Thursday, May 18, 2006

Paul Wells is right - the Harper Government's 'Restoring Fiscal Balance in Canada' is a must read.

The paper is refreshingly open and honest about ongoing disputes over the fiscal federal arrangement in Canada, listing recommendations from every major review by the provinces, think tanks and academics over the past ten years. It rightly concludes - I think - that the roles and responsibilities for the provinces and federal government have become too blurred.

Advocates of a decentralized federation, where areas of jurisdiction are akin to 'water-tight compartments, should read pg. 15 before getting too excited. The report identifies 12 policy areas, including pensions and income support, immigration, industry, the environment, transportation, infrastructure and post-secondary education (!!), where both the federal and provincial governments have an important role to play.

Harper's paper is a wake up call both to those who fear decentralization would limit the federal government's role to the collection and redistribution of tax revenues, as well as those who dream of a federal system where levels of government have no need to interact.