I am writing to ask that you reconsider the wisdom of your respective campaigns to get the federal government to direct five billion dollars of federal revenues into Ontario's purse, and that you both change your message to Ottawa. My reasons are as follows:
1. Undermining the Rule of Law: Canada is a country founded upon the rule of law - nobody, in Canada, is above the law. The most important of all of the laws that govern us are those that confer the power to legislate and to govern: constitutional laws. Canada's constitution allocates to provincial legislatures the exclusive authority to make laws concerning certain matters, including health care, education, welfare, and municipal revenue. The constitution confers upon the federal government no authority to make laws concerning such matters. As Professor Andrew Petter (Dean of the University of Victoria Law School) explained in his Canadian Bar Association paper "Federalism and the Myth of the Federal Spending Power", the federal government has no authority to spend its revenues on matters over which it has no aurthority to make laws. Prior to becoming an MP and Liberal, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau also recognized this fact, and he wrote compelling arguments against the notion that the federal government may spend money on exclusively provincial matters such as health care, education, and welfare (see his "Federal Grants to Universities" in his 1968 book "Federalism and the French Canadians", p. 87). Diverting federal money into provincial coffers is not authorized by the constitution. By making repeated demands that the federal government give Ontario five billion dollars, you are effectively saying "damn the constitution", hence "damn the rule of law". Well gentlemen, when legally-trained Premiers and opposition leaders beg for a violation of the law, they are telling the governed that political whim, not law, governs. That is a very dangerous precedent indeed in a society that values freedom.
2. Blurring the Lines of Political Accountability: Let us be truthful. Ontario is spending more than it is taking in with provincial taxes, fees etc.. Asking Ottawa to give the Ontario government five billion dollars in federal revenues is an attempt to avoid the political backlash associated with increasing provincial taxes or cutting provincial spending. Though the polls indicate that your parties may temporarily benefit from your respective efforts to demand a share of federal revenues, your efforts are in fact doing a severe disservice to the people of Ontario. Not all Ontarians have the time to study the legal lines that divide federal and provincial jurisdiction. Most Ontarians will understandably assume that a Premier, and an opposition party leader, would never ask the federal government to do something unconstitutional. Your demands for federal revenues are leading Ontarians – even some in the media - to form the false belief that the federal government is constitutionally responsible for taxing and spending on matters such as health care, education, welfare, and municipal revenue. I think it is not inaccurate to assume that, both of you having graduated from law school, you know very well that your efforts are blurring the lines of political accountability in the minds of many Ontarians. One could not fairly be faulted for opining that that blurring itself is, at least in part, your intention (especially with Ontario running a deficit, Premier). Ontarians, for both electoral and non-electoral purposes, need and deserve a government and opposition behavior that is not calculated to undermine Ontarians' knowledge about which government (federal or provincial) is responsible for what.
Do you honestly believe that secessionist sentiments have their genesis in too little federal involvement in provincial affairs? Has it occurred to either of you, for even a second, that when the federal government is wrongly criticized for spending too little on things falling outside of its jurisdiction, the federal government is encouraged unlawfully to intrude even further into exclusively provincial matters, thereby intensifying secessionist leanings, especially in Quebec? Do you really think that your demands for more federal involvement in exclusively provincial matters will encourage Quebecers to remain in a federation with Ontario?
4. Reduced Attention to Provincial Spending Control: When I was a little boy, I wanted a toy for bath time. My family did not have a lot of money. My mother gave me a choice between a single big plastic boat, and bag full of little plastic boats. Unable (or perhaps unwilling) to decide, I cried, and my mother, weak with love, bought both for me. To a little child, it was the perfect solution: more money. Thank goodness, I later in life had to earn my own keep, and learned that one has to make choices. I find little difference between my child-like approach of crying, and the approach the two of you have taken. Ontarians have entrusted you with seats in the legislature. It is time for both of you to 'grow up', take responsibility, and make decisions with respect to spending. If Ontario's premier and opposition leader act like children, the federal government will appropriately treat them as such, to the detriment of all Ontarians.
There are problems associated with spending decisions that have nothing whatsoever to do with revenues. One need look only at the recent decisions not to publicly fund an autism service but to fund sex change operations to realize that there is a lack of protocol and consistency, and too great an influence of politics, in matters of provincial spending. Ontario must address these systemic shortcomings, not push them to the side and attempt to solve such decision-making problems by just increasing revenues.
Gentlemen, for all of the reasons set out above (and there are several more), I implore you to change your message to Ottawa. Do not demand more federal money. Rather, demand significant cuts to federal income taxes. That will leave more money in the pockets of Ontarians. Once it is in Ontarians' pockets, you can then decide whether it is appropriate for Ontario to demand, from Ontarians, a greater share of their hard-earned money. Personally, I must strenuously disagree that Ontario needs more revenue: in my view, Ontario has a spending crisis, not a revenue crisis. But decide what you will about the level of taxes imposed by the Ontario government. If the rule of law is respected, Ontarians will retain the ability and opportunity to reward or punish you in the ballot box for the wisdom or folly of your decisions.
This media release has been sent to all major print, radio, and television media.
For further information, contact Freedom Party of Ontario's leader, Paul McKeever:
Party of Ontario