Rex Murphy: That sound you hear could be the country fragmenting

The Liberal government’s fixation with Trudeau-style climate action is fracturing Canada

Author of the article:

Rex Murphy

Publishing date: August 13 2022

Where in a Confederation does the power lie for a national government to target the central economic concerns of certain provinces, asks Rex Murphy.
Where in a Confederation does the power lie for a national government to target the central economic concerns of certain provinces, asks Rex Murphy. PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES

Does it have the authority?

I refer to the Trudeau government’s vast and sweeping announcements that flow with its so-greatly touted climate agenda. Mandates, regulations, ministerial decrees, invasions into the practices of various industries, what look to be arbitrary impingements on provincial jurisdictions — they just seem to happen. And if the claim is made — as it always is — that such and such a declaration or edict “will reduce emissions,” that, from the Liberals’ point of view, is it.

But are they all a legitimate exercise of government power? And if — I seriously doubt — they are legitimate, the more serious question is: Are they wise? Do they help or hurt the Confederation?

And if so — I repeat, a dubious and I think an untested assumption — are they nonetheless an unjustified walk-over of citizens’ and provincial rights and privileges?

Do they help or hurt the Confederation?

Take a very trivial example.

That pathetic white plastic cutlery you get at every takeout — is it a world hazard? Must be so. One-time Greenpeace protest performer, now a cabinet minister in the Canadian federal government, Steven Guilbeault, has declared it is being banned. Who gave Guilbeault this fastidious latitude? You don’t oversee his utensils. Why has he leave to choose yours?

It may be a small point but it is a big question. What does a national government have to do with the private use of plastic forks? Has it no other business to attend to? And — I know this is a useless question — was this petty and precious ruling ever debated? Did Guilbeault raise his hand in cabinet and introduce the topic? Was Jagmeet Singh, the Liberals’ NDP comforter, consulted?

That’s the small stuff, but don’t dismiss it. There may come a time when bringing plastic knives and forks into Canada may be a smuggling offence. And caught for such, you may not get bail.

Now on to the much bigger stuff. Out of the great, stuffy, infertile Ottawa bubble recently came the edict that farmers must cut down on emissions from fertilizer, which means cutting down on fertilizer. After which debate? By what power?

What is the legal or constitutional status of this decree? I already know there was no prior consultation with western premiers or their agricultural ministers. It came as a fixed target, not up for discussion. It was a federal order.

Can a national government tell its citizens how they should farm, decide on their fertilizer requirements, potentially savaging the occupations and lives of those people?

May I throw in the most rhetorical of rhetorical questions. Did Guilbeault, or Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself, convene meetings with actual farmers and their families before bringing in these measures?

Did any or all of them — via government jet, Pearson is such a bore these days — drop in to Weyburn, or Redvers, or Red Deer or — this is the real challenge — Fort McMurray, to ask the people whose lives and jobs are at stake under this fixation with the Trudeau brand of  “climate action,” what they might have to say? Did they test their “law” with the people who have to live with it? The question is its own answer.

As always I must ask — and I know people do not like to be reminded of this question — whether, if farming were as important in Quebec as it is in Saskatchewan, a Trudeau government would issue, arbitrarily, the same mandate? If Ontario was the oil province of Canada, would there not be pipelines going in every direction of the compass?

Which leads me to another point. We are in a two-tier Confederation. Perhaps even a three-tier one.

Quebec is a solidly protected singular independent-in-all-but-name entity. It is as close to being a sovereign nation as one can be while still wearing provincial brocade.

We are in a two-tier Confederation. Perhaps even three

Ontario with its population and wealth, and being the centre of finance, communications and parliamentary seats, is a king among barons. The Atlantic provinces — a mere addendum, worth a fly-by but essentially, each on their own, without real force or voice in the Confederation. And British Columbia, sometimes a player, more often a spectator of Ottawa’s distant machinations.

Back to the central point. Where in a Confederation does the power lie for a national government to target, assault and injure the central economic concerns of certain provinces on a say-so? These edicts, measures, bans — call them what you will — keep coming down, as if such great national issues merely require, to take effect, a photo-op besides some tree, with a cluster of nodding ministers behind the PM. And we’re supposed to accept them.

Outpost provinces, the second-tier group, must bend to the central voice.

Nothing is too small, and nothing is too consequential, to slip by the ministrations of this hard-green government. It can’t fix what is in its remit, from airports to boil-water advisories to the issuing of passports. Yet it plans to fix the world. It is a grievous folly. COVID inured us to be obedient to voices on high. Green alarmists insist we do.

To which I offer an axiom: Great ambitions are the most powerful seduction: the idea you are saving the planet allows full excuse to what you think you can do, but over which you have no command whatsoever.

Our country, under this imperative mindset, is unwittingly toying with its own fragmentation.

National Post


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