Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to expand on intergovernmental affairs and, more particularly, on so-called “asymmetrical federalism”.
First, I think that the notion of “asymmetrical federalism”, which lately has been used a great deal by federalists, seems instead a kind of asymmetrical interference.
There are numerous examples, in fact, where the federal government interferes in areas of jurisdiction belonging to Quebec and the provinces.
This is especially true with regard to health. The increase in federal transfer payments for health constitutes a victory of the first federal-provincial first ministers conference this fall, but it has been darkened by the resounding failure of the conference on equalization. This increase is accompanied by federal government oversight and control over these matters.
By establishing action plans, common, well-defined objectives, performance indicators or even so-called national standards, the federal government ensures that it can continue to invade areas of provincial responsibility.
In addition to health, look at municipal affairs or even day care. In terms of intergovernmental affairs, the main strategy of this government is to offer Quebec and the provinces money while it simultaneously imposes its own conditions.
With the arrogance it is known for, this government has even created a federal department of regional development, whose investments will be used to duplicate programs already administered by Quebec.
Regional development is not a federal responsibility, since the Constitution confers upon Quebec and the provinces responsibility for most issues in this sector: natural resources, education and training, municipal affairs, and so forth.
No, the problem that is slowing down regional development is the same one that faces all the other sectors in which the federal government does its best to interfere, the fiscal strangulation of Quebec and the provinces.
The fiscal imbalance, that only our Liberal colleagues refer to as financial pressure, is the key to understanding the intrinsic dynamic of this so-called asymmetrical federalism.
The fiscal imbalance financially weakens Quebec and the provinces and allows the federal government to free up huge budgetary surpluses, which it gladly uses to burst into provincial jurisdictions and to give itself the noble task of solving problems it created in the first place. In passing, it uses its “providential” intervention to dictate the conditions for funding, thereby ensuring it has the visibility it so desperately seeks.
If we can recognize this underhanded strategy called nation-building, then we will have a better understanding of why the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is celebrating the virtues of “asymmetrical federalism”, since, in doing so, she is also celebrating the federal government's desire for centralization.
And yet, the minister has tried to explain that asymmetrical federalism was not written into the throne speech because that would have been entirely superfluous, and that this concept is the new way the federal government operates in its relations with Quebec and the provinces.
Still, it is pretty obvious. Even though this concept enables the government to hide its hopelessly centralizing aims, asymmetrical federalism has been exposed as a formula that, even on the surface, is much too favourable to Quebec for all the Liberal dinosaurs with ideas from the Trudeau era.
That is why the Speech from the Throne said not one word about this concept that has been introduced as the new method of intergovernmental cooperation. It only took one federal-provincial conference for this ghost ship to crash on the sharp reefs of equalization. Like a mirage that dissolves as we approach it, asymmetrical federalism will fizzle out.
This government will not be able to boast of practising real asymmetrical federalism until it allows Quebec and the provinces to intervene in its own exclusive jurisdictions.