01.03.2012 06:14 AM

In today’s Sun: Ottawa is the enemy

VANCOUVER – When you are two or three time zones away from Ottawa — as B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford are most days — it is easy to dismiss the place.

From this distance, Ottawa isn’t just insular and puffed up with its own importance. When you are thousands of kilometres away, Ottawa is essentially irrelevant. It is the source of irritation, but not much in the way of government; it’s a place where a lot gets said, but far less gets done. Premiers, mayors and city councillors matter much more to people’s lives out here.  MPs don’t.

That’s why, one surmises, premiers like Redford and Clark weren’t as outraged as their counterparts in other provinces were about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent take-it-or-leave-it approach to federal-provincial relations. You’re not getting the 6% increase in health-care funding we promised you, said Harper, and too bad if you don’t like it.

That set off a chorus of provincial outrage, and understandably so. But from Clark and Redford — two women who have been unenthusiastic about Harper’s style of governance in the past — nary a peep. They did not protest Harper’s distinctly Trudeaupian approach to the federation at all. If anything, their governments sounded nonplussed. It may be that Alberta and B.C. have kept their powder dry because they agree Ottawa is entitled to fund health care at a lower level than promised.

21 Comments

  1. Tiger says:

    It’d be fun to watch the Alberta PCs try to run against Ottawa!

  2. BC Liberal Voter says:

    We have an astonishingly good political media in BC, which makes this Central Canada-style piece…er, not what we are accustomed to.

    In the Secret Mulroney Tapes Peter Newman recounts a story where just prior to a fed-prov meeting Mulroney and Vander Zalm had a little chat (I paraphrase). “Bill, would you say it’s accurate that two thirds of your campaign workers are federal Tories?” Zalm replies yes. “I will order them not to campaign for your in your next election if I don’t get what I want. Let’s go eat.”

    Two thirds of the BC Liberals’ electoral machine is federal Conservative – it’s the same right wing coalition that Zalm’s Socreds were 25 years ago. Christy leads a right wing party and going after Harper only sends BC Libs to BC Conservatives. John Reynolds noted that Christy spent the past 5 years on radio “pounding the (fuck)” out of Stephen Harper which makes her an odd choice to lead anything right wing but she’s zipped it as premier, and that is good.

    “Fight so voters know you’ve put the west, and not Ottawa, first.”

    Hmmm, “let’s you and her stoke western separatism”, in other words, at a time when the west has never been more in. Playing politics with national unity for shits and giggles isn’t cricket.

  3. Ted B says:

    You make a factual mistake in your comment. One that pretty much everyone makes, including our lazy media, so I don’t blame you, but an inaccuracy nonetheless.

    The Province of Alberta and the Province of British Columbia, just like every single other province, do not pay one single dime to the federal government. Not in taxes. Not in health transfers. Not in equalization payments. Nothing.

    Citizen taxpayers pay taxes to the federal government. And citizens are taxed the same across the entire country by the federal government. Citizens pay federal taxes based upon their income tax rate and the GST rate which is identical across the entire country.

    A rich Maritimer, like a Sobey or Irving or McCain, pays way more towards equalization than your average Albertan. They carry more than their fair share of the transfers to the other provinces.

    It is certainly the case that there is a higher proportion of wealth in the hands and bank accounts of Albertans. But is false to claim that “Alberta” or “BC” is hard done by because of how much “the province” “contributes” since “the province” doesn’t contribute anything.

    So Clark and Redman are welcome to fight to protect wealthy taxpayers in their provinces if they want. They’d be helping out wealthy taxpayers all over the country so I’m sure they could find national support for their cause too.

    But I do wish people would stop deliberately pitting province against province when that has nothing to do with how tax dollars are collected.

    • Ted B says:

      I do agree that BCers and Albertans get ripped off by not getting as much as other provinces. Except, according to every poll I’ve read, the clear majority are OK with that.

      But what I’m saying is that you cannot “aggregate” the revenues. It is individual taxpayers who pay taxes not provinces.

      A wealthy Albertan pays just as much to the feds as a wealthy Quebecer, Ontarian or Newfoundlander. And they get far less back than your ordinary average Albertan.

      So it is a profound falsehood for your average Albertan to say that they pay more than their fair share toward equalization.

      To say nothing of the century plus that “Ontarians” could have been complaining/whining about carrying the country on its shoulders (including several wars and depressions) and didn’t.

      • Ted B says:

        You keep missing the point.

        A guy making the average income in Alberta is NOT contributing more than the guy making the average income in any other province.

        AND the guy making the average income in Alberta is NOT getting “ripped off” more than the wealthy guy in Quebec, but less. So to say “Alberta” is contributing more than its share is quite simply false. I guess you could argue that the wealthy pay more than their share, but that doesn’t sell so well so conservatives like to talk about “provinces” paying more than their share, which they don’t.

        It is also false in the sense that it makes it seem the country relies on Alberta/BC/Saskatchewan money for its programs. While taxpayers from those provinces do contribute more than the federal government gives back to their provincial governments, the contribution of all three provinces combined does not even come close to the actual amount that Ontarians contribute in shere volumes. If we had to rely on those three provinces then the whole system would collapse because of the size of the Ontario population.

        More to the point, even the residents of the poorest provinces are contributing toward their own province, and in all/most cases most of the equalization/health transfer payments, but obviously not entirely.

