(Ottawa) Conservative Leader Stephen Harper intends to maintain its “open federalism” in relations with Quebec that Ottawa maintains under his leadership, opening the door wide to a limitation of the federal spending power when it comes to set up pan-Canadian programs in areas that fall under provincial jurisdiction.
In a six-page letter he sent yesterday to the Premier of Quebec Philippe Couillard, Harper says, moreover, that his Conservative government already implements this philosophy by not creating new programs in the fields of provincial jurisdiction. This approach enabled to establish some constitutional peace in the country.
Certainly, a re-elected Conservative government would not hesitate to pay Quebec fair financial compensation and give him a right of withdrawal in the event that he would create a new program in an area of provincial jurisdiction.
In August, Mr. Couillard has sent a letter to the leaders of all political parties in the context of the election campaign in which he called them a “clear” commitment to a number of issues, including the transfer for health, equalization, the federal spending power, climate change, CBC funding, the anti-terrorism bill and the toll on the Champlain Bridge, among others.
In its response to his Quebec counterpart, Mr. Harper said he worried to see the other political parties, especially the NDP and the Liberal Party, making promises that directly encroach on provincial jurisdiction.
According to information obtained by La Presse, Ottawa and Quebec had quietly begun high-level talks to conclude a formal administrative agreement to oversee the spending power. But the talks were unsuccessful before the federal election, in early August.
“I am surprised that both the NDP and the Liberals in this election are advancing direct encroachment on Quebec’s jurisdiction. They propose direct intervention – for example, the NDP proposed to appoint a Federal Minister of Urban Affairs if he comes to power and, as you know, the National Assembly passed a motion in May to denounce any attempts in this sense, “writes Mr. Harper.
“I want to assure you that you will not have that kind of concern with a re-elected Conservative government. I also note that this is not the time to confuse the issue with sterile baffles the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois would cause. We will continue to work on an even stronger Quebec within a united Canada, “he adds.
He gives as an example the agreement on affordable housing which was extended in July. The agreement, he said, “allows you to establish your priorities throughout the territory of Quebec.” He also reminded the federal infrastructure program, under which Quebec will get $ 19 billion over the next 10 years and will himself choose the priority projects.
In his letter, Mr. Harper reiterated his commitment to defend the management system of supply in the free trade negotiations to conclude the TPP. “We are determined to remain a partner of the prosperity of Quebec, including shipbuilding,” says Harper.
As for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Conservative leader argues that this is an exclusive federal power, but that his government wanted to consult with Quebec, which was unprecedented, before appointing Francophone judges Clément Gascon and Suzanne Côté. “Our government respects the division of powers and traditions of Quebec and provides leadership in its fields of competence,” he says.
In terms of federal transfers to provinces, Harper points out in his letter that Quebec gets 20.4 billion this year from Ottawa – “an increase of almost $ 8.4 billion (or 70%) compared to the previous Liberal government. ” He says that the formula of transfers was reviewed in 2014-2015 to ensure “fairness between the provinces and the sustainable growth of the program [equalization].”
As for Quebec’s place within Canada, it says that a re-elected Conservative government will “continue to recognize the central role played by Quebec in the creation of Canada – this country born in French in Quebec City – and we continue to emphasize this role as we prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Similarly, ensure respect for official languages and preservation of historical heritage of Quebec. ”
In his letter, Mr. Harper would stress to Mr. Couillard “that more and more Quebeckers tell me they identify with the priorities of the Conservative Party – primarily the economy and security.”
“You are yourself involved in a control operation expenses in Quebec. You know this is not the time to an avalanche of new spending that will result in tax increases and taxes for taxpayers, which would ruin our economy and leave us vulnerable in the face of economic crises in the future. This is exactly what is offered PLC and NDP. My Government has reduced taxes and taxes for Canadians and is the only one to commit not to increase them in the future, “says Harper.