Of all Pierre Poilievre’s familiar slogans, there’s one that stands above the rest: Canada is broken. There’s no shortage of irony there, not least because what little we know of his proposed plans and policies revolve almost exclusively around breaking things, whether it’s the CBC or Canada’s climate change policies. But the most ironic thing of all is that while Poilievre pretends Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are breaking the country, its conservative premiers are busy doing exactly that.

Take the federal government’s childcare agreement, one that provinces like Ontario and Alberta seem determined to undermine with deliberate mismanagement of the money they’ve been given. While Ottawa will send $3.8 billion to the Alberta government over five years to support its childcare ambitions, the provincial government hasn’t put in a single additional dollar of its own.

That's not all. According to Krystal Churcher, the chair of the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs, the Alberta government is effectively asking childcare providers to lend it money every month. “Asking operators to carry 85 per cent of their revenue and wait 40 to 45 days to get it back is putting them in the position where they can’t pay rent on Feb. 1,” she told the CBC’s Matt Galloway. If you wanted to deliberately undermine the federal government’s goals here, this would be a pretty good way to do it.

But while this might be the most galling example of a provincial government trying to break some key aspect of our country, it’s hardly the only one. There’s also health care, where the Ford government has been consistently underfunding Ontario’s system, which appears to be ever more precariously perched on the brink of total collapse. That might suit the Ford government just fine, given its obvious interest in bringing more private-sector activity into the system. Other conservative governments across the country, from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Maritimes, appear to be following similar playbooks.

On housing, the provinces (outside of British Columbia) keep adding fuel to a fire the federal government is desperately trying to extinguish. In 2023, Ontario saw 85,770 housing starts, a seven per cent decrease from the previous year and just 78 per cent of its stated goal of 110,000 new homes. That’s because, according to a number of Ontario municipal leaders, the province has effectively set them up to fail by not supporting the infrastructure needed to actually enable growth and new construction.

They’re not helping on the demand side of the equation either. By admitting an ever-increasing volume of international students — 240,000 in each of the last two years in Ontario alone — they’re adding another source of demand for housing, one that’s putting even more strain on rental markets that can’t handle much more of it.

So why are they bringing so many of these students into the province? Because they help fill the gap in the budgets of the province’s post-secondary institutions the Ford government has created over the last six years. According to Alex Usher, the president of Higher Education Strategy Associates, the combination of a funding cap and a 10 per cent tuition cut has meant Ontario post-secondary institutions have faced an effective cut of 31 per cent in so-called “government-controlled income” since Ford came to office in 2017.

Not surprisingly, those institutions tried to backfill that with revenue from international students, who can be charged nearly six times as much for tuition as their domestic counterparts. According to the 2022 Ontario auditor general’s report, international students made up 17 per cent of enrolment and 45 per cent of tuition in 2021 — numbers that are certainly higher today. Even then, that hasn’t prevented blue-chip institutions like Queen’s from being forced to make major cuts to faculty and programs, ones that were announced before the federal government decided to chop the province’s allotment of international student approvals in half. Those cuts, in other words, could be about to get a whole lot bigger.

And then, of course, there’s the ongoing effort by Prairie premiers to filibuster any federal policy on climate change, and their willingness to openly defy the law in order to do it. Perhaps they learned from Quebec here, which has openly flouted federal authority on a number of occasions with almost no pushback from anyone at that level, government or opposition. Whether it’s Alberta’s Sovereignty Act, Scott Moe’s attempt to refuse to collect the federal carbon tax on natural gas heating or Quebec’s pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause on its draconian language law legislation, there is a growing willingness on the part of conservative provincial governments to test the strength of our national fabric — and maybe even tear it.

Pierre Poilievre loves to pretend that Canada is "broken." So why won't he speak out against the provincial premiers who are actively breaking it?

This should be an obvious place for the Trudeau Liberals to mount some sort of counterattack. Liberal governments have done well in the past when they go to bat for Canada. Underscoring the role that conservative provincial governments are playing in trying to break the country could help them use Poilievre’s own narrative against him. By framing the next election as a choice between those who want to keep building our country and those who are trying to break it, the Liberals might just be able to get out from under their own baggage.

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I hope these alt-right wannabes keep up that work. It only repels sane voters. The poorly educated think they are a large, influential bloc but, alas, they are poorly educated after all.

Totally Agree!

You are whistling past the graveyard. If recent history, in places such as the United States and Britain and various Canadian provinces, should have taught us anything, it's that someone being obviously and even farcically wrong and stupid does not mean they are not dangerous or cannot win. If they are handed a big enough megaphone, clearly they are and can. And there is big money giving the alt-right big megaphones.

Pierre "The Snake Oil Salesman" Poilievre is just using a page out of the Trump playbook as usual. Block, deny, vote against and spread disinformation to the naive wannabe base he has. I don't believe any of the far-right polls where our leaders stand, but the wannabe base is not the majority of sane voters who can see through his propaganda. Like Trump, he secretly loves the uneducated that support him or thinking of voting him. The conservative premiers are also using the Trump playbook to help support Pierre, who couldn't win the election honestly if he tried.

