The Federal Mystique; Canadian Federalism amid growing separatist sentimen - David Bruce Patterson

David Bruce Patterson

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said he is looking at ways to expand provincial autonomy.

Moe has expressed a desire for world influence and expanding what he sees as modernization, both in terms of agri-food and energy.

Without going into details, I am convinced that those words in themselves alarmed Trudeau, although they were not totally unexpected.

The new deal that Trudeau speaks of will not be new at all. It will be a deal that typifies centrist politics in Canada, and has typified it for over one-hundred years.

Federalism and the Canadian nation have survived because of its infrastructure.  

In viewing a number of documentaries over the past few days, that explained the developments in Europe after the Great War, I can see a parallel. Four empires collapsed during World War I – the German Empire, the Russian Empire, the Austria-Hungary Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. They were broken down into pockets of vulnerable entities. That was partly done deliberately to destabilize Europe. It set up the conditions for more war and annexations. The original Empires had long histories of relative peace and economic security that evolved through various federalist-like nation-states.

Until the right-wing swing of the Conservatives in the 1990’s Canada and its voters defined itself by being cautious, socially innovative and economically neo-conservative. This has always been our comfort zone. The federal government has given in to Quebec on certain constitutional matters and prefers to negotiate through multi-provincial conferences.

Provinces generally do not like other provinces flexing their muscles. So I anticipate Trudeau will allow Saskatchewan to vent, and then will rely on the political backlash to maintain a solid posture.

We see that Saskatchewan has already softened their stance on the carbon tax. This is the natural process of political posturing.

Because we are facing a climate change crisis, Saskatchewan and other western provinces, and to a significant degree all provinces, are facing phase-in challenges for environmental innovation. No province can go alone on this. Hence, federalism can manoevre through this clumsily but with some reason facsimile of consensus, enough to strengthen us as a nation.

The much criticized pipeline deal, is now being used as the all-inviting carrot.

New Democratic leader Ryan Meili has spoken about the possible imbalance. “I’m quite concerned about the approach of trying to push Canada away; trying to go it on our own in ways that can be far more expensive for us.”

Jason Kenney is following the same path with his “Fair Deal Panel”. A new formal constitution a withdrawal from the Canadian Pension Plan and the development of a provincial revenue agency is not necessarily radical, but it speaks to the breakdown of federalism.

In my opinion the weights and balances of our system will find a way to mellow these programmes and the provinces of Canada will end up on the same water line; although some may be swimming effortlessly, while others are treading water.

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