The shifting sands of federal-provincial relations
Ontario and Alberta have acted boldly in bringing aboard capable financial and administrative advisors
It is interesting to follow the shifting social and economic growth patterns across Canada and attempt to deduce from the changes the pattern of causes and effects. An important sidebar is to position Atlantic Canada within the shifting sands.
Political manoeuvring frequently outflanks economic logic as the ground shifts and, at times, correctly so. For example, one indicator shows the population of Ontario and Quebec at 60 per cent of the nation’s total, an increase of 10 percent in the decade between 2004 and 2014. By comparison, the Atlantic Region grew less than one per cent in the same time frame.
Two significant occurrences within the past decade have been the election of female premiers in the provinces of Ontario and Alberta. Not related to that point is the decline in the manufacturing sector in Ontario and the drop in value of oil worldwide.
Neither of the two premiers can be held responsible for these troubling trends. However, both sets of circumstances have negatively impacted the Canadian economy with adverse effects on labour market and labour mobility.
The auto industry, Ontario’s lifeline in the manufacturing sector, witnessed a loss of auto manufacturing to lower-cost Mexico. That blow was further compounded by the recession of 2008. The same worldwide recession reduced the demand for Alberta oil production and, in combination with the growth in the United States oil and gas fracking activity, reduced the price of oil by 50 per cent.
The sequence of four provincial elections and a federal elec- tion within a one-year period has kept our Dominion a little unstable. Not to mention the prospective outcomes of two separate and distinct international trade agreements now being negotiated.
Back to the two premiers – Kathleen Wynne of Ontario and Rachel Notley of Alberta. Both have acted in a bold manner in bringing aboard capable financial and administrative advisors. Ordinarily this would not be unusual were it not for the calibre of the people selected. Wynn has brought in Ed Clark, recently retired CEO of the Toronto Dominion Bank.
Clark began his career in the government of Allen Blakney in Saskatchewan in the 1971-81 period serving in a senior public service capacity. When the Grant Devine government was elected in the 1980s, Clark was recruited by the federal government and served as a senior official both at a departmental and Central Agency level.
He subsequently joined the TD Bank and served as a highly respected CEO for the bank and was sought after frequently as an advisor in both the private and public sectors. Most recently, he has written and spoken on the topic of Income Inequality along with economists Kevin Milligan and Paul Krugman.
Premier Wynn is facing major issues in Ontario from infrastructure rebuilding to re-energizing automobile manufacturing and resource development with North Ontario’s planned ‘Ring of Fire’ project. The advice and experience of Ed Clark will come in handy.
Moving west, Premier Notley has also engaged prominent Canadian economist David Dodge as a special advisor. Dodge, a former federal government Deputy Minister of Finance, moved on to become governor of the Bank of Canada. Upon completion of his term he joined senior ranks at Queen’s University as well as becoming advisor to several Canadian law and corporate firms.
Like Wynn, Notley is challenged by budget deficits, falling oil prices and climate change issues. Dodge, quoted in the Globe and Mail (Oct. 11, 2012), argued that the federal “government should help stabilize [an] increasingly imbalanced national economy.”
In summary, one could conclude that: (a) the influence of the populated or collaborating provinces will likely readjust provincial influence vis-à-vis federal government dominance; and (b) the influences of Clark and Dodge will distil down through their respective governments to favourably impact the country nationally. Top-notch people do make a difference.
Pat Bates worked with the Irving group of companies and the federal civil service in industry and economic development during his 37-year career. Currently, the Syd
net River resident is involved in community volunteer initiatives. His column normlly appears every second Monday in the Cape Breton Post. He can be contacted at email@example.com.