The paternal Liberals

I am ever so slowly working my way through John Ibbitson’s Polite Revolution and so fair 100 or so pages in it has involved bashing Atlantic Canada and rural Canada bashing our ‘beliefs’, insinuating we are anti-immigration, and stating that the high levels of transfer payments are robbing urban Canada and threatening its economic growth.

Pretty light fare, eh?

I’ll critique ‘six city canada’ boy after I get done the full thing (if I can manage) but after watching the debate last night, I do want to pick up on one of his points.

He believes that the Liberals over a couple of generations have built up a highly paternal view of government. It’s the role of government, he says, to bail out or subsidize underprivileged groups in society whether it’s a region like Atlantic Canada, or Native Canadians, or single moms or seniors, whatever. But what seems to be crystallizing for me is that the Liberals think it’s the role of government to subsidize underprivileged groups – but not necessarily to fix the problems.

I hearken back to Jean Cretien in the mid 1990s when he said that ‘Atlantic Canada was proof that Canada needed a strong central government’. He was responding to the nascent debate at the time regarding the devolution of powers to the provinces.

Well, doesn’t that provide a rationale to keep Atlantic Canada on the gravy train?

If Atlantic Canada actually began to boom. Actually outpaced the rest of Canada for economic growth. Actually became a ‘have’ region of Canada – then Jean Cretien’s argument would become moot.

So, if you were a conspiracy theorist, you would say that the Liberal’s will give Atlantic Canada just enough Equalization to keep us respectable but do very little to address the underlying problems.

A quick look at the stats might further your theory (particularly in relation to NB):
-While Equalization has shot up dramatically in recent years, Federal funding on economic development has remained flat or declined (not including NL and NS side deals).
-Federal funding for R&D in New Brunswick is dead last in Canada and not budging but they have expanding the Employment Insurance program.
-There is new money for infrastructure, child care and health care but none for economic development.

And the Feds unabashedly plunk down hundreds and hundreds of millions into auto plants in Ontario and aerospace in Montreal and there is hardly a whisper of protest from Atlantic Canada. Even the recent Research in Motion project for Halifax which was one of the most important in decades – had no federal money in the deal. Nada. They put $40 million into RIM in Ontario and none here and again, not a mention or whimper from local media, MPs or Premiers.

How much howling do you think we would hear from southern Ontario and Buzz Hargrove if the next GM plant was brought to Moncton with $100 million in federal funding. The federal government would be crucified in the Ontario press and the media.

“They take our money and now they want our jobs” would scream all the headlines west of Cornwall.