The might, the right and the fight.

Back in the 1800s when Oliver Mowat was Premier of Ontario, he had his best fights not with his provincial opponents but with the federal government. His skill as a politician and his knowledge of how to pick his fights kept him in the premier’s office for 24 years. It is fascinating today to watch Premier Kathleen Wynne attempt to follow his example. Her only mistake to-date was to bring in former Prime Minister Paul Martin as her advisor on the Canada Pension Plan squabble.

The first question is just what expertise does Martin bring to the table? As a former federal finance minister, he might be able to help read Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for her but he is no expert on the Canada Pension Plan. And he is the last person from whom she should get advice about Stephen Harper.

And if you are going to set up Stephen Harper as the bogeyman in this exercise, you would hardly want to cloud the issue with former federal politicians. When Oliver Mowat took on his old law partner Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, it was mano a mano. They competed as equals. The lesser players have to be brushed aside.

One problem in this might be that Kathleen Wynne does not have any of the credentials of an Oliver Mowat. Mowat was a Reformer. He worked with George Brown and was a founder of the Ontario Liberal Party. While some Liberals today consider him myopic in his fighting for provincial rights, it was the right approach for the times. While conversely Sir John A. Macdonald had a vision for Canada, Oliver Mowat’s concern was Ontario. Both did their respective job.

But what is Wynne doing? It is unclear to voters just what she is proposing to do about pensions. We all know the Canada Pension Plan is inadequate. Unless she is proposing something flexible that can be easily adjusted or automatically responsive to needs, we are just building another problem for the future. That will take imaginative, creative thinking. It will also take a clear understanding of the economic impacts of reforming the system. And despite all Wynne’s bluster, Ontario has a responsibility to share its program with the rest of Canada. We hardly need another of our provincial governments going off on its own toot.

The problem with this provincial-federal dialogue is that the Wynne government is almost as right wing as the federal government. And she is also right about the Canada Pension Plan but the federals have the might—it is theirs to deal with. If you had a choice though, would you want to gain attention by fighting with the feds or fighting with nonentities such as her Conservative or New Democrat opponents?


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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