Remember all that secret agenda stuff that was thrown about the Harper campaign? It was supposed to be that we would all be living la vita 1947 by the time it was done. Well, I am not sure if that is a fair judgment sitting here a year after the campaign that led to the election but this stuff is raising questions in my mind:
Though Harper's advisers were tight-lipped concerning specific details of the speech's contents, he will reprise the main themes of his speech last Dec. 19: less federal involvement in provincial jurisdictions, greater openness toward Quebec's aspirations, and an eventual devolution of power to the provinces through a formal limit on Ottawa's spending power. "The days of leaving it up to our political opponents to define us are over, that's why the Prime Minister is coming here: to remind Quebecers of the concrete benefits of a Conservative government that keeps its promises," a senior Quebec Tory said this past weekend.I am one of the most rabid asymetricists there are so the cause of Quebec's aspirations - whatever they might be - is not something I close the door on. But when was devolving power, a move requiring a constitutional change, ever discussed? One of Chretien's master strokes, in addition to fixing the fiscal problem, was instituting a far more active habit of Federal-provincial one-on-one agreements to address particular needs of particular provinces in a useful way.
But that is different from a devolution. In a devolution, the Federal presence will recede. There will be less of Canada and more of my place. Who is clamouring for that? It is certainly not part of our tradition - otherwise a devolution would not be required. And it is not like Canada was formed by agreement of separate colonies. It was foisted upon us by the Empire - otherwise Nova Scotia would not be in as it voted overwhelmingly against Confederation, had armed rioting on the great day of union and send almost full slate of separatists to the first Parliament.
This might be a great plan. It may be an embarrassment. It would be nice if it were being discussed rather than once again foisted.