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Divided and conquered

['Editorial']
['Editorial']

Well, the provincial dominos continue to fall — and while they may not want to admit it, they’ve lost some crucial ground.

Just over a week ago, it was Ontario, Quebec and Alberta coming onside with the federal government and agreeing to new health-care funding arrangements.

Originally, there was a united front, with all of the provinces and territories arguing they needed significant new investment in health care. The provinces wanted a 5.2 per cent increase in funding, while the federal government was offering 3.5 per cent. The deals now? Three per cent, or the annual rate of GDP growth, whichever is higher. As well, individual provinces have received specific funding for particular in-province issues, from dedicated mental health funding to financial aid to deal with opioid addiction.

The provinces that have made the side-deals — the only remaining outlier is Manitoba — unanimously claim to have come out of the process victorious, even though their attempt to unanimously pressure Ottawa into a better deal is now more a rout than a success.

Like the phoenix arising from its own ashes, all governments love to declare their own success, regardless of how an issue might look from the outside.

For its part, the federal government is trying to put a kind face on the result.

“This is not about divide and conquer,” federal Health Minister Jane Philpott told the CBC. “This is about offering what is a fantastic, new, transformative offer for Canadians that we put on the table in December. … It took some time for several provinces to reflect on this, and on reflection, as they looked at this and realized that this will, in fact, be extremely helpful, they have in their own time come to an agreement with us.” 

Nice try. It is, unfortunately, just another hopeful repackaging of the obvious, a salve for provincial negotiators and their no doubt wounded pride.

The provinces were effectively divided and also conquered, in as much as they have all, so far, accepted deals well below what they had demanded when they were negotiating together.

You can certainly make the argument that, since the main structure of the individual health deals is pretty much the same, the provinces would have been better off to have come to a joint agreement with the feds along the same lines they accepted anyway.

Why? Perhaps for the next time the provinces try to present a united front on an issue.

If they talk a tough united front, you have to know that the federal government will walk away, look for the weakest links in the financial chain, and start the dividing all over again.

To put it bluntly, for the provinces, it’s going to be a long and uphill climb.

Just over a week ago, it was Ontario, Quebec and Alberta coming onside with the federal government and agreeing to new health-care funding arrangements.

Originally, there was a united front, with all of the provinces and territories arguing they needed significant new investment in health care. The provinces wanted a 5.2 per cent increase in funding, while the federal government was offering 3.5 per cent. The deals now? Three per cent, or the annual rate of GDP growth, whichever is higher. As well, individual provinces have received specific funding for particular in-province issues, from dedicated mental health funding to financial aid to deal with opioid addiction.

The provinces that have made the side-deals — the only remaining outlier is Manitoba — unanimously claim to have come out of the process victorious, even though their attempt to unanimously pressure Ottawa into a better deal is now more a rout than a success.

Like the phoenix arising from its own ashes, all governments love to declare their own success, regardless of how an issue might look from the outside.

For its part, the federal government is trying to put a kind face on the result.

“This is not about divide and conquer,” federal Health Minister Jane Philpott told the CBC. “This is about offering what is a fantastic, new, transformative offer for Canadians that we put on the table in December. … It took some time for several provinces to reflect on this, and on reflection, as they looked at this and realized that this will, in fact, be extremely helpful, they have in their own time come to an agreement with us.” 

Nice try. It is, unfortunately, just another hopeful repackaging of the obvious, a salve for provincial negotiators and their no doubt wounded pride.

The provinces were effectively divided and also conquered, in as much as they have all, so far, accepted deals well below what they had demanded when they were negotiating together.

You can certainly make the argument that, since the main structure of the individual health deals is pretty much the same, the provinces would have been better off to have come to a joint agreement with the feds along the same lines they accepted anyway.

Why? Perhaps for the next time the provinces try to present a united front on an issue.

If they talk a tough united front, you have to know that the federal government will walk away, look for the weakest links in the financial chain, and start the dividing all over again.

To put it bluntly, for the provinces, it’s going to be a long and uphill climb.

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