October 25, 2006

Where does the “Nation” fit in?

Many people think this nation business is a dangerous walk down a slippery slope into breaking this country apart. However, it is one of the major planks in a plan to strengthen the Canadians Federation more than anyone ever before.

If the Liberal Party of Canada is going to fully renew itself, it must come to terms with the errors it made in the past, and propose viable solutions for the future.

While the Chretien governments did a fantastic job managing the economy and restoring the fiscal house to order, they also made a few mistakes. As we examine the effort that this party has given to make Canada what it is today, there are a few mistakes that have been made.

Who is to blame for the mess we presently face? Depends what you think the problem is.

One main problem with Canada today is the state of federal/provincial relations. We can blame Brian Mulroney for his fractious and combative comments on the issue. (thanks asshole!)

The federal government no longer has the respect of Quebecers and some would say Westerners, as the federal government refuses to acknowledge something as simple as Quebec nationhood or western alienation in their effort to keep Canada together (Blame regional parties like the Reform and Bloc for that). The federal government has taken no steps to bring Quebec into the Constitutional fold since 1992, despite a promise on the eve of the 1995 referendum.

Thirdly, the fiscal imbalance created by Paul Martin in 1995 with his devastating but necessary cuts that were not fixed in 2000 when we ran a 17 billion dollar surplus and cut taxes by 100 billion dollars rather than restoring the transfers.

Ok now follow my argument…hear me out…disagree at the end.

There you have it. An enormous problem facing Canada right now is that dastardly fiscal imbalance. What is the fiscal imbalance? Time for some historical perspective.

In 1949, Uncle Louis (Saint-Laurent) wanted to implement the Welfare State in Canada. Except he had a big problem: most of the welfare state lay firmly in provincial jurisdiction. Thank You Fathers of Confederation! Before WW2, the government’s role was to encourage trade and provide protection to its citizens; they were not supposed to provide education or medical care. After the war, the people wanted this welfare state, and the Liberals wanted to implement it.

All the money was at the federal level, and all the services were supposed to be administered provincially. The federal government needed to send a massive transfer to the provinces but this was not going to be a blank check. Uncle Louis and Mike Pearson had inter-provincial negotiations with the Premiers, who were actually quite co-operative. Back then, they sat down to do the right thing for their constituents. Those were the good days. We got Medicare and the Canada Pension Plan out of it.

When Premiers start taking down flags, or threaten to leave Canada every 5 minutes, we no longer have co-operative federalism.

Back to today, where costs of provincial services are going up, especially health care and education. In fact they are rising faster than the costs of everything else. To make matters worse, when presented with the opportunity to restore the money, the Liberal government cut taxes by 100 billion dollars, placing the provincial governments in a crunch. We, of course, wanted to get re-elected.

As we now run surplus after surplus, we must acknowledge it is becoming easier to meet our financial obligations while it is getting more difficult for provinces. It is time for more co-operative federalism.

Brian Mulroney did a good job convincing people that inter-provincial relations have always been difficult in Canada. Since Meech Lake, the provinces and the federal government have been at each other’s throats with the provinces usually blaming Ottawa for their problems. All parties are guilty of the same crime. It is always Ottawa’s fault and with clowns like Danny Williams who takes down the Canadian flag to score political points, this hardly helps the situation. No government is more combative as of late than the Quebec government, who wants every power entitled to them under the Canadian constitution sections 92, 93, and 95. They will take every inch and probably ask for more. In this leadership race, nobody has proposed they get more, especially not Michael Ignatieff.

Most negotiations require good faith. That is what Quebec nation is all about. It is about recognizing the fundamental difference of Quebec society. It is not a concession. It does not give additional powers. It is, as Andrew Coyne et al state, symbolic. It is a symbol that Ottawa does respect the Quebec people and their place as a francophone society within North America. It is an asset to Canada to share this society with common values and ideals, a civic nation within Canada. Once the federal government levels with Quebec City, negotiations can begin on how to properly address the fiscal imbalance. We can begin to mend the inter-provincial wounds that have been inflicted on the Canadian federation. The nation is about getting our foot in the door. It is not a concession, but a mere recognition of a truth that the federal government has denied Quebec for so long.

