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5/12/2005

Canada 2.0

I posted a version of this in the comments section of BlogsCanada,

I wonder if a Bloc/CPC deal would not be exactly what Canada needs.

For most of my life I have watched assorted so-called "federalist" politicians explicitly and implicitly buying off Quebec. It has not worked.

It is unlikely ever to work simply because the people and culture of Quebec are not so easily bought.

It may be time to begin to think about Canada 2.0: a radically decentralized confederation in which the federal government loses most of its power and the provinces are recognized as rather closer to their electorates than the folks in Ottawa ever can be.

A radical rethinking of Canada is never going to happen with the Liberal Party in place. Essentially the Liberal Party is the Microsoft of Canadian politics: deeply committed to defending a legacy model which no longer works and, in places, actually gets in the way. To stretch the computing metaphor a bit further: think of the CPC as Apple and the Bloc as Google. (The NDP on this model is an IBM Selectric.)

Canada is in need of a profound change. It is not just Adscam - it is the whole disfunctional apparatus of transfer payments, one size fits all health and education policy, excessive taxation and a bundle of other structural issues.

I don't think the CPC is equiped to make the changes needed. In order to appear "unscary" it has had to compromise on far too many issues. However, with the yeast of the Bloc always demanding greater autonomy for Quebec, there is a chance for a wave of decentralization which could fundamentally limit the federal government's intrusion into Canadians' lives.

Canadian politcal cultural has, since F.R. Scott fought Duplessis, been profoundly sceptical about the legitimacy of the devolution of power to the provinces. However, given the ongoing mess in Ottawa and the sheer lack of imagination displayed by federal governments of both Conservative and Liberal hue, it is likely time to shift power back to the provinces.

A Bloc/CPC coalition in the next election may very well signal the end of the Liberal Canadian orthodoxy. An end to the vision of Ottawa as the center of the Canadian polity. And an end to the vision of FR Scott's star pupil, Pierre Trudeau.

Which is not a bug, it's a feature.