One of the things I have noticed about Ottawa is that each week there is often a different event that will be the major news story from the parliamentary press gallery and often the opposition parties as well. More often than not these stories will quickly travel throughout Canada and back home to our beautiful region of Okanagan-Coquihalla. What I often find interesting is that sometimes these media stories will generate a fair bit of local interest as citizens request further information or pass on personal points often either in support or opposed to this issue in question. Other times news events that are actively discussed in Ottawa I have heard from local citizens here in the riding who cannot believe some of the media stories unfolding in Ottawa are even considered to be newsworthy at all.
Last week was very unique as it was actually the leader of the official opposition Thomas Mulcair who was the subject of the media spotlight over comments made by Mulcair essentially blaming the challenges in the Ontario and Quebec manufacturing sector on the western Canada based resource economy. Many media pundits were quick to castigate the NDP and Thomas Mulcair for what they called a “war on the west” and a “divisive attack against Canadian national unity” and a “recklessly unCanadian” position that Mr. Mulcair refused to apologize for. For those who suggest that newly minted political leaders enjoy a honeymoon period from the media, suffice it to say Mr. Mulcair’s has been very short lived.
However lost in the media story is another, and I submit more import dynamic that we as Canadians must be very aware of. While it may politically easy for Mr. Mulcair and the NDP to point fingers of blame at the British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan economies for the challenges in the Ontario and Quebec manufacturing sectors, doing so ignores other important facts. The reality is the collapse of the US economy, our largest trading partner, is far more relevant to these challenges then blaming western Canada. It should also be noted that the manufacturing output since March, the same month our Governments Budget 2012 economic action plan was introduced, production output has actually risen by close to 2%, the largest gain since September with more increases in the forecast.
However there is another more important consideration to be mindful of. Another media event we have recently observed is rioting students in the Province of Quebec. In spite of having the lowest post secondary tuition in North America and a proposed increased that would still see Quebec students with the lowest tuition rates, the students are rioting and taking to the streets. In response to the rioting students, Mr. Mulcair told the media that our Government must spend more of your money subsidizing post secondary education. While this is an expected response from the leader of the NDP opposition here is why we should all be concerned. Where would this money come from?
Here in Canada we have a decades old national equalization program. This program takes money from some Provinces in Canada and gives that money to other provinces in theory to offer comparable services. Here is the problem with this equalization programs from my perspective. This year the Province of Quebec will receive more equalization money than any other Province in Canada with a $7.4 Billion payment, almost half of the entire $15.4 Billion equalization program. Ontario, Manitoba and the Maritimes Provinces receive the balance. The Western Canadian provinces, the very same provinces attacked by Thomas Mulcair and the NDP, receive no equalization under this program and in fact help pay for it. From my perspective Mr. Mulcair and the NDP should be thanking the Western Canadian Provinces and not attacking them. Canada needs an equalization program that is fair to ALL of our Canadian provinces and requires a strong economy to do so. As Canada’s equalization program is coming up for renewal in 2014 I welcome your views as the taxpayers of Okanagan- Coquihalla on this or any other topic.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.