What prevents this overture to Quebec is the fear of some candidates who share the same dream as Michael Ignatieff but lack the courage to follow through. Michael has left the door open to future negotiations because he knows it is necessary to regain the good faith and trust of the Quebec people.

As for the lack of political courage, you would expect more from these two veterans.

h/t to Brad Davis, Wonk-in-Chief at Ignatieff HQ in Toronto

Here is Bob Rae

"I always supported the notion that Quebec . . . is a nation, it is a distinct society, which we need to recognize in our Constitution and I have fought for that," Mr. Rae said. "The genius behind federalism is that we can be both a Quebecker and a Canadian."

That is from August (9 weeks ago) 2006

This is from Stephane Dion, who is entitled to change his mind after 10 years, but some would like to know why…

I urge the hon. member to look at the recognition of Quebec on its own merit, why it is good, why it is bad. I think it is good. It is good for our country. It is good for Canadian values. It would not endanger the charter of rights and freedoms. It would not endanger equality between citizens. It would be a great thing to recognize Quebec distinctiveness as a fundamental characteristic of our country. … Mr. Speaker, one thing is clear. This government has said that we do not want to make a change in the Constitution if it is not supported by Canadians. So we will try to convince Canadians that in order to reconcile Quebecers and other Canadians it would be a fair and good thing to recognize that in this anglophone North America there is a province of Canada that is francophone and this is an asset for Canada. If it were the province of the hon. member that was francophone we would recognize this province without any problem and we would be proud of it.”

I assume he was referring to the upcoming Calgary Declaration

Stephane has said he has never retracted anything up until this point in the campaign. How can he justify his vote against the resolution at Conseil when it enshrined the same principles he espouses in the above comment?

Is he afraid to sell this possible package to Canadians? Why was he willing soon after the 1995 referendum and not now? Was it necessary then and not now? Why would they not accept it?

Why are Bob Rae and Stephane Dion scared? Together, if we look back at our mistakes, and seek to correct them together, we can be the party which Canadians have relied upon time after time to take them to the next level in terms of social justice. Fear has never stopped the Liberal Party before. Fear will not stop us now,

UPDATE: The one major problem with my argument is I ignore western alienation, which is another major obstacle facing Canada. Western alienation found its roots in Bible Bill Aberhart’s Social Credit follies from 1920s Alberta. The period of co-operative federalism ended western alienation as relations with Ottawa improved. If the West is indeed under-represented, it should be taken up with the federal government at the next negotiation following the Quebec one. We must deal with one at a time. Would the west risk losing Quebec because they did not want to wait their turn? I would hope not. Once federal-provincial relations are in better shape, we no longer have to hold our knives to our throats if a certain discussion fails to achieve a consensus.

16 Commentaires:

Blogger JimTan a dit...

Does the fiscal imbalance exist? The choice lies with the provinces to raise taxes.

Equalization payments do exist. I presume that Alberta has to pay more to the receiving provinces. No?

10/26/2006 9:19 a.m.  
Blogger canuckistanian a dit...

interesting argument, despite the major holes. was surprised that western alienation was addressed at all. the west feels alienated b/c the predominant view in federal politics is that all decisions should be made in quebec. your view that to restore federal-provincial relations to a solid footing requires recognizing quebec as a nation is clearly specious. we can only deal with the fiscal imbalance after quebec is recognized as distinct??? ummm, i think that argument is called, in logical reasoning, a non sequiter. i'm sure that isn't the position of the quebec gov't. you say that the feds need to recognize the nation to "get our foot in the door", but that this isn't a "concession". i think you need to take a class in negotiations. you want to go to the negotiating table from a position of strength, not weakness. why is it that people in central canada think that if we appease quebec, they will bend over backwards for us? certainly history should caution us against adopting such a view. in BC many people don't want to get involved in federal politics b/c the only question in ottawa when discussing any policy is "will it fly in quebec". the sponsorship scandal was merely symptomatic of this larger dynamic. appease, appease, appease and hope they will like us. pathetic. and certainly no way to run a large federal gov't.

