So what's the solution? National Energy Program the Sequel!
Ontario is in jeopardy of becoming a have-not province as a result of the funding shortfall between what it contributes to the federal treasury and what it receives from Ottawa, a report to be released today warns.
The very title of the report -- Fairness in Confederation. Fiscal Imbalance: Driving Ontario to "Have Not" Status -- raises provocative questions about a province long considered one of the country's wealthiest.
The report, prepared by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, will likely provide provincial Premier Dalton McGuinty with fresh ammunition in his campaign to wrest more money from Ottawa. He has argued that the gap between what Ontarians pay in taxes to the federal government and what they get back in programs and services has swelled to $23-billion from $2-billion in 1995.
The release of the report comes just as there is growing unease in Ontario over the cash windfall Alberta is reaping from soaring world energy prices. But while government officials in Ontario would welcome a debate on the challenges Alberta's overflowing coffers pose for Confederation, they are leery of sparking a potentially divisive debate.
Alberta is enjoying the best of times because it happens to be sitting on vast oil deposits. Its surplus is expected to soar to $7-billion, four times higher than the province's official figure, thanks to the money flowing in from crude and natural-gas royalties. It has prompted a province-wide debate on how to spend the surplus, with the government even considering eliminating corporate taxes altogether. Oil prices are hovering above $65 (U.S.) a barrel, 50-per-cent higher than Alberta's official estimate.
By comparison, Ontario is struggling with a $2.8-billion deficit and a growth rate that lags behind the national average. To make matters worse, every time oil prices go up, manufacturers in Ontario are hurt because their operating costs increase.
The very title of this report underscores the growing threat to Canadian unity that Ontario's arrogance towards the West has become. The underlying assumption is that the natural order has been upset, and that Alberta must restore it by sending its windfall to Ontario.
The West still hasn't forgotten how it got swindled by the National Energy Program as oil prices began freefalling from the moment it was implemented. It's had 25 more years of grievances and insults from Central Canada to stoke the burning fires of resentment.
Paul Martin will almost certainly address the issue of fiscal imbalance by proclaiming wealth redistribution as another Canadian value, and demonizing Alberta and the Tories again in Ontario as a bunch of greedy rednecks.
Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark. For good!
Source: Globe and Mail