Pierre Trudeau famously quipped that Joe Clark wanted to be "headwaiter to the provinces." Susan Delacourt writes that his son will be no headwaiter:
In the years since Trudeau the elder left the scene, his successors have adopted a number of other approaches to the provinces, from the deferential to the collaborative to the virtually absent. From obsequious waiter to dumbwaiter, you might say.
But now it’s looking like we’d better get used to Ottawa coming to the federal-provincial table with some sharp and definite views about what’s on the menu. Even as the provinces grapple with Ottawa’s ultimatum on carbon pricing, delivered just weeks ago, they’re now being told that federal money for health will come with conditions attached.
Yesterday, Jane Philpott's meeting with provincial health ministers broke up without any progress on negotiating a new health accord. The provinces want more money. The Feds want to carefully track what happens to new money:
In September, Philpott declared: “It’s time to reclaim the political will, time and resources to develop and implement bold reforms in the funding and organization of front line delivery.”
It’s been a while since we’ve heard a health minister (or a prime minister, for that matter) declare that money going to the provinces for social programs would have strings attached. “Reclaiming the political will,” in that context, sounds a bit like a government that’s decided it wants to be more than a valet to the provinces.
Trudeau declared that he wanted to establish a new relationship with the provinces. The provinces want to keep the old one. Ay, there's the rub.