Does anyone remember the concept of “open federalism?” That was the anti-centralist concept of Canada espoused by the Reform party back in the early 90’s that said the role of the feds should be limited to those areas that the provincial government either can’t or won’t do themselves. They also argued quite forcefully that any major policy decisions should be done in consultation with the provinces rather than being imposed on them by a dictatorial government in Ottawa.
Ironically enough these were once the cherished principles that our two-faced Prime Minister Harper once swore to adhere to until his dying day, if ever he became Prime Minister. Now, like so many other noble words once spoken by Steve Harper (i.e. denouncing patronage appointments of Senators) & his gang of neo-cons, they have been quickly disregarded in favour of the new dominant political ideology of this government: Ottawa knows best! As a wise man once said (Groucho Marx, often misattributed to Woody Allen) “ these are my principles. If you don’t like them, I’ve got others.”
I was reminded of open federalism the other day, when a Superior Court judge in Quebec found that the long gun registry was a shared overlapping jurisdiction between the two levels of government (criminal law is federal, but the registration of firearms is a matter for the provinces) and could not be destroyed without the consent of the provinces.
Quebec had filed an injunction (easily one of the best things the Charest government and the current interim leader Jean Marc Fournier as Justice Minister, ever did) against the feds when they inexplicably announced that they were destroying the data collected over the years by the registry, stating that they wanted the data to be transferred over to them, for the purposes of creating their very own provincial registry. A sensible and good use of taxpayer’s money. Not to mention a valuable crime fighting tool that virtually every police chief in the country supports.
But don’t expect Minister my-personal-life-is-of-limits-but-I want-access-to-yours Toews to accept logical arguments on this one, or any other issue for that matter. I’m certain it is only a matter of time before he and the government challenge the lower court decision and send the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada (not that they’ve had much luck their lately), open federalism be damned!
With the recent and tragic shooting of Denis Balnchette on election night, fresh in the minds of Quebeckers, they are no doubt more resolved than ever to have stronger, not weaker, gun control laws on the books. Pity that Harper’s bunch is too blinkered by their ultra-right wing views to realize that.
*Photo by mostlyconservative (via Flick under a CC license).