, CBC television, the aboriginal land claims process, tarriffs designed to protect Ontario industry, SSM, the Indian Act, pot laws, interest rates, rates of federal government spending, rate of federal debt reduction, immigration policy.

In many cases these programs and laws intrude or have intruded on provincial jurisdiction in a manner which people in various provinces have not approved of. They have kept voting against the Liberals but the intrusiveness of the Federal Government just keeps growing.

Now, Quebec has simply said the Hell with it and, on healthcare, despite the Canada Health Act (which, in itself is a gross violation of provincial jurisdiction) has allowed the emergence of a flourish private sector in healthcare. (Lead by Paul Martin's personal physician.) As Quebec is leaving anyway this is no big deal but it is illustrative of the diminishing respect provinces have for the federal government.

Increasingly, the federal government seems to be looking for something to do. The national daycare program is a great example. No one asked the feds to provide daycare. No one suggested "Hey, go invade a provincial jurisdiction." Nope, the Liberals, bereft of any useful ideas simply decided that daycare (in officially licenced facilities and not from grandma or, heaven forbid, a stay at home mum or dad) was now a national priority.

This sort of federal pushiness is why so many Canadians are looking seriously at bidding Ottawa a not so fond farewell.