as for you contention that this is a "symbolic" issue. if it is symbolic, then why does it need to be officialized? what does officialize mean? the federal gov't has already voted in favour of a motion in the house that recognizes quebec as a nation, is that not sufficiently officialized? again, what does the word 'officialize' entail? sounds like it goes alot further than mere symbolism.

as for recognizing quebec as a "civic nation". interesting. if we are recognizing a multilingual, multicultural society as different than canada, are we not talking about ethnic nationalism? if we "share common values and ideals" than where is the distinction? isn't it les quebecois that we are talking about? what is so distinct about a civic nation within a civic nation? again, the distinction would appear to be ethnicity.

as for your contention that rae and dion are cowards, this is humourous. fear is NOT weakness. fear is a rational response to a "dangerous" situation. the absence of fear in the face of danger is suicidal. nevertheless, you characterization that iggy is courageous may be true...either that or he is hopelessly naive, which wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility for a self-proclaimed "dreamer".

you end by saying that: "If the West is indeed under-represented, it should be taken up with the federal government at the next negotiation following the Quebec one. We must deal with one at a time."

this sounds less like a solution than a creation of western alieantion. ottawa is always saying we have to deal with quebec and THEN we will deal with you guys out west. don't worry it's coming, it's just around the bend, just wait until quebec is happy. quebec will never be happy, they are this federations goldbricking wife who always threatens to leave unless you give her more, more, more, more. the west will never be dealt with under these conditions. btw, BC and Alberta just surpassed Quebec in population...64 seats b/w them compared to Quebec's 75. oh, right, i forgot, we have to deal with symbolic issues BEFORE we deal with real ones. quebec is laughing at how badly they are swindling us suckers. can you blame them. with ideas like these, its like taking candy from a baby.

10/26/2006 1:26 p.m.  
Blogger Gavin Neil a dit...

Great post. But you talk about delaing with the issues one at a time as if it were advisable to re-open the constitution every few years, in priority. That's lunacy. If we can't come up with something that will restore a vision of co-operative federalism that satisfies all, and not Quebec first and everyone second, we're doomed. It is exactly this Quebec-First treatment that the rest of canadians fear and resent (depending).


10/26/2006 1:26 p.m.  
Blogger [JTF6.0]Undecided a dit...

Sigh, Antonio. I believe that Dion is refering to the motion introduced by Mr. Chretien in the House of Commons to recognize Quebec as a distinct society. Please notice that in no part of the quote you pull up does Dion state that he favours opening up the constitution to recognize Quebec as a nation. So I'm afraid your argument is a red herring.

10/26/2006 2:08 p.m.  
Blogger anybody but iggy a dit...

Justin Trudeau himself has spoken out against all this, so much for Iggy as the next P.E.T.

10/26/2006 2:55 p.m.  
Blogger Quebec Liberal a dit...

Note to Antonio, Alex, Brigitte and others:

If only Quebec Young Liberals would look to Justin Trudeau as the model and inspiration for political activism instead of Denis Coderre and Jean Lapierre.

10/26/2006 3:03 p.m.  
Blogger anna yanuk a dit...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10/26/2006 3:12 p.m.  
Blogger anna yanuk a dit...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10/26/2006 3:13 p.m.  
Blogger canuckistanian a dit...

not sure how people can look to justin trudeau for inspiration...not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. nevertheless, i suppose he is better than jean lapierre.

10/26/2006 3:55 p.m.  
Blogger Alex Plante a dit...

Anna Yanuk,

Go fuck yourself !

Alex Plante

10/26/2006 3:57 p.m.  
Blogger Eugene Forsey Liberal a dit...

