Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to play a second national unity card by limiting federal spending powers in exclusive areas of provincial jurisdiction, CTV News has learned.
One option to achieve this goal is a constitutional amendment that would require the support of seven provinces comprising 50 per cent of the population, insiders say.
Talks are underway with key provincial governments, including Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
The plan is to prevent the federal government from launching new national programs without the consent of the provinces and any province could opt out with full compensation.
Insiders say a constitutional amendment would only deal with federal spending powers and would not lead to wholesale constitutional negotiations to get Quebec to sign on to the 1982 Constitution.
The danger, who speaks for the federal government in this instance, because clearly Harper approaches the matter as though a Premier? Part appeasing Quebec, part old-Reform tribalism mentality, Harper embraces decentralization.
Generally, I support most national programs, even if there is some overlap in jurisdiction, because they tend to keep some sort of symmetry throughout the country. The fear of the federal government seems to reside in some sense that it is a foreign entity, imposing unpopular measures onto the masses. My view of federalism sees the federal government as my government, which has enough detachment to act with a better sense of the greater good. Provinces opt out of federal programs all the time, so I don't see why we need a constitutional amendment that creates rigid provincialism.
Given Harper's alarming paper trail on federalism, I worry about any talk of re-opening the constitution under his watch. When has anyone heard Stephen Harper argue from the federal government position, and because of that can we trust him to counter-balance the Premier's self-interest? The evidence suggests a strong NO, and the issue had better be part of the next election, because I suspect Harper is laying the groundwork now, with a more assertive approach should he be re-elected.
All the Premiers like to beat up on the federal government, in some provinces it is required sport. The role of the Prime Minister is to balance the quest for power and further autonomy, with a general vision and a defence of the federal role. There will always be jurisdictional issues, and constitutional experts seem divided in many areas, that is the nature of our federation. I don't think Canadians are demanding a constitutional amendment that further neuters the federal government. Objectively, Canada is already one of the most de-centralized federations in the world, and we have witnessed continued erosion of federal power over the decades. How much farther does Harper want to take his narrow view, and in so doing will he effectively make Canada a collection of independent quasi-states? Firewall federalism is coming, quietly, but with dangerous consequences.
Rae calls for defeat of Harper. Check out the video, Rae makes a forceful argument.
For a refresher course on who we are dealing with, get alarmed here. Good grief.