Monday, October 10, 2011

When conservatives build bridges

This Gunter item (yes, I know, I really shouldn't) was extremely annoying this week. Why should Canada build Montreal a new bridge, he asked. "Why is that Canadians’ responsibility? Why do taxpayers in Kitimat or Antigonish have to pay? Why does the federal government own this bridge in the first place?" And further on: "I have no idea why Ottawa owns such a local asset anyway." No idea, really?

Well, we probably own it due to that silly little provision in section 92 (10) (c) of the Constitution Act, 1867. The Champlain bridge being one of those local undertakings, situated wholly in a province, but is "for the general advantage of Canada." As has been noted in the coverage, the bridge has tremendous economic significance for Canada as a whole: "It is estimated that roughly $20 billion in international trade crosses the Champlain Bridge each year." A very good reason for Canada to own the bridge, don't you think? Just as the feds own major undertakings in other provinces too. We're called a federation for a reason. But, this is what conservative thinkers tend to do these days, scratch and claw at some of the foundational understandings we've had. Why are we paying for this or that, pounding away at an ever more insular and me-first vision of Canadian citizenry.

How this project develops is something to watch, the mix of private and public in particular with the toll discussion which is in the early going. Whatever the mix turns out to be, this tough luck, go it on your own view that Gunter espouses is objectionable.

And, the exclusion of the province from the announcement was a poor reflection on the Harper government.