Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Harper's plan for the "fiscal imbalance"

So Stephen Harper, it seems, wants to get rid of what's called the "fiscal imbalance" between Ottawa and the provincial capitals. The idea he has, according to at least one report, is to get out of the fields of education, health and welfare all together and just give the provinces a lump sum payment.

Sounds good on the surface -- giving provinces an incentive to innovate -- but the problem is there is no enforcement mechanism from a federal perspective if the spending power is abandoned. If one province does come with a way to get rid of waiting lists in certain areas, for instance, there is no ability to put even mild pressure on the other provinces to adapt similiar "best practices;" they can continue wasting money in the proverbial sinkhole if they so wish.

The upshot? He's going to make the proposal in the next budget, and a no-confidence vote is scheduled for March 20th. In fact, anticipating he's going to lose, he's told his campaign strategists to prepare for a call as early as March 18. Maybe he's worried about Stéphane Dion after all. Worried Dion could actually win by turning the tables and insisting a green economy could make Canada an economic superpower and a cash cow, making talk about the "imbalance" a non sequitur.

But what do I know? I'm not one of the white men in suits.

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