Sunday, May 07, 2006

Full Sweep

The federal government needs a big broom
--Norm Spector

With all the talk of the five priorities and daycare, etc, the opposition and the media besides Paul Wells, have missed out on the groundwork laid for some very different federal/provincial relations that the Cons are contemplating.

While Harper and the other Alberta intellectuals are no longer considering a "firewall" it seems that Harper wants to kill the motivation for such drastic action...requiring something no less drastic at the federal government.

In some parts of this "Restoring Fiscal Balance", it appears the Cons are thinking of a federal government that will back out of the provincial jurisdictions and focus more on simply handing more cash to the provinces, in more stable payment schedules. Which is fine, since there is so much duplication of federal and provincial departments. Interestingly, the Feds name off the "daddy" responsibilities of government (law and order, security) as areas they will focus their cash, under the premise of focusing on neglected federal priorities, while leaving the mommy issues (daycare, homelessness) to the provinces.

Here are the 5 priorities the feds have laid out for federalism:
The Government is committed to a comprehensive solution to the challenge of restoring fiscal balance in Canada, guided by the following five principles discussed in detail below:

* Accountability through clarity of roles and responsibilities.

* Fiscal responsibility and budget transparency.

* Predictable long-term fiscal arrangements.

* A competitive and efficient economic union.

* Effective collaborative management of the federation.

The predictable long term fiscal arrangements bit is actually quite smart. The feds, and sometimes the provinces have always been bad at managing an "unexpected" infusion of cash which usually means harried spending at a fiscal year end. And that usually means hastily spent cash. BC received an unexpected infusion of cash from the feds right before the 2004 election meaning the difference between a small deficit and a 700 mil surplus for the budget. That's not stable, and no one can plan around such BS.

Anyways, to sum up this rant...I think the Cons are thinking of an evacuation from areas that the feds have little if any constitutional jurisdiction, minimal expertise, and are really just the federal government overstretching its bounds. The feds are going to shrink in provincial matters and expand outwards towards international and border disputes.

In short, let the provinces deal with the internal BS, and let us handle the borders and the great beyond.

Which is probably for the best, since from my own experience the provinces are much better at spending cash effectively. In BC, the feds take a vast majority of all the cash spent, but have very little to show in terms of results. What does BC get for all of its cash? Two major CRA centres, a shrinking CFB Esquimalt/Comox, a botched DFO policy...What does the province do on a much smaller budget? All our health care, welfare and education.

In the lifetime of a BCer, the province will have a much more positive impact on our lives than the federal government. So give the provinces the cash and back off.

I love it.

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