Who is supposed to be running the Government of Canada — the federal government elected by the Canadian people or 10 provincial premiers ??

Mar 14th, 2024 | By | Category: In Brief
Michael Seward, Up and Running. 2024. Acrylic. 24” x 36”.

RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2024. Last night I heard an eminent CTV host urge that many (mostly Conservative) provincial premiers want the Liberal federal government to change its carbon tax policy.

Doesn’t this mean (the implication seemed to be) that the federal government should do just that?

This reminded me of a current concern of the unusually independent freelance “member of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery” in Ottawa, Dale Smith.

On Mr. Smith’s view, the “legacy media” (and especially CBC TV) have been trying to hold the federal government responsible for glitches or worse in federal-provincial programs. In fact these troubles are the fault of “delinquent premiers who can’t live up to their promises.”

In the federal-provincial child care program, Mr. Smith explains on his website today, eg : “fewer than half of the promised spaces have been created, and they [the CBC in this case but legacy media at large as well] want to make this a federal problem.”

Mr. Smith goes on : “It’s not, however — the federal government did their part, and delivered the promised funding, and what is left is for the provinces to live up to the agreements that they signed, and put their own money into the system. Several provinces are not doing that ….”

Keeping with the Smith surname, I also enjoyed Catherine McKenna’s Xpost last night on the Premier of Alberta — “What Danielle Smith really means: If only the federal government had a Minister of the Environment and Climate Change who didn’t care about the environment or climate change then Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa could be greatly improved.”

Michael Seward, Glory. 2024. Acrylic. 24” x 36”.

This was in response to a Global Edmonton post, which reported that Premier “Smith said she told the prime minister she believes Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa could be ‘greatly improved’ if he removed Steven Guilbeault from his position as minister of environment and climate change.”

At this point, even with my long-ago background as a provincial public servant, I start to protest wildly in my head, to whoever may not be listening at the moment. Now provincial premiers are deciding who sits in the federal cabinet ????

More generally, who is supposed to be running the Government of Canada? The federal government in Ottawa (usually elected by a greater share of we the people entitled to vote than provincial and municipal governments)? Or the almost always complaining provincial premiers?

Part of the current problem is no doubt the current almost abysmal standing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party of Canada in opinion polls.

This has no direct impact on the constitutional and practical authority of today’s Liberal government, last elected in the real world (as opposed to small-sample opinion polls) on September 20, 2021. (And now sustained in the Canadian House of Commons by the New Democrats and the March 22, 2022 Supply and Confidence Agreement.)

Current opinion polls, however, do appear to reduce the prestige of the federal government in the eyes of many media professionals, in Ottawa and across the country.

So the legacy media take complaints about an unpopular prime minister by provincial premiers (some of whom are unpopular themselves!) more seriously than they should — and even start to think provincial arguments are usually right.

Michael Seward, Birdsong ( in the spirit of Miró ). 2024. 24” x 36”.

(Doug Ford, eg, has said that, unlike Justin Trudeau, the Premier of Ontario doesn’t have a printing press in his basement that can make new money! Except it’s the independent Bank of Canada, not Justin Trudeau, who actually has this kind of equipment in Ottawa!)

Meanwhile, just to start with, all of the Constitution Act, 1982 and at least sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 (on the distribution of federal and provincial powers) should be required last-year reading in all Canadian high schools (public and private, and even in Quebec and Alberta … and all three far northern territories — except can that really happen when education is a largely provincial responsibility, under the Constitution Act, 1867?).

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