Don Lenihan and Graham Fox argue this morning that, under the Harper government, federalism has been turned upside down:
The federal government seems to have opted for a more transactional approach to governance, concentrating on issues like border security, crime and natural resources. The Harper government seems uncomfortable with complex processes and relationships, so its guiding principle is to keep things as simple as possible.
By contrast, the Council of the Federation (COF) is emerging as a new kind of collaborative forum. The provinces are using it to build and test the strategies and coalitions they think governments need to solve complex issues. Premiers Robert Ghiz and Brad Wall’s effort on health care and Alison Redford’s push for a national energy strategy are examples.
True to their fundamentalist roots, the Harperites believe that all problems should be simple and require simple solutions. Unfortunately, the world has always been more complex than their philosophy acknowledges. That leaves the provinces to deal with the big problems -- health care, the environment, equal access to government services.
The Harper Conservatives have always been content to deal with the world as they wish it would be. But the federal government will not be able to withdraw from tough decisions forever. The question is, how long will Canada have to live with Conservative Denial?
At some point, the federation will have to be placed right side up.