11 July 2012

Autonomy and Legitimate Aspirations #nlpoli

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter is ringing the bells, trying to alarm Canadians to the fact the federal government is trying to withdraw funding from areas that are generally provincial responsibility under the Constitution.

You can see a lengthy interview Dexter gave to Evan Solomon of CBC’s Power and Politics on the Mother Corp’s website.  “They are pursuing what some people call a disentangled federalism,” Dexter warned.  Dexter described the country in a curious way, where the federal government pays for things and the provincial governments do them.

It’s curious because that isn’t what the people who wrote the constitution had in mind.

The basic notion of Canadian federalism is that the provinces look after things that are – as the constitution says – of a “local and private nature.”  Everything else is the responsibility of the federal government.

In the 20th century, and especially after the Second World War, the federal and provincial governments spent years arguing over federal spending in areas where the provincial government was supposed to have exclusive jurisdiction.  What the provincial premiers agreed on, after a certain point, was what Darrell said:  the federal government pays for everything and the provincial governments spend the federal cash as they see fit, along the way collecting all the political credit for it.

Some of you will remember this very idea from January 2006 and a post titled “Gimme your lunch money, dork.” The jerks and the jocks wasted no time at all in going after Stephen Harper. And they’ve kept it up through the years

In Kathy Dunderdale’s universe, the basic premier’s message has transformed the provinces into “experts”.    They aren’t experts, of course;  that’s just Kathy-Speak.  The idea, though, remains the same.

Muskrat Falls:  Danny Williams said we’d go-it-alone and develop the energy for ourselves.  As he was scooting out the door he and his successor wanted the federal government to cough up cash so the people of Newfoundland and Labrador could ship electricity to Nova Scotians.

Provincial search and rescue?  The feds should come just because the province called.  Never mind that the weather stopped the provincial helicopters from flying.  The Ottawa helicopters were supposed to come and when they didn’t, well, that was wrong. Dunderdale’s position on the Makkovik tragedy was ludicrous but a what mere mortals might consider “ludicrous” never stopped a provincial Premier before.  It sure didn’t stop Kathy Dunderdale.

What’s been especially curious about the past two Premiers of newfoundland and Labrador is that they stick their hands out for federal money at every turn while at the same time spouting words that mean something else.

Kathy Dunderdale likes to talk about the “legitimate aspirations” of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  She talked about it last fall during the provincial election.  The words turn up in the 2012 Throne Speech.

She never defines what those aspirations are, even as she claims the right to be the sole spokesperson for them.  Another premier – Quebec’s Jean Lesage – had no problem describing what they were:

"Today’s Quebec must possess and control ... the economic, social, administrative and political levers that will enable it to realize its legitimate aspirations as an adult people."

Lesage wasn’t talking about hand-outs from the federal government.

Dunderdale’s predecessor liked to quote Lesage for a while. In 2007, Danny Williams and his entire cabinet (including Kathy Dunderdale) told the world that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians wanted to be master of their own house.  Throne Speech 2007 was titled “Achieving Self-Reliance by Becoming Masters of Our Own House” and includes this phrase they even lifted out for the news release on the speech:

…our people have now also learned that we will achieve self-reliance economically only by taking charge of our future as a people. To that end, My Government will harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater cultural, financial and moral autonomy vis-à-vis Ottawa.



Legitimate aspirations.

Wonderful ideas but, as Kathy Dunderdale has proclaimed them for the last eight years or so. there’s no autonomy, no self-reliance and  no aspiration other than having someone else pay for things.

The independence of dependence, so to speak.

While Jean Lesage led a province in the 1960s that wished to exercise power on behalf of an adult people, it turns out that Kathy Dunderdale and her colleagues just want Dad’s credit card.