The Agenda with Steve Paikin

You have got to listen to this podcast. It’s from the TVO Agenda program and it is on the now pervasive “Is Ontario getting its fair share” argument.

The panelists were all Ontarioians so you will find the discussion what you would expect. Jeffrey Simpson is the most rational of the bunch.

But I couldn’t believe it. Everytime one of the panelists mentioned the problems, then used New Brunswick as the example. On EI, Equalization. All the ills of the system – they all mentioned New Brunswick. Cripes. We have become the poster child for all that’s wrong. It’s such a condescending view. Why not Man- friggin’ toba? Or Quebec? Or PEI? Good old New Brunswick. Some day, someone in Fredericton is going to figure this out and stop playing around.

The guy from the Ontario Centre for Competitiveness and Prosperity had it right, however. He said that the transfer programs had ultimately not helped but had made places like New Brunswick a permanent underclass. And he is right on that. The way the system is setup the minute you have some economic success, they clawback your transfer payments.

I have called on this blog for a new deal that would freeze funding levels – particularly Equalization – for 10 years as part of an overall Ireland-style plan to build up New Brunswick’s capacity for business investment attraction. But that doesn’t get any play in Freddy or Ottawa.

I guess we are happy to be the exemplar of the poor province in Canada for pundits and think tanks in Ontario. This needs to stop.

And as for the Ontario Centre for Competitiveness and Prosperity, we need a made-in-New Brunswick version of that centre. One that puts a particular focus on this stuff but from a New Brunswick perspective. What will make New Brunswick competitive for the long term?

We are constantly going through these exercises with government – McKenna, Lord, Graham and nothing really moves ahead. The Irish Premier talked about how impressed she was with the education reforms put in place by McKenna. She should have said she was so impressed with what she was told about the education reforms put in place by McKenna. New Brunswick’s education performance is still tied for dead last in Canada. McKenna had his gimmicks – every child will know about computers – Lord wanted a laptop for every high school kid – but there must be something more.

Something about reversing a cultural attitude in New Brunswick. I guess we are pretty well satisfied with our position because we really don’t demand anything from our politicians.

Listen to the podcast. Tell me if I am wrong. Remember, this podcast is about Ontario. So New Brunswick is only mentioned maybe 10 times. But everytime it is in the context of being the arse end of things.

But just to come full circle on this I continue to find Ontario politicians whining about this to be somewhat funny. Ontario has been -by far- the biggest beneficiary of federal economic development efforts over the years from the auto pact, to the Saint Lawrence Seaway to C.D. Howe’s building of 90% of Canada’s military manufacturing infrastructure in the Montreal to Toronto corridor. The feds have always known where their electoral bread is buttered (Harper has figured this out as well) and have fed that constituency. And as was pointed on The Agenda, the quid pro quo for that was to skim off a few dollars and send it to the poor hinterland to keep the populace quiet. Now, they want to take back even that pittance.

As I have said before. Ontario can have back its Equalization and especially its EI (that is a central concern of McGuinty that the average EI collector in Ontario gets less than the average EI collector in New Brunswick because the program is skewed to help seasonal workers – he can have it) if we get the Auto Pact or how about the billions given to Ontario firms under Industry Canada programs? Or how about the billions more in R&D that the feds spend in Ontario. We’ll take all that economic development-stimulating spending and McGuinty can have all the economic development-stifling EI and other programs designed to keep us down.

Go ahead. Take the deal. McGuinty as Peter Pocklington. We get Gretzkey and you get – who was it? Bernie Nichols?

Cripes. It’s 2 am and I can’t sleep because of this crap.