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Friday, May 13, 2005

Show me the money!!!

I find the Liberal approach to the finances of this country very interesting these days. We now have a Liberal government in their death throws signing big money deals with provinces, all dependent on them staying in power of course. Recently they even agreed to let the NDP leader act as their new Finance Minister.

I have highlighted Liberal election spending in a previous article, “Liberal Election Give Away Watch” dated May 9, 2005. I continue to update this article as election promises roll in, but for those who don’t pay close attention, I thought I would comment on a related topic. What follows should be obvious to anyone who has lived in this country for any length of time, but in case it isn’t, or if you are a new Canadian, that’s what I’m here for. Not to state the obvious, but to ensure that it is obvious to everyone.

Simply put, Liberal spending is not only a matter of spreading around dollars without care. Rather it is an obvious grab for specific votes, in specific areas, in the upcoming election. When billions of dollars are being promised to various provinces it makes sense that Ontario and Quebec would receive a larger portion of the pie when it comes to social program spending. They have the largest populations and therefore are most likely to need the larger sums. I don’t take issue with that. What I do take issue with is the obvious grab for votes that is now underway in Ontario.

Whether or not Ontario deserves a bigger slice of the transfer funding pie than they have received in the past is a debate best left to people in the know, but what bothers me is the ease with which they signed up for $5.4 billion last week. The speed at which this was signed doesn’t speak to the needs of Ontario or the validity of their argument about the lopsided equalization formula. What it does speak to is the rich crop of votes in that province. Votes the Liberals savagely want and desperately need.

Think about it. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador had to fight tooth and nail for nearly 9 months to scrape a decent transfer payment deal from the Liberals. If you count the 2 years or so that John Hamm fought the battle alone then it actually took closer to 3 years. These two provinces have 11 and 7 federal seats respectively.

Saskatchewan has recently started talks to improve their transfer regime. Now Saskatchewan, which has 14 federal seats, seems to have hit a brick wall in their negotiations. Surprise, surprise!!

Recently one pundit, when referring to Premier Lorne Calvert’s efforts, said that he has been getting such a run around in Ottawa that he’s worn the bottoms out of all of his socks. Compare this to Ontario which easily managed to ink a deal that is bigger than N.S. and NL combined and I have no doubt that it would also be bigger than all three if Sask. manages to get a deal at all.

How hard did Ontario’s Premier have to fight? Basically it took a few comments in the national press and a couple of meetings. That’s it folks. Bye the way, just in case you didn’t realize it, Ontario has more federal seats than any other province, 106.

For anyone who is interested, here is how the federal election districts break down:

Ontario: 106
Quebec: 75
BC: 36
Alberta: 28
Saskatchewan: 14
Manitoba: 14
Nova Scotia: 11
New Brunswick: 10
Newfoundland and Labrador: 7
Prince Edward Island: 4
Northwest Territories: 1
Nunavut: 1
Yukon: 1

What does all of this mean? Well, in a nutshell it means that if any province or territory wants to ink a major deal with the Liberals they had better be in the top 4. With a vote scramble underway I doubt these guys will even look at anyone with less than Alberta’s 28. Don’t get me wrong, there is no real problem getting little $4 and $5 million dollar side deals if you are in key ridings where the Liberals feel they have a shot, or a riding they already own and would hate too lose, but don’t expect the big deals. No, when the deals get into the hundreds of millions or higher, you had better move to Ontario, Quebec, BC or Alberta if you hope to even have a prayer of reaping those kinds of benefits.

It’s a good thing we live in a democracy where we are all treated equally.


Mike said...

Not such a bad thing. The way things have been going for decades, there are more Newfoundlanders in those provinces than there are here anyway.

Wince said...

What would need to happen for the East Coast to be properly represented would be for some form of regional coalition government between Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick and Newfoundland where we combine all our seats. That'd give us 32. Then we'd have some real say in federal affairs.

Patriot said...

Very true Wince. I have toyed with this idea myself as I'm sure others have. All it would take is the political will of the parties involved. Basically it could be a simple process where they each set their provincial agenda and where their needs intersect, they work as a block in pressuring Ottawa.

The only real agreement required between them is that once they push forward with a combined effort on an agenda item, they all have to agree on the final solution. This will ensure that the government can't buy off one or two of the provinces at the expense of the others.

This could be accomplished by each province having an equal number of "virtual" votes on common agenda items. In this way 3 out of the 4 provinces would be needed to reach a majority agreement.

I just don't know why they haven't done something like this yet.

Murray K. said...

Hey, you were right. If you want the 100 million or more deals then you have to be one of the big four. Did you notice that the child care deal signed today in NL was for 99.7 million. Close but no cigar.