I've noticed Fuddle constantly distorts history to justify Ignatieff's continued foolishness. Let's set the record straight.

a) "Nacht der langen Messer" was a lethal purge of Adolf Hitler's potential political rivals. Non seulement il est grossier de comparer des négociations constitutionnelles dans une démocratie comme le Canada aux actes infames de Hitler, mais ces négociations, dont l'issue fut la Loi constitutionnelle de 1982, approuvées par 71 des 75 députés fédéraux du Québec, n'ont nullement donné lieu à la trahison du Québec par le gouvernment fédéral et les autres provinces. Plutôt le contraire :

Citons la correspondence entre Peter Lougheed (in English at Lougheed-Lévesque), l'ancien Premier ministre de l'Alberta et virulent critique de Trudeau, et René Levesque, au sujet des négociations constitutionnelles entre le 3 et le 5 novembre, 1981, et en particulier, précisant le le cours des évènements entre la nuit du 4 novembre et le matin du 5 novembre. :

« La chronologie contenue dans la lettre de M. Lougheed a été approuvée par les premiers ministres qui formaient à l’époque le Groupe des huit.(…) Notons que René Lévesque a écrit par la suite qu’il était d’accord «en principe avec les événements tel que décrits dans la chronologie».
Il n’y a eu aucune tentative d’élaborer quoi que ce soit dans le dos d’une province du Groupe des huit. Le document fut soumis pour la première fois, comme convenu, au Groupe des huit à 8 heures ce matin-là. Je n’ai pas et n’aurais pas approuvé la proposition de Terre-Neuve avant que le Groupe des huit ne se soit réuni ce matin-là. Lorsque j’ai exprimé ma position à l’égard du document Peckford, j’ai souligné que pour parvenir à une solution, il faudrait que tous consentent à des modifications importantes.

Je vous ai également parlé ce matin-là de vos objectifs concernant la compensation financière et la disposition relative à la mobilité de la main-d’œuvre et je vous ai dit que l’Alberta accepterait volontiers les modifications proposées par le Québec. Vous vous souviendrez que vous n’avez pas proposé de modifications. »

Of course Trudeau, Nemni, and many, many others have long ago disproven this betrayal myth, including Hugh Segal, at the time Bill Davis’ trusted adviser, and again, no friend of Trudeau, in his book No Surrender.

Finalement, il est clair que le seul intérêt du PQ était de torpiller les négos puis de discréditer l'accord, comme l'avait convenu Claude Morin, ministre des Affaires intergouvernementales et bras droit de Lévesque à l'époque : « il ne restait pour nous qu'une chose à faire: bloquer Ottawa ».

b) (Dés)équilibre fiscal? Fiscal (Im)balance?
Que disait le Ministère des finances jusqu'à tout récemment? Rien ne prouve l’existence d’un déséquilibre fiscal vertical au Canada. In English: There is no evidence of a vertical fiscal imbalance in Canada.

Depuis que les conservateurs sont au pouvoir, ils modifient leur position reconnaître la réalité, et le dernier budget en fait la démonstration :

Évolution récente de l’équilibre fiscal au Canada
"Toutefois, le ratio de la dette fédérale au PIB continue de dépasser celui de la plupart des provinces et demeure sensiblement plus élevé que la moyenne provinciale. (…)Les administrations infranationales du Canada touchent la plus grande part des revenus publics totaux de tous les États fédéraux industrialisés, ce qui témoigne du fort degré de décentralisation de la fédération canadienne. (…)En général, les revenus provinciaux (y compris les transferts fédéraux) ont été supérieurs aux revenus fédéraux depuis plus de 25 ans, l’écart s’étant creusé ces dernières années."

