Remember that Rolling Stones hit from the 1960s: Hey, you, get off of my cloud?
No? Do you mean anyone who actually remembers the ’60s wasn’t really there? Or is it that ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll sounds too much like the Team Trudeau campaign slogan? After all, legalizing pot was just about the only promise they kept in the last five years, wasn’t it?
But I’m actually thinking about the fact that the recent Trudeau Throne Speech was, as James Keller and Marieke Walsh explain in an article in the Globe and Mail, an all-out attack on the provinces. “The government,” the Globe‘s journalists report, “repeated Liberal promises from the past election for a national pharmacare program and to ensure every Canadian has a doctor or primary-care team. The speech also pledged to set national standards for long-term care homes and invest in shelters and transitional housing.” But §92 of Canada’s Constitution says that provinces are responsible, §92 actually uses the word “exclusively,” for things like health care and social housing. Some will argue that the Constitution restricts itself to “institution” like hospitals and nursing homes that were, mainly, back circa 1867 “eleemosynary” (charitable) in nature and that the provinces agreed, in the 1970s, to share health care authority with the federal government, but the provincial premiers don’t see it that way.
In my opinion, and it’s not a popular one, I admit, the Parliament of Canada should look to §91. Here is what the Constitution says are the areas of national government’s concern: The Public Debt and Property; The Regulation of Trade and Commerce; Unemployment insurance; The raising of Money by any Mode or System of Taxation; The borrowing of Money on the Public Credit; Postal Service; The Census and Statistics; Militia, Military and Naval Service, and Defence; The fixing of and providing for the Salaries and Allowances of Civil and other Officers of the Government of Canada; Beacons, Buoys, Lighthouses, and Sable Island; Navigation and Shipping; Quarantine and the Establishment and Maintenance of Marine Hospitals; Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries; Ferries between a Province and any British or Foreign Country or between Two Provinces; Currency and Coinage; Banking, Incorporation of Banks, and the Issue of Paper Money; Savings Banks; Weights and Measures; Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes; Interest; Legal Tender; Bankruptcy and Insolvency; Patents of Invention and Discovery; Copyrights; Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians; Naturalization and Aliens; Marriage and Divorce; The Criminal Law, except the Constitution of Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction, but including the Procedure in Criminal Matters; The Establishment, Maintenance, and Management of Penitentiaries; and Such Classes of Subjects as are expressly excepted in the Enumeration of the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces.
In that looooong list I can find more than adequate justifications for ministers and government departments that are responsible for: finance and revenue; industry, trade, and commerce; defence; foreign affairs; transport; fisheries and oceans; citizenship and immigration; health; and for independent agencies like the Bank of Canada, Canada Post and Statistics Canada. I cannot find anything that says we need a Minister for Women and Gender Equality, nor one for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth nor, especially, Ministers for Canadian Heritage and Middle Class Prosperity.
A lot of things have changed since 1867; the telegraph was still fairly new and innovative, a practical telephone wouldn’t be invented until ten years after confederation and the fist useful long-haul radio transmission and reception, from Britain to Signal Hill in St John’s didn’t come until the dawn of the 20th century, thus ideas like the CBC, the Internet, Netflix, air traffic control and the North Warning System were far beyond the imagination of the men ~ they were pretty much all men, working in government, back in the i860s, weren’t they? ~ who drafted the Canadian Constitution.
What was clear to them, based on the United States experiences, was that §90 to §95 which spell out “who does what to whom” were important to the functioning of a federal state, especially to one in which traditional provincial rights and diverse cultures were well established. Now, it is important to remember that in Canada’s long and rich history there were instances, especially during great wars, when the provinces agreed to federal intrusions into their areas of responsibility; this is not one long story of federal bullying. But what seems perfectly clear to me ~ and I suspect to e.g. John Horgan, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford, François Legault …
… and the other premiers is that last week’s Throne Speech marks another major and quite unjustified federal assault on their jurisdictions. What’s happened, according to Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, is that the provinces have all the health care delivery problems but, thanks, in some part, to tax decisions made in 1942, the feds have all the money. The solution is blindingly obvious: transfer tax “points” as some experts call them, to the provinces so that they, not Justin Trudeau, who hav the problems of too few physicians, too few nurses and too few hospital beds also have the money to solve them.
I hope that Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives will stand with the provinces.
I hope that an O’Toole government will go farther and try to share both authority and tax revenues as the Fathers of Confederation …
… intended, so that Canada can have a clear and efficient and effective federal state in which each order of government does what it is meant to do. As I mentioned above, the world has changed in 150+ years and there are now some powers, like the management of radio waves ~ which cross provincial and even international borders with impunity, which need to be managed nationally, for the benefit of all Canadians and in accordance with our international obligations, and there are also some things, like the management of the telephone and broadband cable networks which, aside from e.g. existing criminal code prohibitions about things like child pornography, needn’t be ‘managed’ by governments (nor by “arms length” agencies like the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) at all. They represent nothing much more than private contracts between service providers and subscribers and existing contract law protects both. No one in government needs ~ nor should anyone be allowed ~ to “regulate” Netflix or Facebook. If there are issues about using someone else’s content then we have civil courts to decide those matters, we really don’t need to send in the clowns …
… instead, Canada needs a new, ethical, honest, competent government …
… and we need it soon, to put Canada back on the right course, a course which was set, in large part, by some great Liberals, too:
Canada’s problem is not the Liberal Party, it is the cult of the Trudeaus, père et fils, which has taken hold of that once proud institution and has allowed them to reduce Canada to something akin to a colony of Donal Trump’s America.
Canada can be better; Canada can do better … Canada must do better. Canada can start being better and doing better by making federalism work the way it was intended. The Father of Confederation understood that smaller, more local jurisdictions are better at running services that deal with people as individuals ~ like subsidized housing and hospitals and pharmacy services, being amongst them. That Macdonald, Cartier, Brown, McGee, Taché et al didn’t know, or perhaps didn’t care that 150 years after the fact Canadians would worry more about the costs of health care, prescription drugs, social housing and other “eleemosynary” services than they do about the census and statistics or even a bout the costs of out of control government borrowing is neither here nor there. The simple fact is that Justin Trudeau wants to borrow money ~ from the Americans, Chinese, Germane and the Saudi Arabians and so on to undertake projects that are none of his government’s business. Hw should not want to do that; neither should Erin O’Toole.