Conservatives now talk about "clarifying" roles and responsibilities, and keeping Ottawa out of provincial jurisdiction except in areas of "defined national interest." (Any premier reading the previous sentence should feel a cold chill.)Oh horror! Just imagine if a country's federal government decided to regulate elementary schools, welfare payments, or housing? And God knows that a national securities regulator would be the next best thing to a planned economy! And trying to lower sub-national barriers to trade? What's the federal government thinking?
Money will be available to provinces to spend on improving education for college and university students, and on roads, sewers, bridges or other (literally) concrete improvements.
But the proposal comes with a hint of blackmail...the Conservatives want the provinces, once and for all, to lower interprovincial barriers to trade and labour mobility. And it wants agreement to a common securities regulator.
If the Conservatives feel entitled to wield the federal spending power club in postsecondary funding and infrastructure, citing the national interest, what's to say they or a future government won't define the national interest as subsidized housing, welfare or the elementary-school curriculum?... Which prompts a final question: Is this for real, or is the Harper government just trying to scare us?
It's funny how conservatives like Ibbitson keep telling us to be more like the United States, until the reality of American governance actually rears its head. Then, all of the sudden, the GOP looks like Stalinism to them.
What's even funnier is that Ibbitson - who fancies himself quite the historical scholar - seems to be unaware that one of the single biggest motivating factors for Canadian confederation in 1867 was the desire to form a single market with Britains remaining North American colonies. Almost 140 years later, it's still a work in progress. Nevertheless, it remains a fundamental goal for Canada.
(Good catch, Greg.)