From the movie Casablanca (1942):
Rick [Humphrey Bogart]: My interest in whether Victor Laszlo stays or goes is purely a sporting one.
Strasser [German Major]: In this case, you have no sympathy for the fox, huh?
Rick: Not particularly. I understand the point of view of the hound, too.
It’s becoming clear to me that Premier Lord sees his legacy as being the guy who negotiated a lucrative new Equalization deal for New Brunswick. As the guy who fought for New Brunswick’s right to an increasing share of tax revenues generated in Ontario, BC and Alberta. There have been a host of media reports to support my theory over the past 12-14 months. The latest is this morning in the Telegraph-Journal:
Premier Bernard Lord says he’ll fight the recommendation of a federal panel on equalization that reports say would have minimal benefits for New Brunswick.
Under the proposed formula, British Columbia would see its equalization payments skyrocket from $590 million to more than $2.1 billion.
While Humphrey was being obtuse in his comment to the German Major (above), I am sincere when I say that I understand the perspective of the ‘hound’ in this case.
You see, there are six provinces at least that require considerable Equalization. A much more lucrative formula would see billions more transferred each year. Further, the rapid escalation of public spending in New Brunswick and elsewhere will mean that this amout will only increase significantly in the coming years.
Essentially, I believe, the strain that Ontario has been complaining about for a decade (and yes that includes Finance Minister Flaherty) will only be exacerbated under a new Equalization deal.
However, Quebec is the largest recipient of Equalization and the Tories want more seats in Quebec. So, how do you create a system where Quebec and by extension the other Have-Nots get billions more without annoying Ontario, Alberta and BC?
That’s what I call the ‘Harper Dilemna’.
Lord talks eloquently about the ‘elephant in the room’ – which in his mind is resource revenue. I think the ‘elephant in the room’ is why these Premiers aren’t giving any consideration to stemming the need for Equalization in the first place through aggressive economic development.