We need a strong federal government with provincial co-operation to protect Canadians and to build community resilience. Pierre Trudeau lamented that the feds must not be the headwaiter to the provinces. Ottawa has since taken on concierge and shoe-shine services as well, writes Green Party co- leader Elizabeth May.
Green Party Co-Leader Elizabeth May
The long-awaited release of the report by Justice Paul Rouleau on the Emergencies Act has set out numerous paths of inquiry. Learning from the mistakes that led to the occupation, we have much to consider in the failures of intelligence, information-sharing, and policing. The re- port highlights the impacts of social media and disinformation, and the role played by fractured social cohesion due to the pandemic, which of course gave rise to the convoy protest in the first place.
Particularly, Rouleau noted that different levels of government failed to work collaboratively, escalating the crisis: “Pre- paring for and responding to situations of threat and urgency in a federal system requires governments at all levels, and those who lead them, to rise above politics and collaborate for the common good.
“In January and February 2022, this did not always happen.”
Was this crisis an exception to the rule or is federalism chronically failing?
When we look at health care, it is not hard to see the current crisis through the same lens. With federal health-care transfers having increased four-fold since the year 2000, provincial health-care spending has not matched the transfer. Provinces have spent some of their health-care dollars elsewhere. Some have spent health-care dollars in the provincial systems without improving access to medical professionals. Some have in- creased additional layers of bureaucracy, contributing to health-care professionals’ burnout. One nurse friend told me that where once she could work alone, it now takes two nurses to visit a senior at home to deliver a vaccine—one to give the shot, the other to fill out the necessary forms on a tablet. A local doctor refers to the “bed to bureaucrat ratio” and it is not improving.
Meanwhile, some provincial politicians work in direct opposition to the principles of the Canada Health Act for universal, non-profit, single-payer health care. We can see the fingerprints of the failures of federalism all over our health-care crisis.
On climate, federalism’s failings are a huge contributor to Canada’s appalling climate record.
The European Union with its 28 separate and sovereign nation states (29 before Brexit), with 24 official languag- es, has consistently been better able to act collectively to address the climate threat than has Canada. Back in 1997, the European Union negotiated a collective target at Kyoto (COP3) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The EU set a target of eight per cent reductions below 1990 levels to be achieved between 2008-2012. Canada committed to six per cent reductions below 1990 on the same time frame. With- in a few months of the December 1997 negotiations, the EU countries had agreed upon a plan to ensure that it would hit its target. Some EU countries reduced more to allow others to manage with less of a carbon slashing effort. The EU exceeded its Kyoto target.
Collectively, the EU exceeded Kyoto pledges, now collectively 34 per cent below 1990 levels. Canada was nearly 21 per cent above 1990 levels when COVID hit. Emissions declined in 2020, but are expected to have bounced back whenever the 2021 and 2022 figures are released. It is a sorry record.
As climate now constitutes its own emergency, we desperately need all governments to step up and cooperate. The single most important infrastructure enhancement for 100 per cent decarbonized electricity is a robust east-west and north-south electricity grid. While Nova Scotia burns coal for most of its electricity, it has unplugged from the modest first step in such a grid: the Atlantic Loop. Provincial monopolistic utilities show no movement to a functional national grid. Meanwhile, within months of the beginning of Russia’s illegal assault, the EU plugged Ukraine into the its own grid.
We need a strong federal government with provincial co-operation to protect Canadians and to build community resilience. Pierre Trudeau lamented that the feds must not be the headwaiter to the provinces. Ottawa has since taken on concierge and shoe shine services as well.
Green Party MP Elizabeth May, who represents Saanich Gulf Islands, B.C., is the co-leader of the Green Party of Canada.
The Hill Times