Lorne Gunter can sometimes be very critical of the lack of conservatism from PMSH. However, today he seems to agree that PMSH’s long run strategy of de-centralization, resulting in more accountability in the Provinces for Health and Education, will be tantamount to a conservative agenda.
De-centralization also has the benefit of a nice by-product … national unity.
Gunter comes close to talking about the elephant in the room when he says:
“A wise federal government permits provincial administrations to design social programs that appeal to local tastes and ideologies. Those provinces that like Ottawa's advice will still be free to take it, while those that prefer to make up their own plans can do so without being threatened to conform.”
But the elephant in the room is:
Why would the ROC, other than Quebec, have allowed over the years Ottawa to keep their money to bribe them to do its bidding? In other words why have Provinces ever allowed Ottawa to have strings tied to transfer payments?
For example, are we saying we don’t like and trust our own Provincial governments to deliver Health Care? Are we saying that we don’t want another Mike Harris government to “gut” our Health Care system?
But it is a myth that Harris was “gutting” Health Care. That myth is precisely why PMSH should redistribute spending powers. In fact Chrétien and Martin dropped funding on Health Care from 50 cents on the dollar to 13 cents in the 1990’s. That gave Harris an enormous double whammy problem along with the hemorrhaging deficits left to him by Bob Rae (potentially the next LPC leader). But the Harris government actually increased provincial spending on Health Care, over its mandates, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP. It was the Ottawa Liberals that downloaded the problems.
Consequently, the elephant in the room is based on the myth that if we don’t have Ottawa as a backup then another neo-con Harris government will come along and gut Health Care. But that argument should be turned on its head. The facts are that it was Chrétien and Martin that caused Health Care problems. So if we want sufficient funding for social programs we need the tax revenues to be in the hands of the Provinces who actually deliver the programs, Ottawa doesn’t delver them , they just take credit when things are going well and blame the Provinces for any shortcomings.
The only way we are going to get accountable government is to make it clear who does what. That means following the advice of the Fraser Institute here.