In a letter to the editor, a Green Party candidate states his party, if elected, will do away with equalization payments to the provinces.
He sees this as a form of welfare. It is not! Joseph Howe was against Confederation because it would give the federal government control of trade.
His fear was that the larger population of Quebec and Ontario would have the ear of Parliament and the federal government would promote trade in these provinces and give them an unfair advantage. Over the years what he feared has come to pass.
Before Confederation, Nova Scotia was the main trading partner with the eastern seaboard of the United States. Most of the population of the United States is on the east coast, so Nova Scotia was doing very well indeed.
We hear the explanation that Ontario was given help by the federal government because it was closer to the large population on the east coast. The fact is that Nova Scotia is just as close, but rather than being helped, has been hindered by the feds.
We got no tax breaks to bring manufacturing to our province, nor a federal government promoting us as a good place to do business.
The idea of equalization payments was to create a level playing field so that each province had the same amount of money per capita and that all citizens would benefit equally from the wealth of the country.
In the 1950s Ontario and British Columbia were paying into the equalization fund and all the other provinces, including Alberta, were receiving funds. I like to think that our Fathers of Confederation were forward enough thinking that they thought to write this provision into the British North America Act of 1867, so that Confederation would be fair for all.
Some though it might have been something that was put in so that Nova Scotia could get its mineral rights declared as a provincial right. Give us our mineral rights and we will share.
It seems that Charles Tupper had heavy investments in coal in Cumberland County and might have been ready to give up some taxes to a fund for equalization. He did give up import duties to the feds, something that made Joseph Howe very angry.
Regardless of the reasons it is still in our constitution, and unless someone can figure out how to get the provinces and the federal government to agree to open it, it will stay in effect.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau was not brave enough to try to open it when he repatriated the constitution from London. Equalization payments are the one payment that each province can use as they wish, unlike education or health care.
advice to politicians is don't promise what you can't deliver and before you label something be sure you know what you are talking about.
Walter Jones is an Amherst resident. His column appears weekly in the Amherst News.