Andrew Coyne, after a short diatribe about our first-past-the-post electoral system (he’s agin’ it), gets down to brass tacks about provincial finances:
As bad as the federal government is, the provinces are worse. And as horrendous as the provinces are generally, the record in some provinces borders on the fraudulent. Saskatchewan and Alberta, for instance, have overspent their budgets in the past decade by an average — an average — of nearly 5%. And since each year’s overshoot becomes the baseline for next year’s budget, the cumulative impact is to produce spending, in the fiscal year just ended, vastly larger than was ever specifically authorized in advance: in Saskatchewan’s case, nearly 40% larger.
That’s as best the [C. D. Howe Institute] can make out. Provincial accounting is notoriously haphazard and inconsistent. Not only does each province use its own rules and procedures, making it impossible to compare the public accounts from one province to another with any confidence, but in several provinces — Newfoundland and Quebec are the worst offenders — the public accounts are not even stated on the same basis as the budget.
And while the public accounts must ultimately prevail, efforts to reconcile the two sets of figures, and to explain the discrepancies, remain spotty. In some provinces — Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia — auditors have refused, repeatedly, to sign off on the books without attaching reservations.
So not only can voters have little confidence that governments will spend what they said they would, they can have little ability even to reckon how much they overspent, or to compare their own province’s performance with the others’. All in all, a thoroughly disgraceful performance. (Honourable exceptions: Ontario and Nova Scotia, though voters in both provinces have other reasons to doubt their governments’ fiscal candour.)
Rex Murphy in the National Post on the worst month in Newfoundland’s calendar:
T.S. Eliot did not write for Newfoundlanders. April is not the cruelest month. For us, it’s July. Both the first and second day of July are marked indelibly in the province’s common memory, the first perhaps the saddest day in the historic calendar, the second as the day of the most fundamental change in the essential makeup of the province.
The greatest tragedy in Newfoundland’s history occurred on July 1, 1916 the opening day of the Battle of the Somne, when nearly 800 men from the 1st Newfoundland Regiment went “over the top” at Beaumont Hammel, only to suffer close to 700 casualties within less than half an hour. It was a virtual annihilation of the entire Regiment. The shockwaves from Beaumont Hammel went through every town and village, city and outport of the time. There was not a place unmarked with grief. To this day, the memory of Beaumont Hammel commands deep respect and notice.
A different kind of event, one not drawn from conflict or war, marks the second day of the month. Just 20 years ago, for the very first time since the late 15th century and the arrival of the Europeans and John Cabot to the fish-crowded waters off Newfoundland, catching cod-fish was declared illegal. The fishery, that great and traditional fishery of Newfoundland, was shut down for the first time in nearly 500 years.
It’s been 20 years since the fishery was closed, and there’s still no sign that it will be re-opening any time soon.
For some reason it is being treated as news that the Prime Minister said he would work with a Parti Quebecois government in the unfortunate circumstance of a PQ victory.
What else was he supposed to say? The PQ has held power several times since Rene Levesque’s first victory in 1976. It’s a democratic country, and provinces can elect whoever they want. Ottawa doesn’t have a choice whether it wants to work with the victor or not. Harper worked with Danny Williams — well, he tried, anyway — when the Newfoundland caudillo declared himself the supreme power of El Rocko Independanto and waged a personal war against his Canadian oppressors. Pauline Marois, the PQ leader (at least until the next revolt) can’t be half as annoying as Danny was.
I labour over this history to place in context the astounding, even outré, comments offered by Canada’s First Separatist, Gilles Duceppe, on hearing of the proposed arrangement — which, I hasten to mention, is merely a $4.2-billion loan guarantee from Ottawa, not some massive outright subsidy. Mr. Duceppe, with a logic that can only belong to a man who gets paid to be a separatist by the government he’s trying to extinguish, called the deal “a direct attack on Quebec.”
What really bothers Mr. Duceppe and other separatists is that they want to retain Quebec’s monopoly on southbound power sales to the United States — something the Lower Churchill project, including its 1,100 km of underwater transmission cables, would threaten. “By financing the Newfoundland project, Stephen Harper has given Quebec a slap right in the face,” the BQ leader declared.
It’s one of the continuing risibilities of the Canadian federation that we cosset and pamper and pay for the separatist faction in the House of Commons, and go along with the pretense that they’re parliamentarians like any other. They are not. They displace the natural balance of the federation. They have a vested interested in seeing the parliament they attend not working. And they leap to any perceived or manufactured imperfection in our system as evidence of dark perfidy or contempt for Quebec. They warp the system. Nowhere do these observations meet with greater validation than these ludicrous comments by Duceppe on the proposed assistance to the Lower Churchill.
I have always argued that every Canadian should be free to seek treatment wherever he or she wants. Elective or lifesaving, complicated or straightforward, it is none of my business where Danny Williams goes for his operation, or who pays for it.
True, there would be something of a hypocrisy factor at play if Mr. Williams has preached the virtues of Canada’s state-monopoly care and now, when he has to put his faith in the system, he has flown the coop rather than stand in line for a treatment he could receive here.
But we don’t know what exactly is wrong with the brash and charming politician, who is one of the few chunks of flavour in the floury roux of Canadian politics. Perhaps what ails him can only be fixed south of the border — in which case, the province might even have paid for his treatment in a foreign clinic.
The point I am trying to make here is that only because we have turned health care into a political hot potato are any of us even wondering whether the premier is justified in going to an American clinic.
Well, when an ordinary person has to wait months and months just to see a specialist, and then wait even longer for surgery, while the political class can (apparently) get immediate attention and care, it becomes difficult to continue believing that all Canadians are entitled to equal care . . .
I can’t disagree with Lorne Gunter here:
What I resent is the way premiers and prime ministers won’t free you or me to buy insurance that would enable us to procure first-class care in times of need. What I resent is the way many limousine liberals lash us to the mast of the good ship Medicare, then run off to the United States when it’s their lives or their families’ on the line. They are like public school trustees who send their kids to private school.
Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, will be having heart surgery later this week. This is a bit of a surprise to most, as he’s known to be a regular exerciser and hasn’t missed time for illness recently. Here’s Kenyon Wallace’s report:
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is to have heart surgery in the United States later this week, a press conference this morning is expected to confirm.
Media reports last night suggested the popular 59-year-old Premier has opted not to remain in his home province or country for the scheduled surgery, opting instead for treatment at a U.S. institution. The exact destination is not known.
“I can confirm that Premier Williams did leave the province this morning and will be undergoing heart surgery later this week,” said Mr. Williams’ spokeswoman, Elizabeth Matthews, in an email to the Canadian Press.
Not the first Canadian politician to elect to get medical care in the United States, and (on past experience) he’ll certainly not be the last one either. A cynic might note that the leaders don’t have the same confidence in the Canadian healthcare system that the people do . . . or it might be that politicians see themselves as far too important to have to wait until their turn under our system (where wait times are a quiet shame).