Newly minted Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland “is going to have to learn to say no firmly to the provinces on the question of greater provincial engagement in international affairs,” writes Peter McKenna. – Reuters Well, congratulations are in order for newly minted Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — as she moves on from the Global Affairs portfolio. The bad news for her, however, is that she’s now the new Intergovernmental Affairs Minister.
She’s going to need all of her considerable brain power and negotiating skills — and then some — to deal with a number of recalcitrant provincial governments. This is where her experience and expertise in dealing with international politics, especially Canada’s relationship with Donald Trump’s America, will definitely come in handy. But will it be enough?
A handful of provincial premiers, seemingly borrowing a page from the sovereigntist handbook in Quebec, have been speaking publicly (and loudly) about pursuing a suite of policy prescriptions to bolster their autonomy and independence. Now, they aren’t exactly talking about outright statehood (notwithstanding the strange calls for “Wexit” emanating from Jason Kenney’s Alberta) or the dismantling of Canada.
Still, they are proposing that their respective provinces carve out a larger role for themselves on the international stage. Translation: enhancing the powers and responsibilities of the provinces at the expense of the federal government and, potentially at least, the overall unity of the federation.
The Alberta government is kicking around the idea of creating a provincial body to collect its own income taxes (instead of Revenue Canada), to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan and to replace the federal RCMP with Alberta’s own police force. Kenney has also spoken about his province establishing a greater international personality via enhanced participation in matters of global trade and investment. According to the parameters of his so-called Fair Deal Panel, members will look into “seeking Alberta representation in treaty negotiations that affect Alberta’s interests.”
Not to be outdone, Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan has jumped aboard the good ship Autonomy. “We’ll be considering a number of different options where Saskatchewan has an opportunity to exert our provincial autonomy. We’re going to think very seriously about doing that,” he said. One of the things that he mentioned was the distinct possibility of opening up his own foreign trade promotion offices/missions.
Who’s next? Will New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs seek to boost his province’s international activities by establishing satellite trade offices overseas as well? Will tiny Prince Edward Island soon be angling for a separate seat at the United Nations in New York? Where will it end?
The main problem with provincial governments sticking their noses into world politics is that they will necessarily throw a wrench into things. What I mean here is that assembling a country’s foreign policy is difficult enough without having to construct a consensus among 10 provincial leaders — all pressing their own narrow interests. Where does that leave the broader national interest?
Moreover, it is imperative for Canada to speak with one voice (and not 10) on […]