Squabbling First Ministers: Canada’s Kindergarten

di Joe Volpe del December 10, 2018

TORONTO - “I’ll show him”. That’s the churlish tone with which Premiers from across the country decided accepted Prime Minister Trudeau’s invitation to conference on national issues.

One could predict the outcome. Grown men and woman tripping over each other to demonstrate that they are serious people, constantly on the look-out for the interests of their constituents. Their enemy? The rapacious designs of the Federal government’s strategies to keep the country united and growing.

They embarrassed themselves, and us by extension, with their childish self-centred approaches to what constitutes national interest. Just to be clear, the Prime Minister did not emerge unscathed.

To understand the dynamics of interprovincial and inter-governmental relationships, one needs to refer to Mayor John Tory.

With a refreshing frankness during the recent municipal election, he identified his number one priority: lobby for, and extract, as much money as he can from the Federal and Provincial governments as possible.

That money is levied from taxpayers in all parts of the country, or all parts of the province. Mayor Tory would have some chutzpa demanding money from Atlantic Canadians to finance Toronto’s infrastructure. But that is how our system works.

The Premiers are no different – just bigger mendicants. Meaner, more influential. Not nation-builders, despite their claims. Imagine being invited to dinner and announcing to all your friends you would accept only on condition that your favourite meal, prepared just so, is served.

Then, advising your host that, if the meal is not just right for you, you may just pick up and leave – in a snit. Meanwhile, Canada faces real challenges to its economy and its sovereignty.

Not least of these being the prevarications of the American president and our dependency on globalized economic dynamics. Despite the claims of Premier Notley and her Opposition (acolytes to the Republican party south of the border), the downward pressure on oil prices is directly linked to overabundance of cheaper oil produced elsewhere.

Whether pipelines should be constructed to get more of our product to market may be a smart thing (Canada is the world’s 5th in terms of oil production), but it won’t resolve Alberta’s problem that its reserves are the costliest to extract and market.

Teaming up with anti-carbon tax advocates like Premier Ford may be popular, but it is unlikely to spur consumption and demand for Alberta/Saskatchewan crude in the immediate term. Nor, from the auto industry’s perspective, likely to reverse investments in hydrogen and electric powered vehicles.

From Ontario’s perspective, cheaper Alberta oil is unlikely to influence decisions by auto assemblers to relocate elsewhere. Publicly poking the Prime Minister’s eye on carbon tax isn’t a great strategy for attracting nationally- driven industrial investments.

The issue of the day, whether one sees the observation as alarmist or not, is the squeeze being put on our sovereignty by the squabble between the USA and China over former Canadian resident and CEO of Huawei Corporation. The economic consequences are not promising. Moving across the Atlantic, the Brexit “will we or won’t we” proposal before the British Parliament may have cascading negatives for Canadians, depending on the outcome.

One of those relates to migration and Labour mobility. The UN’s immigration compact may influence how Canada deals with a largely European and American (so far) “illegal migration phenomenon”.

As a “blue sky” concept, it may serve as a guide. However, Canada is already witnessing the failure of its Immigration Quebec program; its Atlantic Pilot Project on immigration; its shut down of an arguably corrupt Provincial Nominee Program in P.E.I.; the reversals of the current Minister for Immigration on the issue of Undocumented Workers – one million of them in Canada, 400,000 – 500,000 in Ontario alone; or, the emerging scandal associated with “Visa for sale” schemes allegedly being investigated by both the RCMP and the Press in the GTHA.

None of the premiers spoke to the economic or social costs of this inaction. Maybe, like the founder of the Bloc Quebecois and former Premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, they too think that “Canada is not a real country”.

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