Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ontario, Equalization and the Question of National Unity

This CBC story has put me in the frame of mind to write about an issue which has been percolating for a good year or so now, and is potentially more destructive to national unity than Quebec separatism (how's that for hyperbole?)

Ontarians, for a long time, have been among the most likely of Canadians to think of themselves as "Canadian" first, and a resident of their own province second. A long chain of Ontario Premiers have played the "honest broker" role in federal-provincial relations, whether in terms of trying to accomodate Quebec, or to foster national unity in some form or another. Accepting equalization is part and parcel of this broader approach of how Ontario and its politicians have seen their role in the country.

Many, especially residents of Atlantic Canada and Western Canada, have argued that Ontarians think of themselves as Canadians and agree to these schemes because, they argue, Ontario benefits the most from Confederation and "national" policies, and Ontarians play a determining role in which party forms the national government.

The specifics of whether or not this is borne out by the evidence might be debated. But the fact of the matter is that while Ontario's leaders have groused from time to time about the fairness of equalization and transfer payments, this has usually stayed at the level of a murmur. I think we're starting to see a very different attitude coming out of the McGuinty government. I also don't think this is just belligerence from Dalton McGuinty (and those who know me are aware that I'm far from his biggest fan). The recent trend of Ontario-bashing from the federal government is aggravating an already bad situation, and the rhetoric out of Queen's Park is going to get worse. I shudder to think what will happen when Ontario is no longer willing or able to play the role of national unity broker.

My prediction - Ontario will never officially become a "have not" province for the purposes of equalization. The figures might justify such a classification, but I'll bet a large sum of money that the formula is rejigged before Ontario starts receiving more than it contributes to the program.

So, how about that Newfoundland surplus and tax cut...

Labels: , , ,

Recommend this Post


Post a Comment

<< Home