Recently, three Canadian senators from the Maritimes have been making noises about the need to resurrect an old dream about merging Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island into a single province. The idea is that a merger would allow for a reduction in the political/administrative overload carried by these small provinces and it would also result in their being able to dispense with equalization payments from Ottawa.
In this commentary ‘Let’s Break up Ontario,’ author Jim McNiven looks at the recent proposal for to merge the three Maritime provinces. McNiven points out that while there may be some savings in reducing the number of legislators and government departments, these savings could hardly compensate these ex-provinces-to-be for the loss of equalization dollars. He also points out that a merged Maritime province would mean combined overrepresentation in the Senate, something that the rest of Canada would not approve of.
McNiven says the real problem is ‘interstate versus intrastate federalism’ meaning that Canada has a political structure that segregates political representation at the provincial level from that of the federal level. What we have are federally-appointed Senators who supposedly represent parts of provinces. He suggests the possibility of a Senate made up of senior government people from the provinces, like the Germans do. But as he points out, these kinds of changes are not on the table, just some merger of the poorer provinces in Confederation. McNiven suggests that maybe the problem in Canada is that some provinces, like Ontario, are too big and ought to be broken up.