The shift­ing sands of fed­eral-pro­vin­cial re­la­tions

On­tario and Al­berta have acted boldly in bring­ing aboard ca­pa­ble fi­nan­cial and ad­min­is­tra­tive ad­vi­sors

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL - Pat Bates

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 pat­bates@ns.sym­pa­tico.ca.

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