June 14, 2006

Fiscal Imbalance – It’s About Time We Own Up

Alex and I used to call the Fiscal Imbalance the Mental Imbalance. (Desequilibre Mental) To us Liberals, provinces who could raise their own taxes couldn’t possibly blame the federal government for getting their fiscal act together. I still maintain that provinces could raise taxes or spend more efficiently to find more money for their programs. However, I believe Liberals must come to terms with the fact that the federal government does collect too much money. The evidence was given to me by none other than Paul Martin.

The separatist argument of the fiscal imbalance is that the federal government collects too much money and uses it to screw Quebeckers, who would be better off without a federal government. Now I got so caught up with how ridiculous the second half of that statement is to not ponder the merits of the first half. To avoid blaming my own stubbornness, I am blaming the Bloc!

Paul Martin’s three main accomplishments of his mandate were Health Care, Day Care, and Cities. To the casual observer, it would seem like Paul Martin was running for Premier of a Canadian province. With 61 billion dollars over 10 years for these three provincial priorities, Paul Martin was basically saying that the priorities of Canadians rested in s. 92 of the Constitution, in provincial jurisdiction. After coming up with massive surpluses for 8 consecutive years, the under funded areas rested with the provinces, who were struggling to keep up.

Now did the PQ government have to cut taxes in 2001 and continue to blame the federal government for being short on cash? Of course not. However, that does not address the fact that the federal government still collects way more cash than it needs to operate its responsibilities. Therefore, an imbalance does exist. How we fix the imbalance is up for debate. But at least we got past the point that the federal government has too much money.

Some like to call it a shell game. However, it really clicked in my head in Chertsey, when, much to the dismay of some PLQ youth, I was the first to ask Jean Charest a question. Some thought I was gonna skin the man alive. The room became eerily silent.

I wanted a clarification. I was concerned that Harper and Charest might be duping Canadians into thinking the imbalance was solved. So I asked how despite the fact Harper gave nothing to address the fiscal imbalance and if he was gonna actually have targets as to how much would be necessary to solve the problem. Was he gonna stick to the 40 billion dollar mark set by Yves Seguin in his report?

Charest’s answer renewed (well I should say restored) my confidence in the man. He acknowledged the successes of the previous government in reducing the gap and expressed his interest of solving the problem. That is the debate we should be having. No more denying the problem is there. We have to address it head on and not allow the separatists to use our denials as a weapon against Canada.

Anybody who wishes to recapture Quebeckers must earn their respect again. Denying the problem exists is a lack of respect, similar to denying the obvious that Quebec itself is a nation. For Quebeckers, they will not be able to trust a party who still denies it. Neither will they trust a messenger who sticks to the sacred cow of denying the fiscal imbalance.

The next federal Liberal leader must come up with ways to address the fiscal imbalance. At a minimum, they must acknowledge its existence before Quebeckers brush them off. My friends all know how much I adore Stephane Dion. However, his nuanced insistence that the fiscal imbalance is separatist mythology will be a death knell to our party’s chances in the next election. We need leaders who challenge problems head on instead of denying they exist. On fiscal imbalance, Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff are on the right track. For Quebec to return to the Liberals, we need this vision to prevail and must choose a leader who firmly believes in it.

5 Commentaires:

Blogger grit heart a dit...

Michael Ignatieff needs help in understanding what the fiscal imbalance is. Perhaps he could use some time with Paul Martin and Ralph Goodale to learn.

It seems that only Bob Rae, Stephane Dion and Scott Brison have a grasp of the importance of this issue.

6/13/2006 9:20 p.m.  
Blogger Antonio a dit...

I find that funny considering Scott Brison believes the imbalance does not excist and even Stephane Dion still calls it a myth.

6/14/2006 4:04 p.m.  
Blogger Kyle Carruthers a dit...

"Fiscal imbalance" is more of a rhetorical device than anything else. There is no doubt that the federal government is doing better fiscally than most of the provinces (Alberta being the exception).

Ottawa has been constantly increasing the amount of money that it is transferring to the provinces (after cutting back in the 1990s), so really the government has been "addressing the fiscal imbalance" all along--it just hasnt called it that.

The only real question is whether the fiscal imbalance will by addressed through conditional grants (prefered by those of us who see an important role for the federal government in shaping the social fabric of the country), unconditional grants (preferred by poorer provinces), or by vacating tax room (preferred by wealthier provinces).

6/14/2006 5:47 p.m.  
Blogger calgarygrit a dit...

Personally, I'd feel a lot more comfortable with a leader who is willing to say "no" to the provinces every now and then, and who is willing to call BS on the ridiculous notion that there's a fiscal imbalance.

6/14/2006 8:05 p.m.  
Blogger harrytuplips a dit...

Using the language of fiscal imbalance plays into the hands of those who are against the federal Liberals, or whoever is now in the federal government in the long term.

The fact is, the provinces have every right to tax, but they don't have the guts. The feds might have surpluses, but there is also something known as DEBT, which must be reduced.

If you give into this fiscal imbalance rhetoric, you will always lose.

Every province has its own definition of it. One of the provinces that has been most successful at getting money from the federal government, British Columbia, has chosen not to use this loaded term.

And no one, I mean absolutely no one outside of Quebec believes that Quebec has had the short end of the stick when it comes to federal funds over the past 30 or 40 years. If Harper starts looking like he actually is giving into this stuff, his coalition will fall apart just like Brian Mulroney's did in 1993.

Its amazing that folks as intelligent as you are falling for this. It is important for Liberals to challenge myths, not fall victim to them. I guess the pro-fiscal imbalance people have a better spin machine in Quebec.

6/14/2006 11:38 p.m.  

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