Not everyone pays attention to what former media baron Conrad Black has to say. But as a historian, he offers a nugget of wisdom that has to do with the future of this country.
In a sold-out luncheon speech last Friday at the Calgary Petroleum Club, Black said there is no longer a threat of independence from Quebec because the province has grown too dependent on transfer payments from the federal government.
That’s not hard to fathom. People in the Maritimes understand that going it alone without a sudden boom in sources of revenue would not be realistic. But somehow the concept eludes many Quebecers.
There is that addiction to the funds, along with the bizarre response from separatist politicians of biting the hand that feeds them.
But there’s also a bit of a disconnect, with some past Quebec leaders refusing to acknowledge that the monetary imbalance even exists that makes the province dependent on transfers.
Beyond the annual equalization, in addition, more on this issue should be underscored – and presented in unmincing words to average Quebec citizens. Of this nation’s $610 billion – and counting – in federal debt, a good portion of that belongs to Quebec. If you want to leave Confederation, realize full well you wouldn’t have the comfort of those transfer payments. Also, kindly take your share of the federal debt with you when you close the door.
But, alas, that ultimatum is never presented when yet another government with separatist designs weighs its chances in another referendum.
More should be made to call the bluff of independence-spouting Quebec politicians. They are capitalizing on the naiveté of the average person who has little understanding of provincial finances, but plenty of zeal for an unachievable dream like sovereignty.
The goal reaches zero on the realism scale. Yet – and this might be the more practical aim – separatist politicians use the threat to wring more federal favours out of Confederation.