Frances Needs to Visit Belgium

Blog, Equalization, Peter Holle

Oh my, oh my, Frances Russell, one of Manitoba’s more traditional policy commentators offers up a very pessimistic vision of Canada if the country embraces too much decentralization in her Winnipeg Free Press column today. She is no fan of Maxime Bernier or the idea that we should respect the Canadian constitution which originally envisioned a much smaller and more focused role for the federal government in our society. She defends Canada’s transfer society and equalization policy as a fundamental superiority that distinguishes Canada from the USA.

Sounds real good on paper but she needs to read the latest news from Europe in today’s National Post where Belgium is splitting in two because Flanders, the Dutch north, is tired of subsidizing the French south, Wallonia. Frontier wrote a neat little backgrounder on it, In Flander’s Field the Transfers Grow, back in 2004. As well intended equalization is, it’s ultimately a divisive policy that cements the recipients into the status quo while fuelling national acrimony. In Canada’s case, Alberta and Ontario are losing patience with transfers that give the “have-nots” better services and artificially inflated public sectors. Oh, and in these fashionably green times, also a back door way to subsidize Manitoba and Quebec with cheap electricity. Maxime is on to something. Sorry Frances.