One of the concerns that were expressed during the last election campaign was that Stephen Harper intended on dismantling the federal government. Many have stated that a strong federal branch is what makes our nation strong, and that a power shift to the provinces would cause our country to become more of an American model, where the states have a greater say in their own affairs.
I think that those who believe in a strong federal branch have some legitimate concerns, but I believe that the system of government that is currently in place has too much power. Over the last quarter century it has become a much more authoritarian branch and has become arrogantly self-assured. The provinces are no longer held in any esteem, but are dictated to in terms of what they can or cannot do with much of the money that Ottawa so reluctantly returns to them.
Add to this the massive downloading that Ottawa has done over the last 13 years. The provinces are being told to provide more and more services to their citizens, and are threatened with reductions in transfer payments if they don’t tow the line.
More and more often, Canadians are electing mayors and premiers who will go to bat against Ottawa. This should not be the role that our municipal and provincial leaders play. Their task should be running the city or province in which they were handed a mandate. The infighting in our elected houses is taking away from our government’s effectiveness and has to stop.
If provinces were to recoup some of the powers that they have lost and were to gain new ones, then I believe that some of the issues that plague our country would disappear.
One of the biggest threats to our nation comes from within. I am talking, of course, of the separatist movements. While some believe that these organizations are simply trying to attain some political leverage, there is still a very real risk to the nation. A couple that constantly considers separation is far more likely to do it than a couple who doesn’t.
The cure for this is not a gutting of Ottawa, but there needs to be a realignment of the federal-provincial power sharing agreements. For far too long, far too many provinces have felt frustrated at the level of control that Ottawa has held them under. The recent Bloc announcement to prop up the government for a good while, comes as no surprise and has been expected. One of the main points of contention between Ottawa and Quebec has been the level of control, dare I say interference, that Ottawa has had in Quebec.
Stephen Harper is willing to concede some of Ottawa’s almost dictatorial powers, which should assuage some of the deepest feelings of separation in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia.
I have heard the argument that less Ottawa will result in a patchwork of values, with large differences from province to province. I believe that most of the contention that we now have is due to the fact that we already have a patchwork of values. We should perhaps embrace that fact. Instead, we attempt to force everyone in our land to adhere to the same set of values, Canadian Liberal values.
That causes a myriad of problems, such as implying that one who has a different set of values is not truly Canadian. Francophones have a different set of values than Anglophones. They always have. That is why we often here of our two founding nations. Our first nations also have a differing value system. The Prairies are much more Conservative and morality based than Central Canada, with a strong rural community. Central Canada is more liberal, with an urban mindset. All of these things are what make us great, but Ottawa has been trying to make us all the same. That forces us to create a standard and to force all of our inhabitants to conform to fit into it. This cannot work, and we are seeing the results of that folly.
I believe that Mr. Harper is doing the right thing for Canada. He isn’t simply allowing Canada’s power to be reduced, he is simply giving more of a say to the bodies that we elect in our respective provinces. I, for one, do not feel threatened with a tamer Ottawa. In fact, after the last two leaders, a weaker Ottawa will actually help me sleep better.