As part of its weeks-long pre-budget rollout, the Liberal government has sent Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland out to announce a host of new measures on everything from housing to contraception. In each speech, she has returned to the same theme: that the promise of Canada, the chance to do as well as your parents if not better, isn’t being realized by enough people.

“We have arrived at a pivotal moment for millennials and gen-Z,” she told a Vancouver audience on March 27. “These Canadians have so much talent and potential. They need to see and feel that our country can work for them — that the promise of Canada can still be reached.” This isn’t so much an insightful observation as it is a long overdue concession to the reality that helps explain the Conservative Party of Canada’s increasingly massive lead in the polls. But it also raises an important question that the next election will help answer: how, exactly, do we go about fulfilling the promise our country offers to so many people?

Over at The Line, Andrew Potter suggested a return to Canada’s more elemental configuration might help. The federal government would withdraw from areas like health care, childcare and climate change and instead focus on “its core areas of concern and jurisdiction, including internal trade and security, national defence, immigration and international trade.” This, Potter says, would mirror the broader global retreat of international defence agreements, trade deals and other institutional expressions of globalization. “Some places can’t be renovated, they need to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up, on the original foundations,” he writes. “Canada itself feels a lot like that these days.”

I’ll take the other side of this argument. I’m not necessarily disputing Potter’s premise here, which is that Canadians feel more and more like their country isn’t working as well as it ought to. From immigration and climate policy to health care and housing, Canadians have real and legitimate concerns that deserve a hearing.

What I will happily dispute is Potter’s assertion that the federal government is the source of these problems — and that, as he put it, Canada needs to be “gutted” as a result. I’d suggest the exact opposite: we need more Canada, not less.

We need a federal government that’s more willing to stand up to provincial mischief and malfeasance than ours has been of late. We need a federal government that's better able to push back against their ongoing attempts to weaken the federation in the name of their own political self-interest. We need a federal government that will better explain what binds us as Canadians and how that builds our shared prosperity. And we need a federal government that will defend its agenda aggressively and unapologetically.

In other words, we need a federal government more like the one Pierre Trudeau ran. He articulated a clear national interest for the country and supported it with a variety of ambitious programs and policies, from official multiculturalism and the National Energy Program to the repatriation of the Constitution and the creation of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Above all, he was happy to campaign for the idea of more Canada, not less — and willing to lose elections over it if necessary.

That’s especially important right now, given the ongoing efforts by various provincial governments to tear at the fabric of Confederation. In his piece, Potter writes, “Federalism in Canada has turned into little more than a coast-to-coast festival of recalcitrance, recrimination and regional grievance,” but then goes on to blame “the vaccine mandate, the carbon tax, and other federal manipulations.”

This is just silly. The federal vaccine mandate only applied to federal employees and institutions, and the provinces all had their own provincial vaccine mandates. The carbon tax, meanwhile, seeks to address a national problem with a national policy that provinces could easily avoid by implementing their own climate plans. Instead, we have governments in Alberta and Saskatchewan determined to oppose any federal attempt to deliver the greenhouse gas reductions we’re committed to making under the Paris Accord. Danielle Smith even tried to blame solar energy for a recent power grid failure that saw rolling blackouts in Edmonton in early April that began before the sun had risen.

We keep hearing that Canada "is broken" — and now, that it "needs to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up." But from climate change to health care and housing, our challenges require more Ottawa, not less. It's time for Trudeau to say as much.

These are not, in other words, serious governments, and they should not be trusted to address the increasingly serious challenges we’re facing. In the next federal election and the months leading up to it, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals should present Canadians with a clear choice. They can vote for a federal government that’s trying to fix national problems like housing, health care and climate change, or a party that will defer to the very provinces that are making all those problems worse.

That might not save Trudeau from his apparently inevitable fate, but at least it would help clarify what’s at stake for Canadians — and what they might stand to lose. Yes, his government hasn’t done a good job lately of helping enough people realize the promise of Canada. But at least he and his party still believe in it.

Keep reading

I don't think enough people focus on local politics as they are bombarded with the rage-farming of national politics. The provinces are finally being asked by the Federal government to be held accountable for how they spend federal funds and they're not liking it. To me, that shows the provincial governments are fracturing the country. Getting the provinces to agree on anything is like herding cats. Each province has its own ideological agenda and we're so focused on the next PP slogan that we're not paying attention to what the premiers are doing to us. I understand if you're tired of the current administration and thinking they're dictating how your province should run but I worry more about the guy who says he alone can fix it. What will provinces do when they don't have the Trudeau government to blame?

