- Dan Gardner highlights how Stephen Harper is imposing exactly the kind of costly, top-down policies on Canada's provinces that he once railed against:
This week, at least five provincial governments, starting with Quebec and Ontario, said they will refuse to pay the increased costs created by the mandatory minimum sentences and other "tough on crime" measures in the federal government's omnibus crime bill. No one really knows what those costs are but they are certainly significant.- Andrew Coyne tries valiantly to turn Canada's pitiful research and development performance into a justification for yet lower corporate taxes and more free trade agreements. But it's hard to escape the reality that federal policy has involved providing both at every turn for the past two and a half decades - and that the result is more idle capital than ever before rather than Coyne's Galtopia.
This could get very nasty, with unforeseeable implications for federalism.
But the interesting question here isn't why this is happening. That's obvious. The feds are on a shopping spree the provinces have to pay for. Nothing could be clearer.
(R)emember who is presiding over this proto-fiasco. Stephen Harper. The man who devoted most of his political life to a few simple propositions. One of them was decentralization.
Canada is a federation, he said, not a unitary state. The federal government should only do what must be done centrally. Otherwise, decision-making power should be devolved, to the provinces, and even the cities, which would produce policies that "better reflect local economies and local desires," as Harper wrote in a 2001 oped. This would also allow different policies to be implemented in different places, so we could see which policies worked and which didn't. Everyone would learn from this sort of experimentation. And we'd all be better off.
The American constitution gives authority over criminal law to the states but nothing that extreme is needed to inject a little decentralization into the Canadian framework. The feds can simply listen to the provinces and take their views seriously. And they can be flexible when needed - as the federal Liberal government was when it exempted Vancouver public health authorities from drug laws so they could open Insite, a safe-injection facility, in response to the extraordinary circumstances in Vancouver's downtown eastside.
But since becoming prime minister, Stephen Harper has done none of that. Instead, he's been a centralizer, an Ottawaknows-best bully, more Trudeau than Trudeau.
And he may finally pay a price.
- Meanwhile, the NDP's call for a Canada-wide review of the Canada Revenue Agency's collection policies looks to fit nicely with concerns that the system as it stands has been administered more for the benefit of a few well-connected tax avoiders than for the general public.
- Nick Falvo points out Canada's extraordinarily high levels of private ownership of rental housing - a particularly obvious problem when that results in exactly the wrong incentive structure to keep housing affordable.
- Finally, it shouldn't come as much surprise that Elizabeth May's well-justified question about what Parliament is for is receiving no answer whatsoever from a government determined to shut down democratic debate.