Originally appeared in the Toronto Star.
David MacKinnon admits he sometimes feels like a lone voice in the wilderness.
Perched at his lakeside home in bucolic Prince Edward County, the respected former high-ranking bureaucrat in Ontario and Nova Scotia warns that Canada’s crumbling “fiscal architecture” hurts the economy.
The archaic way Ottawa redistributes taxpayers’ money around the country — through the national wealth-sharing equalization program and federal transfers for health and social services — may in fact do more harm than good, he says.
“I’m a Maritimer and I’ve watched it all my life with great professional concern. What we’ve got is that several provinces now have no serious economic viability except for constant subsidies by other Canadians,” said MacKinnon, referring to handouts to Atlantic Canada from taxpayers in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
“We are dealing with programs or structures that are 50 years old and haven’t been modernized very much over that entire time,” said the P.E.I. native and former Ontario Hospital Association president.
Yet even as MacKinnon pens worthy articles and reports for Policy Options magazine, the Fraser Institute, and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, he is mindful that such weighty issues get little traction before, during and after election campaigns.
And that, said the senior fellow at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies think-tank, shortchanges voters — especially in Ontario.
“What I don’t think is yet understood in Ottawa is that Ontario has the least accessible provincial programming of all provinces. Fewer doctors in relation to population, fewer nurses, fewer judges — a whole range of issues when you go into education, into long-term care spaces.”
MacKinnon said subsidizing Atlantic Canada — and to a lesser extent Quebec — “has done incalculable harm.”
“The system we’ve got makes sure that the part of the world where I come from is always going to be an economic disaster,” he said.
“How do we compete in the world with that nonsense going on? This is profoundly damaging Canada’s productivity and its ability to compete in the world.”