Separation of Powers

The Constitution Act

The Constitution Act

There is only one taxpayer. That’s us. And the founding fathers of Confederation recognized this and tried to orchestrate a system where local issues are local and national issues are handled by a Federal government.

We pay taxes to our local municipalities in exchange for services such as, but not limited to, curb side trash pickup, snow removal and public transit.

We pay taxes to our provincial government in exchange for services such as, but of course not limited to, healthcare, education and infrastructure.

We pay taxes to our federal government in exchange for services such as, but not limited to, Defence, Currency and Coinage, Copyrights and the promotion of Canada in a global economy.

Somewhere along the line, this separation of responsibility between the various levels of government have become so confusing and intertwined that the taxpayer is being hit up for cash three times, from the three levels of government to pay for projects that are clearly outside of the jurisdiction of the other two.

Take, for example, the first phase of LRT (Light Rail Transit) system that Ottawa is currently building. One third of the total cost is being paid for through property taxes (or municipal taxes); another third of the cost is being paid for through provincial taxes and finally, the remaining one third, through Federal taxes.

Take, for another example, Toronto’s public transit system. The provincial Liberal government has agreed to spend millions to aid in the development of improving upon and expanding Toronto’s transit system; including the sale of provincial assets to benefit only one or two municipalities (such as the arguably illegal sale of Hydro One).

To secure votes in the GTA & the 905, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne ran on a platform of improving Toronto’s transit system. It is understood that hospitals and schools are built in municipalities but are provincially regulated and funded. Section 92 of the Canadian Constitution clearly defines the roles, duties, responsibilities and limits of what a province can or cannot do and defines the responsibilities of the various local municipalities.

The Fathers of Confederation realized that the best government to manage affairs is a local one. Why should Ottawa be concerned with a road in Whitby or Vancouver?

The breakdown between duties and responsibilities of the federal government and the provinces is clearly defined. It is defined, not in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but rather in the broader document Canada was founded upon: The Canadian Constitution. Section 91 of the Constitution Act clearly outlines the role of the Federal government; outlined in Section 91, sub-sections 1 through 29, and defines the duties and responsibilities of the Federal government. Nowhere in those 29 sections do we find Healthcare or infrastructure spending to be in the realm of federal government spending or priority.

91. It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces; and for greater Certainty, but not so as to restrict the Generality of the foregoing Terms of this Section, it is hereby declared that (notwithstanding anything in this Act) the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say, 1. Repealed. (44) 1A. The Public Debt and Property. (45) 2. The Regulation of Trade and Commerce. 2A. Unemployment insurance. (46) 3. The raising of Money by any Mode or System of Taxation. 4. The borrowing of Money on the Public Credit. 5. Postal Service. 6. The Census and Statistics. 7. Militia, Military and Naval Service, and Defence. 8. The fixing of and providing for the Salaries and Allowances of Civil and other Officers of the Government of Canada. 9. Beacons, Buoys, Lighthouses, and Sable Island. 10. Navigation and Shipping. 11. Quarantine and the Establishment and Maintenance of Marine Hospitals. 12. Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries. 13. Ferries between a Province and any British or Foreign Country or between Two Provinces. 14. Currency and Coinage. 15. Banking, Incorporation of Banks, and the Issue of Paper Money. 16. Savings Banks. 17. Weights and Measures. 18. Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes. 19. Interest. 20. Legal Tender. 21. Bankruptcy and Insolvency. 22. Patents of Invention and Discovery. 23. Copyrights. 24. Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians. 25. Naturalization and Aliens. 26. Marriage and Divorce. 27. The Criminal Law, except the Constitution of Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction, but including the Procedure in Criminal Matters. 28. The Establishment, Maintenance, and Management of Penitentiaries. 29. Such Classes of Subjects as are expressly excepted in the Enumeration of the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces. And any Matter coming within any of the Classes of Subjects enumerated in this Section shall not be deemed to come within the Class of Matters of a local or private Nature comprised in the Enumeration of the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces. (47) –http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-4.html#h-17

Yet federal politicians are promising us the moon. Federal politicians are attempting to sway votes in various cities by teaming up with their respective mayors to build and fund local projects; something that is clearly outside the purview of the federal government.

Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau insist however, that they will partner with municipalities to fund various projects.

Perhaps the only exception in Trudeau’s tweet is climate change; everything else is clearly outside the duty of Federal Parliament. Based on the Constitution, this practice of promising spending for affordable housing and public transit is illegal; arguably so was the economic stimulus package. It’s a shining example of the feds overstepping their purview. The Federal government must continue to focus on tax cuts to alleviate our tax burden, thus freeing up assets to be spent by municipal governments on local issues and local projects.

The whole basis for the separation of powers between the federal government and the provinces was specifically meant to decentralize power. So again, I ask the question, “Why should Ottawa be concerned about a road in Whitby or Vancouver?”

In the House of Commons on Monday, Liberal MP Adam Vaughan from Trinity-Spadina, ON uttered these words and asks a question: “Mr. Speaker, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ conference in Edmonton this weekend, cities and towns across Canada were treated to a new version of the old classic Oliver Twist. On transit, urban leaders are pleading with this government, “Please, please just a little more”. Instead, what they got from the stage was a spin on the old classic, what they got was Oliver’s Twisted. The Finance Minister barked at municipal leaders. He said, ‘get real! Get real cities! You can expect less from this government.’ Cities and towns are clear. They need infrastructure dollars and they need them now and they want them now. Instead, this government has orphaned Canadian Municipalities. When does the transit money come and why doesn’t it come now? And when are you going to give us more?”

The Oliver Twist reference was a colourful analogy, but MP Vaughan misses the overall point. City infrastructure is outside the purview of the federal government. Perhaps I should mail a copy of the Canadian Constitution to Mr. Vaughan; he clearly doesn’t seem to recognize the important distinction of what is city business and what is federal business.

Also in the House was the NDP MP from Beaches – East York, ON, Mr. Matthew Kellway. He says: “We heard the minister of finance this week. ‘It’s risky and reckless’, [Oliver] says, ‘to invest anymore in our cities’. Well we saw the evidence this morning of both Liberal and Conservative neglect of public transit in this country. Our largest city shutdown via subway system failure, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded. But we have a plan, Mr. Speaker, to get transit moving in towns and cities across this country. Will the Conservatives get on board with the NDP’s practical plan for public transit?”

No Mr. Kellway, the Conservatives will not get onboard with your so-called ‘practical plan’ for public transit. If you, Mr. Kellway, are so concerned with public transit then kindly resign from Federal politics and run for office in your local city.

Public transit, healthcare and education are important to Canadians. But these topics are out of the realm of Federal jurisdiction.

It’s all there, outlined in the Constitution. Don’t believe me? Just Google it! The governing Conservatives recognize those areas that are beyond federal jurisdiction, while the Liberals and New Democrats flock to a more centralized approach to big government in defiance of the Canadian Constitution.

In much the same way the NDP claim that the Conservatives don’t care about protected and navigable waterways, they miss the point. With exception of coastal boundaries, the majority of waterways and navigable water passages are outside of federal purview. They are the responsibility of the various provincial governments.

It must be nice to be a progressive or socialist in this country. It would seem that both the Liberals and the New Democrats enjoy ‘cherry-picking’ which elements of the Constitution they will follow and which ones they will ignore.

The biggest threat to local government is actually the NDP who would see power centralized at Ottawa’s helm. The Liberals are not far behind.

Harper’s critics accuse him of being some evil dictator. This is ironic when one considers that extreme socialism is communism in drag. The governing Conservatives recognize that some issues are just out of their realm. Trudeau and Mulcair, well, not so much. Bigger government and centralized power is not the answer; though if you ask a socialist, it apparently is.

I don’t know about you folks, but I’d rather see local issues and local projects headed by a local government and not by some bureaucrat in Ottawa. And I have the Canadian Constitution on my side. Cities and towns are free to raise their own revenues to pay for various projects. Why are they now holding their bowl out asking, “please sir, I want some more”?

And that is Canadian Common Sense. I just wish sense was more common to Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition; as they don’t seem to be too loyal. Ignoring the Constitution does not bode well for Canada.

About Kevin

Kevin is a Canadian citizen, writer & blogger.
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