Earlier today, I was interviewed by Jordi Morgan, host of the radio program “Maritime Morning” on News 95.7 in Halifax. Jordi was following up on my opinion editorial article published last week in The Chronicle Heraldentitled “Maritime Union: an old idea whose time has come?”
While Jordi referenced a poll that claimed 70 per cent of Maritimers favoured union, today’s listeners seemed to be more divided on the concept. Those in favour cited the financial savings and additional political leverage that would come from speaking with one voice. Those against seemed to be concerned about more visceral issues such as whether the union would be bilingual, and where the new capital would reside.
Listening to the feedback was an eye-opener for me, as it certainly underscored the unpredictability of where opposition to this idea could come from. And yet it reconfirmed my view that the best way to advance this concept is simply to focus on combining provincial departments to drive efficiencies, rather than to open up the constitutional debate.
Jordi also made a very good point when he said that we would almost need a crisis to force people to take this idea more seriously. I believe that crisis is closer than listeners think. As I indicated in my article, the country cannot afford an equalization program that continues to fund Maritime Canada and Quebec at the same levels, all the while picking up increasing transfers for Ontario. Something has to give. The reality is, Canada’s industrial heartland Ontario can no longer afford to fund generous equalization programs.
My thanks to Jordi for stimulating a bit of discussion on Maritime union. Here’s hoping others continue the debate.