Bernier Seeks End To $40-billion In Social, Health Transfers To Provinces

Worth A Look, Equalization, Frontier Centre

Calling for an end to $40-billion in social and health transfers to the provinces, Maxime Bernier is criticizing his own government’s policies in areas of provincial jurisdiction and laying another plank in his platform for a future Conservative leadership bid.

The Conservative MP is planning to use a luncheon speech at Toronto’s Albany Club on Wednesday to further his credentials as a fiscal conservative who would revolutionize Ottawa and oversee a radically smaller federal apparatus.

Last month, he slammed plans for a publicly funded hockey arena in Quebec City, and now the former minister of industry and foreign affairs will attempt to make a name for himself as someone who would open the door to the private sector in the Canadian health-care system.

“Instead of sending money to the provinces, Ottawa would cut its taxes and let them use the fiscal room that has been vacated. Such a transfer of tax points to the provinces would allow them to fully assume their responsibilities, without federal control,” Mr. Bernier says in a copy of his speech obtained by The Globe and Mail, laying out a series of goals for his party.

The Canada Health Transfer to the provinces will reach $30-billion in 2013, while the Canada social transfer is currently at $11-billion.

In addition to these two transfers, Mr. Bernier’s speech says he would cancel all federal programs in areas of provincial jurisdictions in a bid to return to the original intentions of Canada’s Constitution of 1867.

“The federal government today intervenes massively in provincial jurisdictions, and in particular in health and education, two areas where it has no constitutional legitimacy whatsoever. This is not what the Fathers of Confederation had intended,” he says in the text.

By removing any federal role in the handling of health care, Mr. Bernier’s speech says, the provinces could no longer blame Ottawa for their problems, and would be forced to find innovative solutions. And without the hammer of the Canada Health Act, the provinces could expand the role of the private sector in the delivery of health care.

“Freed from federal conditions and unable to shift the blame to another government, provinces would also be more inclined to experiment. Especially in finding better ways to deliver health care services,” the speech says.

As an added bonus, Mr. Bernier said his plan would do wonders for the federalist option in Quebec.

“It has been a truism for over a generation that there is only one constitutional position that could rally a large majority of Quebeckers: a more autonomous Quebec within a united Canada,” Mr. Bernier said. “Essentially, what they want is our country as it should be if we simply followed the constitutional arrangement that was agreed to in 1867.”

On previous occasions when Mr. Bernier has spoken out, the Prime Minister’s office has made it clear the former minister does not speak for the government.