Hedy Fry reveals why B.C. gets shortchanged and Alberta reaps bonanza in federal transfers
This morning over breakfast, I decided to read a newsletter distributed by Liberal MP Hedy Fry.
I live in her riding of Vancouver Centre and I've always found her newsletter to be informative.
In one of this week's articles, she points out that the federal government has a new funding formula for transferring money to the provinces.
The old system worked under an "equalization model", Fry writes.
Now, transfers are on a per capita basis, which means provinces with growing populations reap greater rewards than they did in the past.
"While some may say this is not a big deal, the ramifications for Canada's health care system are dire," Fry writes.
To support her claim, she points out those transfers to the provinces in the 2014-15 budget increased by $1.8 billion.
But most of the new money—nearly $1 billion—went to Alberta, which is already rich in resources.
"Alberta, with the youngest population in Canada, received a disproportionate increase in transfers," Fry states in the newsletter.
All but one MP from Alberta happens to represent the Conservative Party of Canada.
B.C. only received a $16-million increase, according to Fry.
Nova Scotia only collected $17 million more. And Newfoundland and Labrador stayed at the same level.
This comes after Prime Minister Stephen Harper adopted a tough position on health spending.
"In December of 2012, the federal government unilaterally announced that it would cut increases to health transfers by up to 50%, without negotiating with the Provinces," Fry mentions in her article. "It was a take it or leave it announcement—no negotiations."
Since then, Harper has refused to meet with premiers to discuss health spending.
Fry also focuses on attacks on chief justice
The newsletter includes other articles on the temporary foreign worker program, the Fair Elections Act, veteran's affairs, and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which the Liberals oppose.
But what really caught my attention was her piece on the Harper government's attempts "to make end-runs" around the rule of law and the constitution.
Fry points out that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled against the Conservative government in five major cases:
• The court stopped the closure of Vancouver's supervised-injection site.
• The court declared that attempts to reform the Senate were unconstitutional.
• The court struck down Canada's prostitution laws.
• The court upheld aboriginal-title claims for First Nations.
• The court blocked the appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The latter ruling came after the government had criticized Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin for calling the Prime Minister's Office and the justice minister's office to explain eligibility requirements for appointment to the highest court.
Harper wouldn't take McLachlin's call.
Nadon had been a Federal Court judge and therefore didn't meet the qualifications for being appointed as a Supreme Court of Canada justice from Quebec.
Fry notes in her newsletter that Harper has now appointed five of the nine Supreme Court of Canada justices.
"Regrettably, attacking unfavourable court decisions and those who make them is becoming the modus operandi of the Conservative government," she writes.
This week, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists also criticized the May 1 statement from the Prime Minister's Office, which chastised McLachlin's actions.
"The ICJ considers that the criticism was not well-founded and amounted to an encroachment upon the independence of the judiciary and integrity of the Chief Justice," wrote Wilder Taylor, the ICJ secretary general, in a letter to University of Manitoba law professor Gerald Heckman.
Heckman had written to the international organization on behalf of lawyers and legal academics who were concerned about the Prime Minister's Office statement.
Whether ICJ will have any impact on Harper and his cabinet is doubtful. But the letter gives Fry useful ammunition to back up her claim that this prime minister sometimes acts in a high-handed manner.