Ignatieff on Equalization

Ignatieff cautions Maritimes about transfer discontent Contender for federal

Liberal leadership says region must not underestimate equalization payment concerns raised by central Canada.

By Wayne Thibodeau
The Guardian
August 21

It’s hard for an academic to be successful in politics. They are just too darn bright for their own good.

Imagine coming into the Maritimes and saying:

“All Canadians have this uneasy sense that fiscal federalism no longer makes sense and it’s creating strains in the federation,” Ignatieff said, adding that he supports a 10- province standard but believes a cap for have provinces might be a balance that all provinces could accept. “Maritime Canada cannot underestimate the discontent in central Canada about this. That’s the wake-up call for me. As a national leader, I am sympathetic to the concerns of the Maritimes but I also have to listen very carefully to Ontario.”

He’s right – dead right – but comments like this won’t win him much support in the Maritimes.

Lord’ crusade for more Equalization is a crap shoot. Eventually the backlash is going to slap us in the face.

But you have to be nicer than that during an election, Mr. Ignatieff .

Ignatieff continues:

Ignatieff also discussed the issue of regional economic development, suggesting the problems facing Prince Edward Island and the rest of the Atlantic region are not that unique from other regions of the country, like northern Ontario. He said this region should not be treated as a “special problem zone” because, he added, it is not.

“The paradox — and it’s one of the things that I think is really stupid in Canadian politics — is there is a tendency to problemitize the Maritimes as if it had a whole set of problems: economic retardation, aging population, flight of kids, problems with infrastructure, problems with reinvestment,” said Ignatieff. “Anybody will tell you that northern Ontario has many similar challenges. Rural Manitoba, similar challenges.

Now I am sure that Donald Savoie is reaching for his heart pills after reading this. Atlantic Canada, once the economic cradle of Canada has been reduced by Ignatieff as the same as ‘rural Manitoba’.

All of Atlantic Canada in the same boat as ‘northern Ontario’.

He calls it ‘stupid’.


Now, not to be contrarian here but Northern Ontario just happens to be connected with Southern Ontario (last time I checked) – one of the strongest economies in the world. Even northern Quebec is connected to an economic powerhouse called Montreal.

If New Brunswick was a ‘have’ province with a strong and growing economy, we would still have problems in certain areas of the province but to reduce a whole province, yet alone a whole region of Canada, to the status of a small region in a rich province completely misunderstands the issue.

To put it another way – maybe to dumb it down for the Professor – Ontario has the economic might to take care of Northern Ontario itself if it so chooses (for example a new medical school in Sudbury – a real one).

New Brunswick has no such luck because the whole province is totally reliant on Federal Equalization, transfers and EI payments which in turn is subject to the vagaries of national politics (Lord’s Constitutional expertise notwithstanding).

So, if you read the subtext here it would seem the Iggy is proposing to take a hard line on Atlantic Canada.

In true Liberal fashion, he has learned to crap on Atl. Canada (learned it from fellow intellectual John Manley no doubt) and support cheques for auto sector in Ontario in the same breath.

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0 Responses to Ignatieff on Equalization

  1. Anonymous says:

    Amen, its the ‘same old same old’ routine. Keep in mind that this isn’t intended to disillusion about the future. The fact is that with recent subsidies in specific sectors of agriculture (wheat and cattle in Alberta) and with massive subsidization of the automotive sector as well as the research and technology sector and combining that with ‘market forces’ and lack of regulation in fisheries and lumber, it is becoming, like in the thirties, more and more clear just how much southern ontario, ottawa and quebec are getting out of federation, and how screwed most others are.

    Keep in mind though that the medical school in Sudbury was NOT driving by the province, it was very much a city task. They did the work, they got all the plans, however, of course, they did get money from the province and the feds. But that’s how things get done in Canada, if you don’t have the initiative, the government isn’t going to take part.

    But even Sudbury has a declining population, that is very true. And if you asked the people in Sudbury what they thought of, say, being able to control the resources around them so they aren’t just moved to southern ontario, then I have a feeling you’d get similar responses as you would in the maritimes.

    The maritimes has that opportunity, call it the one two punch of capitalism. THey need federal dollars to build infrastructure, because two families make it impossible for them to raise the money on their own.

    And don’t be mistaken, if funds from resource extraction actually went into government, there would be TONS of money for economic development and no need for equalization. In that, ontario is right. If New Brunswickers can’t control their own industry, why should others be expected to?

    That doesn’t let Ottawa off the hook, and thats perfectly plain. Just ask him how many of those rural Manitobans ever supported the liberal party, or places west. Theres’ damn good reason why ‘rural manitoba’ and ‘northern ontario’ are just as pissed as maritimers. Even the cities in those areas are only benefitting from emptying the rural areas. And even those cities are hurting.

    So this pinhead better come up with better talk than that. I hate to disagree, but the problem is that ‘academics’ are ‘too smart for politics’, the problem is that they are too big of suckers of power. They tow the party line far better than the average joe who sees through horseshit like that in a minute, because education is a system of imposed ignorance. Dorks like him have been TRAINED to think this way, to not see reality when it is right in front of them.

    Sadly, the most important lesson from this is just how irrelevant the maritimes are. He’s playing to an ontario crowd even while not in ontario. It’s Harpers ‘culture of defeat’ all over again. And before you dismiss him, just remember who is Prime Minister.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I get distracted after paragraph one, sorry. My point there was that it is to make sure the maritimes ‘don’t expect more’ than they are already getting, something they justifiably deserve, but won’t expect to see any time soon.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am surprised that you cannot see the relationship between N. Ontario and the Maritimes. Both cannot attract investment, immigrants or maintain a good standard of living without assistance. I am not fan of Ignatieff but I think he has made very valid points.

    P.S. Northern Ontario is larger geographic and popluaiton wise than the Maritimes. “If New Brunswick was a ‘have’ province with a strong and growing economy, we would still have problems in certain areas of the province but to reduce a whole province, yet alone a whole region of Canada, to the status of a small region in a rich province completely misunderstands the issue.”

  4. David Campbell says:

    Your points are mostly valid but that’s not what I was trying to (rather longwinded) say. New Brunswick is a province. Northern Ontario is a small region within Ontario (about 3%-5% of the population). Comparing the two would be similar to comparing the lack of economic development in Nova Scotia to the lack of economic development in Woodstock, New Brunswick.

    They have the same issues but they are not comparable because of both scale and sovereignty -as I said in the post.

    Iggy makes valid points – don’t get me wrong – but I am sure that most Ontarioians would not be overly thrilled to say that Ontario has the same challenges with [fill in the blank her] as Cape Breton.

    Atlantic Canada is a large problem. Northern Ontario is a small problem. Daulton McGuinty is right to be nervous. At the current rate of growth in the Equalization and other transfer programs, New Brunswick will need 2 times as much tax dollars from his province in 10 years than it does today. And that’s just New Brunswick. Add Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI, etc. and you can see that this situation could drag down the entire economic performance of the country. It will be billions more than today.

    So, that’s a little more sizable a problem that a couple of hundred thousand people from Thunderbay to Timmons.