In English as Evolution of Fiscal Balance in Canada
“However, federal debt as a share of GDP still exceeds that of most provinces and remains significantly higher than the provincial average.(…)
In Canada, sub-national governments raise the largest share of total government revenues among industrialized federal countries, which is a reflection of the high degree of decentralization of the Canadian federation.(…)
Provincial revenues (including federal transfers) have generally exceeded federal revenues for more than 25 years, with the gap increasing in recent years.

c) Liberal fortunes in Quebec
1993 Bloc 49.3% Liberals 33% NDP 1.5% PC 13.5%
1997 Bloc 37.9% Liberals 36.7% NDP 2% PC 22.2%
2000 Alliance 6.2% Bloc 39.9% Liberal 44.2% NDP 1.8% PC 5.6%
2004: Bloc 49% Lib34% Conservative 9% NDP 4.6%
2006: Bloc 42% Conservative 25% Lib 21% NDP 7.5%

Hmm, look at that. When was Stéphane Dion hired? March 3rd 1996? And what was the result of his misguided strategy? The Liberals climbed within 1.2% of the Bloc in 1997 and passed them in 2000, with 4.3% more of the vote. Maybe if Martin hadn't initially dropped him to the backbenches he would have profited from his advice and not embarked upon his disastrous sponsorship scandal "mad as hell" tour. But clearly, 1982 has not stopped the Liberals from being the leading party in Quebec, as in 2000, the last "normal" election (44% with a leader who'd suffered multiple assasinations at the hands of the nationalist media!). Quebeckers are as favourable to the Charter as other Canadians, and maybe more, and except for hardcore separatists who will never vote Liberal anyway, no-one cares enough about the 1982 victim mythology to stop them voting for good Liberal government.

Conclusion :
Ce que prétend l'iggiot Fuddle, c'est de la pure "marde"!
Fuddle's full of iggiocy.

10/26/2006 10:47 p.m.  
Blogger andrewridgeley a dit...

Okay, I almost always agree with you folks, but 'wait their turn'? You're talking about strengthening the federation and our national identity and yet you suggest telling once province to wait their turn with respect to legitimate democratic concerns so that we can all huddle around and deal with the self-oriented philisophical concerns of another?

If I was Arnold Schwarzenegger, I'd tell you about how I am prepared to drive a Hummer through your logic and your tax loopholes. If the West is at fault for not wanting to wait in line for Québec, it is implicit that Québec is at an even greater fault for believing it is entitled to stand at the front of the line when it comes to provincial concerns. What you're spitting here is divisive and would corrode the federation, not unite it.

10/27/2006 12:35 a.m.  
Blogger Hammering Jow a dit...

Your campaign keeps asking why this motion is about the constitution.

Answer: above.

Just so you know Antonio, in English Canada the Ignatieff campaign is telling everyone that this motion is relitively innocuous, doesn't mean anything significant, and won't change a thing.

10/27/2006 12:39 a.m.  
Blogger godot10 a dit...

//If the Liberal Party of Canada is going to fully renew itself, it must come to terms with the errors it made in the past, and propose viable solutions for the future.//

One of the errors the Liberal Party made in the past was a total disinterest in Outer Canada, or more specifically, the West.

This "deja vous all over again" will just reconfirm the irrelevance of the Liberal Party for many Western Canadians. That it can't think outside of the old box.

Canada will not survive if we focus on the imperfections of the past, and not on the opportunities of the future.

The way to fix the past is to build a future, and not returning to the start everyday like Vladimir and Estragon.

Canada has to stop "waiting for Godot".

10/27/2006 9:38 a.m.  
Blogger In_The_Centre a dit...

Bernard Landry talks about and defends Ignatieff


10/27/2006 1:55 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous a dit...

While it would be convenient and very nice to blame Mulroney for difficulties in Federal-Provincial relations, as honest Liberals we have to acknowledge that Trudeau left things in worse shape than before he began. Supposed Western Alienation wasn't a defined idea (I'm sure it existed on the ground but wasn't talked about much in the national discourse) until the NEP, and we all know where things were left with Quebec after 1982. Trudeau did many good things as PM, but his personal style and promotion of a strong central govt exacerbated the already (and constitutionally planned) adversarial nature of Federal-Provincial relations. I'm not judging this as good or bad, I just think you have to go back to before Mulroney if you're going to address this topic properly.

10/29/2006 10:02 a.m.  

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