Prime Minister Harper, here’s a bit of friendly advice: don’t screw with Ontario.
I’m willing to be convinced on the need to fix the so-called fiscal imbalance. It is a reality; one created by Paul Martin in 1994 when he cut transfer payments to the provinces, downloading most of the costs of our healthcare system. It is true that, thanks to this, our federal government finds itself heavily in surplus, while many of our provinces are hard-pressed to balance their books without relying on oil revenues.
But the way to solve this is to transfer tax points to the provinces, so that the province’s ability to raise revenues more closely equals the costs of their responsibilities.
What you do not do is bow to the Bloc Quebecois’ demands to increase the flow of equalization payments between the have provinces and the have nots. With Ontario already paying $23 billion per year more into confederation than it gets out in services, I think it’s asking too much to penalize successful provinces like us and Alberta to solve a problem the federal government created.
And if you make moves which suggest that you are going to play the other provinces against Ontario in future discussions; if you make moves which suggest you are seeking to isolate Dalton McGuinty, Ontario voters will remember this, and they won’t forgive you.
Your electoral math is a little weak. You need to gain thirty seats in order to gain a majority. I don’t believe that you have much room to grow in the West. And while I admire the gains you have made in Quebec, you shouldn’t forget that forty seats in Ontario also helped put you in the prime minister’s chair. Lose even ten of those, and without an Atlantic strategy, that means you are expecting a fifty-seat win in La Belle Province. Is that really likely? Honestly?
In my view, you have more room to grow in Ontario, or even in Canada’s three largest cities, and there are issues which can gain you favour here without alienating your rural Ontario or Western bases.
But, if that’s not to your liking, it’s your government’s funeral.