Canada is not broken as the alt-right is led to believe, what is broken is the conservative premiers who are too busy lining their pockets and catering to their corrupt donors. Doug Ford caters to his builder buddies and secret deals; Danielle Smith caters to her oil & gas buddies.

Just as Trump does with his MAGA dummies, Pierre is also sucking his groupies for dollars. They all better go out, sell their homes, vehicles and toys and send their money to Pierre so he can continue to push his disinformation ads and prop up his 3rd party propaganda social media sites he uses.

Simple Answer as to why! Neoliberalism. Premiers Higgs, Ford, MoeNd Smith are Libertarian and or Neoliberal. Their core beliefs are small governments, lower taxes, restricted labour organization of unions as that cost free enterprise money, capitalism unrestricted by taxes, governance, regulations or interference. Public anything should be privatized and they are doing it. Disagree and they pass laws. Latest in Alberta is the anti LBGQ child law, earlier anti create a union law, Kenney introduced a law to restrict Protests by aboriginal folks bur refused to use it at Coutts Truck Blockade. It goes on and on. Get Poilievre in the PM chair and watch out

Brings to mind this excellent Maclean's article by Paul Wells from a few years back: https://macleans.ca/opinion/is-it-time-to-abolish-provinces/

An intriguing idea!

Economically, diminishing the bloated power of provinces makes a lot of sense. Canada's six largest cities generate 50% of the nation's GDP. Greater Toronto produces as much wealth on average as the entire province if Alberta, even in good oil years. Metro Vancouver is responsible for half of BC's annual GDP.

Cities outcompete natural resources in jobs and economic productivity by orders of magnitude. By practically every measure, the provinces would go bankrupt without them.

Provinces are constitutionally responsible for cities, but too often treat them like crap. If the provinces truly lived up to their legal responsibilities, they'd treat cities like the life-giving gardens they truly are. There are no national standards to esure that treatment is fair and just.

Once senior governments take their share of the tax revenue generated in cities, municipalities are left with a mere eight cents on every dollar to finance their operations and capital budgets, but are still expected to raise property taxes to pay for 1/4 to 1/2 of the cost of major transit projects, for example.

I don't know how the Constitution could be amended to reduce the power of provinces while enabling cities to have the power they actually require to function and thrive. But it is entirely possible for a new and deeper relationship to be built between cities and the federal government.

For example, generous federal grants to cities could be allotted annually or quarterly as part of a national climate action plan, or to pay 80%-100% of the cost of transit and other urban infrastructure projects. The funding could come from federal accounts that are untouchable by the provinces. The federal initiative would go out of its way to advertize its intentions and to publicly invite provinces to participate, but if a province tries to grab some of the federal funding once allotted to a city, the feds could cut back an equal amount in other areas, such as transfers for highways and subsidies for pet provincial energy and development projects.

If the health care system was rejigged to be funded 50/50 between the provinces and the feds, then that will necessitate a federal-provincial bureaucracy that will give the feds an equal say in management. Right now the provinces regularly violate the intentions behind federal cash for medicare and education, and the feds have thus far only complained, a poor response to an increasingly sick part of the confederation partnership.

Too much power has been devolved to the provinces through a long obsolete view of Canada as a rural nation. The country has matured into an urban entity; 85% of the population now lives in cities and towns. It's beyond time to manage the country as such and cut the power of the largely useless provincial middle management level. The GTA, Metro Vancouver and Metro Montreal are, in actual effect, the country's three largest economic engines, and they need to be able to stand up to provincial governments that seek to too often abuse them and to keep them pinned under their big fat thumbs.

The federal government must fight back and stand up for the majority of citizens who happen to be urban.

Time to get rid of the useless level of government—the provinces. We need national and local governments; provincial governments not so much. Perhaps that's why the provinces are so obstreperous. They're desperately trying to appear relevant.

I can't believe I'm seeing a few comments that suggest dissolving provincial governments altogether. Do you think French Canadians would take it kindly? If the borders are open, it makes it easier for conservatives in Ontario to impose their ideals elsewhere, ideals that actually go against those of rural residents in the west.

They're also just asking for a Canada where they have the power to shut down the National Observer for "hate speech". I'm pretty sure conservatives would call it something like that.

Dissolving them altogether ... nope. But countering the abuse and neglect provinces too often impose on cities and medicare and educational institutions, and the favouritism they hand out to their donors and selected private interests using public resources and bent laws ... absolutely!

A federal government supporting cities and farmers more, building a national smart grid for clean electricity under the same legal justifications as, say, the Trans Mountain pipeline, airports, national
-scale communications and so forth, will probably create tension with provinces who feel their feet are being stepped on. Well tough.

It's important for a federal government to be seen giving to provincial entities such as cities, universities and projects that have a lot of built in common good, like renewable energy and conservation, and not taking away, such as the National Energy Program of ancient times that still rankles today in carboniferous provinces.

How is it possible for the people or a province to seriously object and challenge the feds for funding urban transit, healthcare, education and renewable energy projects more and create more jobs and revenue all around?

These actions will no doubt stimulate more action from cities and provinces to do more if they are seen to be too lax, and that could be the basis of negotiating reciprocal, mutually beneficial agreements with the feds. That is a good thing.