Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

are you being served?

Bob Rae - along with just about every other potential leadership candidate - has identified fixing federalism as a priority. Thus far, he has had the opportunity to put the most meat on his theoretical bones:

"If you’re going to have an equalization formula, everybody has to understand it, everybody has to stick to it, it has to be consistent, it has to be clear. You can’t have one deal for one province and a completely different deal for another province and nobody being clear about what the overall impact is going to be."

Is this a call to return to some semblance of federal symmetry? It's difficult to tell out of context - he may be just dealing with the offshore oil agreements in isolation.

But this is what we should see from all leadership candidates - a substantial discussion about competing visions of the federation. The debate has been muted in recent years. Paul Martin was able to conduct a quietly unLiberal federal policy, yet it was his "dithering" that the party membersip took issue with.

We know how Headwaiter Harper would construe our federation. Admittedly this has become more confused recently, ever since Jim Flaherty came to understand just how trumped up our notions of the fiscal imbalance truly are. Also since taking office Harper has been very unReform in the way that he has held on to the central processes of power with Liberal-like zeal. Nevertheless, his 'open federalism' still constitutes a legitimately defined federal vision.

This leaves leadership contendors with the potential to clearly assert their opposing visions, their Liberal visions... if those do still exist. This is an issue of increasing concern to some, myself included. When you have Martin Cauchon, purportedly of the Trudeau school, advocating "pragmatic federalism" and "fiscal fairness" it leaves one wondering if the Liberal party has abandoned one of its most central tenents. There are still those of us that believe this sacred cow should remain in our pasture.

I hope the new class of Liberal leadership will prove my trepidations false. But even if they do not, a healthy and substantive debate on federalism should be a central element of the race. And clucking our tongues about the fiscal gap does not suffice.


Blogger Steve said...

This is an issue of fundamental importance. I think all of the contenders need to be more clear about where they stand on this. We do not need more ATM Federalism. If Canada is to go, let it go with a bang not a whimper, and that is what would accompany Mr. Harper and sadly many Liberals' devolutionary federalism. Where are the guts? Where is the courage to say enough? Hopefully we will have our answer soon enough.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:35 PM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

I'm genuinely interested to learn if there are any Liberals left (present company excluded) that haven't abandoned the Trudeauvian ideal. This is the time to discover these things. What are Kennedy's feelings on federalism?

9:35 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Unfortuantely, I doubt this will be a time to discover this, as it ignites passions which people will fear. My guess would be also that the unpopularity of such ideas today would keep them supressed. Though, hence my guts comment.
I don't know Kennedy on federalism, though his govt has been fairly problematic in this regard. Though that doesn't mean he is attached to that. Who knows. Someone post and tell us!

10:20 PM  
Anonymous CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

The next election – Bob Rae and Stephen the First, Or: The Real Mr Clean versus the Pseudo-Mr Clean:

Context is important is assessing the merits of leaders of parties. If Bob Rae is elected leader of the Liberals, then the fight will be between Stephen Harper (he of the broken promises, hidden agendas, stealth campaigns and one-man-rule), with Jack Layton bailing frantically to stop the Good Ship NDP from listing too much and losing too many voters to Rae, while the Bloc flails away against Harper in Quebec.

No other contender for leadership of the Liberals could affect the dynamics of the situation as much as Bob Rae would.

He brings experience, intelligence, wit, humour (unlike Stephen the First), and integrity to the contest.

Imagine Belinda (to borrow the Texas description of Bush: All fancy hat and no cattle) Stronach against Harper? No contest; Mr Policy Wonk wipes the floor with her and steals the framing game.

Imagine Email Brison against Harper? No contest: Harper simply says "corruption" time and again and refights the election the Liberals deservedly lost in early 2006.

Bob Rae would present the same problem to Harper and his neocons' framing of the issues as Howard Dean does to the Bush neocons: a match of honesty and transparency against disingenuous deceit.

Bob Rae has the stature to call Harper on his distortions and stealthy policies like no other Liberal candidate could.

Perhaps there is a Dark Horse candidate waiting in the Liberal wings, ready to explode (further) on to the scene?

If not, realpolitiek dictates Bob Rae for leadership.

10:48 AM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

A passionate endorsement and food for thought. We shall have to develop Rae more. There are strategic pros and cons. I will say that if Rae is leader, Hamilton Dippers better be put on notice.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Yeah, well argued. Rae obviously has the benefit of freedom from association with the unpopular aspects of the Liberal past, but he does have an unpopular NDP past to contend with. For that reason I'm not so sure from a realpolitik perspective he makes the most sense. The question of his Ontario premiership remains. Would it become an issue? I suppose you think not, maybe you are right. We don't know, but there are a lot of targets on him from that, such as the Social Contract, Rae Days, deficits etc. Supporters can try and explain away these things as they have done in the past, but speaking politically that at the very least opens up an avenue of attack. We'll have to develop more on him for sure. The federal quotes look promising.

2:11 PM  

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