2006/04/23

McGuinty under attack for position on equalization

Dalton McGuinty is under attack for his position on equalization and fiscal imbalance. Why did McGuinty walk away from the Premiers' conference and attack a report by experts that the Premiers themselves had commissioned? Methinks it's because McGuinty intends to play the traditional card used by provincial Premiers/ running against the federal government in the next election.

McGuinty has variously been accused of: abandoning Ontario's role as "the big brother in Confederation" (Prince Edward Island Premier Pat Binns); "taking the car and the credit card and leaving those of us with less resources in the family behind" (Binns again); having a "narrow vision" of the country (Quebec Premier Jean Charest); committing an "act of aggression" (unnamed provincial official quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press); setting "a perilous course" (editorial in the Montreal Gazette); "sacrificing the national interest" (column in Montreal's La Presse); adopting a "me-first" attitude (editorial in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal); and raising victimhood to "pathetic proportions" (editorial in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix).

An article in the
Star reveals some startling statistics. Ontario ranks ninth among provinces (ahead of only Manitoba) in spending on hospitals, for example, and dead last in spending on colleges and universities. Ontario is also just one of two provinces (P.E.I. is the other) running a deficit.

Re the deficit McGuinty could have fixed it in the last budget but he chose not to do it spreading the surplus around instead.He'll balance the books in the months leading to the election.

4 comments:

Dipper said...

McGuinty is a parish pump politician, not qualified to be Premier or play in the big league with his colleagues.It's time for another NDP government in Ontario.

Downeaster said...

Ontario has always been a pivotal player in national politics and country-building. McGuinty is not up to that task. It'll be a shame if he starts to play partisan politics with this issue.

Jasmine said...

Why must Ontario carry the burden so long for the have nots? McGuinty is right.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

The issue is Harper's gameplan to substantially reduce the powers of the central government in Canada by devolving those powers on the provinces. If Harper is successful, Canada will become a balkanized nation of bickering premiers, with no common standards uniting Canadians as a nation, and with the Prime Minister sitting in the booth closest to the kitchen, with his hands tucked under his seat, doing nothing.

Harper and his New Tories aim at a massive transfer of power (legislative, financial) to the provinces, through a deal cut in smoky rooms, and over a policy which has not been tested by being debated vigorously during an election campaign. Harper is aiming at a stealth-change of how Canada functions, agreed to by premiers and him, without the voters of the provinces or the voters of Canada being involved in such a decision. It is akin to a Meech Lake Accord without requiring Canadians to vote on it.

Is this process of Harper's democractic? Not by a long shot.

Have Canadians agreed to these dramatic changes in the federal / provincial structure? Not by a long shot.

Will Harper open his dealings to public debate? Never – he does not agree with his decisions being debated by voter representatives.

Harper is aiming at making Ontario the "bad guy", and getting the other provinces to gang up on Ontario's Premier. He is hoping to stampede Ontario into agreeing to a deal, so that Harper can then go the country for an election, hoping to win more seats in Quebec and gain a majority government.

As Chantal Hebert wrote: "Nothing would do more to accelerate Harper's plan to emerge as the default federalist option in Quebec than a campaign that found the federal Liberals and the Bloc Québécois on the wrong side of a deal with Charest on the fiscal imbalance."

Harper's stampede tactics (similar to those used by Bush in his deceptive entry into the war in Iraq) have been successful so far – he suckered Duceppe and Layton into supporting a vote of no confidence in the Liberal government. If it worked once, why not try again?

What can Ontario's Premier, Dalton McGuinty, do given the by now obvious strategy of Harper?

Simple. He can take a stand on principle: that such decisions should be made by the people. McGuinty can make the whole backroom-dealing process transparent by simply stating right now that he requires two things to take place: (1) that all meetings of Premiers on this subject, and any meeting he has with Harper, be open to the public, and televised; and (2) that he will not agree to any deal unless it has been put to the voters of Ontario through a plebescite.

This will immediately make the whole process of nation-changing more democratic, put pressure on the Premiers of all provinces to consider voters as well and perhaps adopt similar plebescites, and relieve McGuinty of any pressure to rush into a deal "in the interests of Canada" (as John Tory has tried to frame it).

So, Dalton: strike a blow for democracy. Call for transparency in meetings of Premiers on this "backroom Meech Lake Deal", and have Ontario voters decide the issue.