More pipelines & private health care
New Brunswick Premier Higgs was “shocked” that at the Montreal First Ministers’ meeting, there was no urgency to deal with the Alberta oil crisis. He was disappointed at Quebec’s blocking the Energy East pipeline, and felt the confederation was “fractured.”
Manitoba’s Premier Pallister criticized the barriers between provinces, which he claimed act like a tariff of seven per cent. He suggested Ottawa introduce a “Charter of Economic Rights,” which would clarify the rights of Canadians to sell their goods and services and exercise their trades and professions across Canada.
To win provincial agreement, Ottawa could ensure that provinces would have revenue sources under their control for health care. Equalization transfers from Ottawa would guarantee that poorer provinces had resources to deliver care.
This would require major changes to the Canada Health Act (CHA). It seems reasonable to me to allow provinces to experiment by looking to other nations with blended public/private health care systems.
Quebec has also persistently violated part of the CHA by refusing to pay the full medical expenses of its residents requiring treatment in other parts of Canada. It is the only province not to sign the Reciprocal Medical Billing Agreement (RMBA).
For Pallister’s “Grand Bargain” to work, Quebec must agree to sign the RMBA. Canadians must be free to travel to other parts of Canada, fully covered for unexpected illnesses.
Father of Energy East was NB Premier Frank McKenna, who in 2011 stated, “Moving oil to markets should be a nation-building exercise.” In December 2012, the NB legislature unanimously endorsed the pipeline. Premier Pauline Marois did not oppose Energy East. In 2014, Philippe Couillard favoured the pipeline. He argued that Quebec, as it received equalization payments, owed it to other provinces to help sell their products. He and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne attached seven conditions, which NB Premier Gallant termed “reasonable and achievable.” François Legault in 2016, indicated that he would support the Energy East pipeline if the province received royalties. Recently he has opposed construction of the pipeline.
Not only would Energy East have been beneficial to Albertans, but according to the Fraser Institute, it would have generated an additional $34 billion to the GDP, 321,000 one-year jobs across Canada, and $7.6 billion in tax revenues for Canada.
Energy East may not be dead. Although Premier Legault spoke about “dirty energy” from the West, he failed to mention that in 2015, Enbridge reversed a section of Line 9 into Montreal. By June 2018, 53% of oil used in Quebec was coming from the West!
The Energy East pipeline is supported by Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. How could Quebec be persuaded to join? Perhaps if Quebec was allowed to increase its health revenue by giving it more autonomy, suggested Premier Pallister.