All those big things Pierre Trudeau did STILL define Canada, which is why the Liberals have been called the "natural governing party of Canada" AND why the current prairie/hinterland iteration of churlish convoy cons with "oppositional defiance disorder," known to be graceless EVEN in victory, hate them with an absolute passion. And the fact that Pierre, an intellectual and a metrosexual well before his time had an urban/urbane son who is still PM has made this a steeped blood feud within an ongoing culture war.
But it's NOT the country that's "broken," it's conservatism itself, starting with the federal Progressive Conservative Party, who were no street fighters either. Everyone who has watched the Reform Party's trajectory from being just another version of a protest party in the usual laid-back prairie preacher tradition to being a high-octane all-street-fighter-ALL-the-time party with NO vision other than winning power to "own the Libs" and GUT every single thing they have done, even if it destroys the country in the process, sees the danger here. But since the internet has made "adulting" optional, many of this generation of young voters who are particularly enamoured of novelty and entertainment, view a common street fighter/bully as some sort of a leader because he looks and talks like a guy from Miami Vice.
So while the Derivative Regressive Conservatives are methodically undermining our democracy and institutions (trying to "gut" them i.e.) the Liberals and Trudeau as the main adults in the room are DOING THEIR JOB, undercutting recalcitrant conservative premiers by going directly to municipalities (the primary population centres after all, key in a democracy since it's where the magic majority live) who are also willing to collaborate FOR the people. To govern in other words. (This is Naheed Nenshi's theme, FOR all of us; in his recent speech in Lethbridge he said of the UCP that he has never seen a government so disinterested in governing, the conservatives in a nutshell.)
Which is what this writer from the conservative and therefore automatically lesser publication, "The Line" means when he talks about "gutting" the country. Classic con strategy, to loudly, rudely and repetitively attack the Liberals for what THEY themselves are actually doing. AND while the whole playbook is manifesting further along the trajectory in the U.S. as we speak. SO tiresome and ultimately boring, all this stupidity.

In that light it's hard to imagine Ms. Smith stepping in to block vital transit projects such as Calgary's Green Line if the feds offered 100% funding and struck an agreement with Council to upzone the areas around stations.

Will she actually step in front of a bulldozer? She'd better hope a liberal voter isn't driving it. ;-)

We are a very geographically, economically, ethnically, and ideologically diverse country. You can't have everyone agree on everything (It is difficult enough to get my family of 5 to easily agree on a movie to watch!). I think having federal government with limited scope, taking care of the things we can all agree upon, and putting the rest in the hands of more local governments is probably how things should go. IMO, the bigger and farther reaching a federal government becomes, the more unhappy everyone becomes because they feel that those in power are out of touch with their local life and concerns. I am in favour of a balanced distribution of power and decision making. Some of what we are experiencing are disagreements on what the distribution of power between regional and federal government should look like. I think those are important conversations to have.

Yes, we need a federal government that is prepared to push back hard against the idiocies of the likes of Moe and Smith. It would really help if they could get their messaging clear on climate policy - especially on carbon pricing and rebates, but also on the reality that it is just one of the tools that we need. It would also help if GHG emissions policy was clearly framed as an aspect of foreign policy - this is an international crisis in which all nation states need to play their part by, at the very least, honouring international treaties. While gross offenders like Alberta and Saskatchewan will require federal help to achieve the dramatic emissions cuts that are now necessary, there should be a serious stick as well as a carrot. Why, for example, is the Trudeau government not prosecuting Scott Moe and his team over their failure to comply with federal carbon pricing legislation?

An excellent piece.

I wholeheartedly agree that our country cannot devolve any more power to the provinces without risking the fragmentation of a once highly respected federal democracy.

This means that the federal government must be willing to assume more responsibility for medicare, for example. The original intent of the Pearson-Douglas minority government with respect to enacting public health insurance was a 50/50 funding split with the provinces. The feds are now down to about 17%, I believe, mainly because of deficits. long term debt and ideological conservative opposition.

There is only so much control the federal goverment has on money it gives to the provinces, especially when it cedes management of that money to them. Rejigging federalism means increasing -- not decreasing -- the federal responibilities for both funding and operating management efforts in joint programs like healthcare, which then gives the feds greater authority to impose national standards and, arguably, quicker response times and increased international vigilence on emergencies like pandemics.

In addition, health sciences have a huge positive economic impact on jurusdictions that possess them. A healthy R&D network with decent federal funding can compete internationally and seriously advance science in aiding human health. The sciences extend to other fields and counter the dependency on natural resources. In BC, for example, science, knowledge and technology outcompete all natural resources and agriculture combined in benefitting the provincial economy.

Climate action is another field that requires a larger federal share. A carbon price has always been the low hanging fruit, the easiest to enact. Now its time for the feds to seriously up their game and actively partcipate in solar and wind projects beyond merely providing grants and loans. Full partnerships in renewables (First Nations are waiting for more meaningful reconciliation efforts, and many of them have abundant land ...) and building and outright owning interprovincial smart grids would be an excellent way to become a full participant at the local level.

The feds should always keep the door open for provincial participation on building physical infrastructure, but the feds must be prepared to go alone on such projects when a province is opposed -- while reaping the benefits and praise for creating thousands of jobs and, in renewables, for stabilizing the price of zero emission electricity at affordable levels across the nation and for widely being seen as very, very active in directly fighting climate change instead of being closeted in Ottawa bureaucracies writing laws and imposing taxes (rebateable or not) on others.

"The feds are now down to about 17%, I believe, mainly because of" -- (tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations).
There, fixed that for you.

The right on the problems afflicting Canada: "We wrecked it, now you should listen to us push more of the same as the remedy".

The right on why they should be in charge: "We believe the very idea of government and governance is bad, and that there is no national interest only private interests. Let us govern the nation!"