I admit to some mixed feelings regarding the debate over Equalization. On the one hand, more dough from Ottawa would be a good thing, right? Or would it lead to more dependency and a worsening of our economic standing in North America? Do we want to be increasingly dependent on Ottawa for our future? Has it worked so far? It seems there is a direct correlation between population decline and Equalization although I admit there are lots of exogenous variables at play.
But my confusion over this issue was only confounded on Friday when I read in the T&T:
“The rhetoric that is being ratcheted up by the western-based premiers is concerning at this point in time,” [Shawn] Graham said. “We have to clearly strike a position that shows New Brunswick is moving forward on the drive towards self-sufficiency.”
Now, Graham is talking about the cooperation between the Premier and himself regarding Equalization. Apparently, they are in agreement and are projecting a shared message to the other Provinces.
Now, let me explain my confusion.
I could see one arguing that NB needs more Equalization to provide public services.
I could see one arguing that the economic disparities in Canada are growing and Equalization should/could be used to provide some balance.
But I can’t see how anyone would say that Equalization is supporting of ‘moving forward on the drive towards self-sufficiency’. In fact, the crankier economist types might suggest that more Equalization is moving against self-sufficiency – in fact – by definition.
Now, maybe I could see if Premier Lord was ploughing much of this new Equalization into direct economic development, you might make the argument that more Equalization now will lead to less down the road. But there is no evidence of this. Economic development spending in NB is down. Dependency is up.
My friendly advice for the Leader of the Opposition – for what it’s worth.
If you are going to link Equalization and ‘self-sufficiency’ you had better draw us simple folks a straight line between the two. Because history and precedent would suggest there is a chasm there that can’t be overcome.