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New council, same old premiers [CA]

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Pascal, Charles
Publication Date: 
1 Aug 2006

See text below.


In a recent essay, former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow referred to the Council of the Federation as an opportunity for "the premiers to come together so they can go their separate ways."

Last week's Newfoundland gathering provides further evidence that the council is doing more to weaken the federation than to strengthen it.

Instead of coming together with a view to discussing and addressing Canada's common and emerging challenges, we witnessed provincial and territorial leaders driving us further down the road of decentralization.

While we should all be pleased with the premiers' solidarity with Chief Phil Fontaine on the Kelowna deal, why were the premiers silent on the child-care deal that was also reached prior to the last election? Why no outcry on the federal government's unilateral cancellation of the signed deals?

Given the promising spirit of goodwill and the incredible work that went into crafting a cross-Canada consensus on a new deal for Canadian families, one would have expected at least a moment of collective protest during this gathering.

One approach to correcting the perceived fiscal imbalance is for the federal government to construct effective, nation-building programs that benefit every Canadian, regardless of where they live.

Health care along with the national early learning and child-care program qualify as such. But why stop there when Canada is riding such a sustained wave of prosperity and there is so much work still left to do?

Obviously, many premiers are providing excellent leadership for the things that count in their own backyards. But if Canada is to find a renewed and constructive place in this complex world, we need much more energy exerted toward creating a whole larger than the sum of our magnificent parts.

On balance, the new Council of the Federation is a superficial remake of the old premiers' debating society. Dressed up with a nice new name and a secretariat that takes notes, the council seems to be intent on turning the federation into an association.

- reprinted from the Toronto Star

Entered Date: 
4 Aug 2006
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