Author Topic: Government Day-to-Day  (Read 14143 times)

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Offline waldo

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Re: Government Day-to-Day
« Reply #645 on: October 21, 2020, 11:14:45 pm »
killer article from journalist 'Dale Smith'... Obfuscating jurisdiction to score points

It seems to come as a surprise to many people that Canada is a highly decentralized federation, with a constitutionally entrenched division of powers that prevents the federal government from blundering its way into the affairs of the provinces.  Sure, there are a few areas of shared jurisdiction that come with some push and pull between different levels of government, and there are places where the federal government plays a role that largely involves the transfer of funds to provinces for specific outcomes, or to ensure equal levels of access from province to province.  And yet, listening to politicians at both the federal and provincial levels of government, particularly lately, there seems to be no shortage of confusion as to just how much power and authority the federal government possesses in a myriad of portfolios.
Since the onset of the pandemic, jurisdictional confusion seems to have exploded.  Everyone has demanded that the federal government do something about rent (when landlord/tenant legislation is provincial), long-term care (again, provincial jurisdiction that the federal government provided military and Canadian Red Cross support with upon the request of the provinces), paid sick leave (about 90 percent provincial jurisdiction Ė federally regulated sectors include banking, telecom and transportation), and public health measures (which they provided lab capacity and contract tracers to provinces upon demand).  And the federal government got creative about how it could leverage its spending power to help provinces, but it wasnít always successful (the commercial rent subsidy or disability support top-ups) because they donít have the appropriate levers or databases that can provide that kind of direct support.  But that hasnít stopped either opposition parties or even some provinces from complaining, when those provincial governments havenít stepped up to solve things that are clearly in their jurisdiction.  Some provinces, like Alberta, decided to lay off school workers in their own jurisdiction and put them onto federal support payments, in a bout of spectacularly cynical buck-passing, and got away with it because of this deliberate confusion in the public sphere.
Of course, the opposition parties and the premiers know that there are jurisdictional issues, but they have been content to ignore the realities of them for the sake of playing politics.  For the opposition, itís a cynical game of making it look like the federal government is sitting on their hands when they in fact lack the proper levers to take meaningful action Ė and they know it.  For premiers, itís a kind of learned helplessness, insisting that the federal government needs to provide money or direction, or guidance, or to ďtake the leadĒ when itís something that they can do on their own.

If the federal government did assert jurisdiction (likely through emergency powers), they would immediately cry bloody murder, that their constitutional rights were being trampled on, and that the division of powers exists for a reason, but in the meantime, they could take advantage of the fact that all eyes are focused on Ottawa, leaving them to escape accountability for their failures in the pandemic.  And what is most frustrating is the fact that media have been complicit in this, abiding by the ethos that nobody cares about jurisdiction in a pandemic Ė except they should, because the federal government canít invent levers it doesnít have, and the premiers need to be held to account for their own failings.  Playing into the cynical games of politicians who obfuscate jurisdictional questions leaves that accountability in doubt.