Prime Minister Stephen Harper is discreetly sounding out some provincial premiers about setting formal limits on Ottawa's powers, even if it means possibly reopening the Constitution, sources say.
While discussions are at a preliminary stage, officials in Ottawa and several provinces suggested constraints on the federal spending power could eventually take the form of a constitutional amendment explicitly restricting Ottawa to its own areas of exclusive jurisdiction a move that would reshape federal-provincial relations...
A senior federal Conservative described the discussions as embryonic, saying it is "premature" to say Harper is proposing a full-blown constitutional amendment, and adding it's highly unlikely such a discussion will take place before the next federal election.
At the same time, the official said, Harper is determined to explore the question of defining the federal government's spending authority more clearly...
Many Tories also view federal decentralization as a wedge issue, and credit Harper's vision of "open federalism" with helping put the party back on the map in seat-rich Quebec.
There is no question that the lines of jurisdiction can be blurred, but that tension is a necessary reality and there is a balance at play. The role of the federal government, in my view, is to counter the natural tendency of provinces to demand more control. Provinces act within their own self interest, and this fine, but it eliminates any real sense of greater good. Canada is already one of the most de-centralized federations in the world, despite all the saber-rattling about big brother Ottawa hovering over the provinces. Canada needs "national plans" to ensure some symmetry throughout the country, so I largely endorse most "incursions" because I see the spirit as unifying.
Stephen Harper approaches federalism as though Premier of Alberta, with little sense of his role as counter to further erosion. This is pure Reform Party philosophy at play in these clandestine talks. Keep the feds out, let the provinces act with impunity. Use Quebec's special status to weaken the federation, a tactic often used by Alberta reformers. This viewpoint is tribal, divisive and creates a climate where the nation drifts toward a meaningless entity. From this perspective, the federal government is the enemy, despite the fact it is our government. Frankly, it is a childish, small view of the world, that directly contradicts the idea of unity.
Canada doesn't need another Premier, it needs a Prime Minister. Stephen Harper has a disturbing paper trail, and now we see the early hints manifesting themselves in talks with the provinces. Important to note, no decisions will be made until after the next election, which highlights why a Tory majority may be worrisome. Think about the optics, a federal leader approaching provincial leaders to see how we can "cap" and neuter Ottawa. On this file, I have no doubt there is a hidden agenda and Stephen Harper is a dangerous man, if you endorse a workable federation.