1/ One of the curious things about the pandemic in Canada is how it is changing federalism without anyone noticing. The (federal) CERB and CESB, for instance, are essentially taking the place of traditional (provincial) welfare systems. And nobody says anything.
2/ 20 years ago, CESB in QC would have been treated an unthinkable political attack on provincial autonomy. It wouldn;t have been challenged legally (feds can give money to whoever they like for whatever purpose they like), but just the word "student" would have been a red flag.
3/ 25 years ago, nearly all the political fights in the federation (apart from QC sovereignty, obvs) were rooted in transfer payments (or lack thereof). No party mentioned transfers in their 2019 manifestos: no one is talking about increasing transfers even now in the emergency.
4/ Instead, we're starting to get some totally wild *uploading* of financial pressures, where for instance MB has in effect partially transferred the cost of maintaining its civil servants onto the EI/CERB system. Call it "informal rebalancing" in place of actual formal systems.
5/ This is only going to get worse. Cities are now asking for bailouts. Will the feds go around the provinces to do this? If they do, will any provinces care given everything else on their plates? We could be seeing massive shifts in the way confederation works.
6/ At various points in last 30 years, we've had co-operative federalism, competitive federalism, watertight spheres federalism. Increasingly, it seems we're in a do-what-you-feel federalism, with different actors heading in different directions on different files. Messy.
7/ I kind of wonder if we aren't heading for a new split where the feds take care of *individuals* (ie. welfare, student aid get uploaded) and provinces stick to dealing with *institutions* (basically municipalities, academic institutions, schools hospitals).
8/ As I've written before, some long-term rebalancing was in the cards anyways, given the long-term trends that PBO has outlined over last couple of years. Maybe the wild, panicked (but overall not too shabby) policy responses of past few weeks are showing us how it will work.
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