  4. Ted B says:

    Another angle of attack on Ottawa is the huge downloading of costs Harper is unilaterally imposing on the provinces for such things as prisons for phantom crimes and his dumb-on-crime agenda and for his hugely wasteful spending on such things as expensive jets that don’t work and are inappropriate for their intended purpose and G8-type slush funds for tough Ontario ridings. Those things are sucking money directly out of the coffers of provincial budgets and the pockets of Alberta taxpayers.

  5. frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    Mr. Tulk….this is the first time I think Ive agreed with you completely on anything…..Ms. Clark needs those Fed Refoo, ahem, Cons to remain in her camp……Gordon Campbell kept them on side by

    never criticizing Mr. Harper or his govt publically….Ms. Clark has just taken a lesson from his playbook…..
    .
    Hopefully the more moderate Fed supporters will see the folly of splitting the vote, and remain supporters rather than jump to the White-Cummins BC Con camp…….

    I do question how Ms Clark’s CV would indicate she is a “big govt” type……but perhaps giving minimum wage workers in BC a chance to just rise above the poverty level is “big govt” in your books…..

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24

  6. Curt says:

    I find it a little bit odd that Warren has become an “expert” in BC politics after only a week or so in the lower main land.

    • Warren says:

      Nobody is saying I’m an expert, fool. It’s an opinion piece. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

    • Ted B says:

      Curt:

      Please let us know how many weeks or years is the minimum requirement for being permitted by you to comment on national politics that involve provinces. And does that time have to be continuous? And how recent does that time have to be? Do we register our time with you or with some governmental authority?

      Please let us all know as soon as possible so we all don’t make the same calamitous mistake that Warren made.

    • Curt says:

      Warren, A large portion of the general poulation in western Canada happen to agree with the crrent Prime Minister’s policies. Many view Mr. Harper in a favourable light as he got rid of the federal Liberals, got rid of the Bloc in Quebec, got rid of Kyoto, and is leading the country out of the world recession. Meanwhile the two premiers will be facing the same electorate this year. If they start a battle with Mr. Harper it could backfire big time on them. The old policy of “blaming Ottawa” which is often used in provincial politics might not work out here. This is something a person learns through being a resident. This is my independent opinion. PS I enjoy reading your blog as I apprciate many points of view.
      Enjoy your trip.
      Happy New Year to you and your commentators.

  7. Dan says:

    Sorry Warren. This is what happens when Liberals keep courting the right wing. You can’t slash services then turn around and denounce Harper. The average person who cares about issues like health care (let alone child care or the minimum wage) will never trust the Liberal party again. Meanwhile you’ll never be able to slash enough to please the SocCreds and PCs you let into the party.

    This is what happens when Liberals keep courting the right wing. They lose.

    • Ted B says:

      The HST is a liberal idea???? The one that Harper and Flaherty pushed hard on Ontario and BC, to the point of bribing them with other province’s money?

      And the carbon tax is supported by the surging NDP.

      Do you have even the slightest clue about anything?

      • Ted B says:

        Wrong.

        The net tax was about the same. No tax grab.

        And we are talking about the NDP because that is where the impact has been. To claim that the BCLP is where it is because of the carbon tax is false since there is no evidence that it has hurt them and lots of evidence that it hasn’t.

        And where do you think the “harmonization transfer” came from? Taxpayers from across the whole country Gord.

        Look, I think the HST is a good thing and it was super dumb and hugely costly of BCers to dump it. But it did take a bribe from Harper to get Campbell to break his campaign promise on this. You could argue that McGuinty would have come around eventually so maybe the Ontario one wasn’t a bribe (it was), but not with Campbell. It doesn’t take billions to balance the books.

      • Sorry Gord, you are very wrong when you state that the BC NDP supported the Carbon Tax. Their leader and other MLAs were out on the streets for weeks with their “Axe the Tax” placards.

      • The Doctor says:

        Gord, I’m not sure where you’re coming from with that statement “the NDP supported the carbon tax.” Certainly not the BC provincial NDP. They were clearly on record as opposing it.

      • The Doctor says:

        Then Ted Betts is clearly wrong on that. The BC NDP opposed Gordon Campbell’s carbon tax. It’s one of the most craven, politically opportunistic, unprincipled moves the BC NDP has made, and that’s really saying something about that bunch.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      Horsefeathers…..people were angry and fed up with the NDP….period……even people that always had voted NDP had had enough…..thats what gave Mr. Campbell his biggest majority in BC history in 2001…….

      Do the BC Liberals need the conservative vote and support?, most certainly…..but lets not go overboard Mr. Tulk in the part they played in Mr. Campbells massive 2001 election victory…….

    • Dan says:

      Selling out your beliefs is always an easy way to score a victory: you get your faithful supporters on principle AND appeal to your opponents on policy. (And it’s an even bigger payoff if people are really frustrated with the incumbents.) But it’s almost always impossible to keep that tent together.

      Look at Harper trying to sell us on the idea that he’s going to protect Health Care. It was enough to get him an extra 1% of the voters he needed to gain an additional 15% of the seats. But now he’s caught between trying to maintain the support of most Canadians who LIKE socialized healthcare, and people like you.

      The tent will come apart in 2015, one way or another.

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