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Quebec already has power to be an international player: Charest KEVIN DOUGHERTY, The Gazette Published: 9 hours ago Canadian federalism already allows Quebec to negotiate international agreements on its own, Premier Jean Charest said yesterday, commenting on a federal minister's declaration that Ottawa would give provinces more power to act on the international stage. Charest said Quebec needs to play an active international role to thrive in the global economy. "I see it as an occasion for the emancipation of Quebec," he said of the province's international relations. Charest called Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's declaration, on the eve of a federal Conservative caucus meeting in Quebec this week, "a positive signal." But as things stand, Charest added, Quebec has more powers to make international agreements on its own than France has as a member of the European Union. Quebec's position is that "what is in Quebec's jurisdiction at home is in Quebec's jurisdiction everywhere," he said. The Canadian constitution gives Quebec jurisdiction over education, health, language and culture. The proposed agreement between France and Quebec on mutual recognition of professional qualifications is within Quebec's powers. "We have the powers to do that," he said. "In fact, when I proposed the project to President Sarkozy, I think it was about a year ago when I did it, I didn't call Ottawa to ask them permission to do it. "I proposed it. We did it and we started negotiating." Some consider Cannon's statement a betrayal of a more centralized vision of Canadian federalism. "There will always be these people in English Canada and elsewhere, even in Quebec, who fear the future of the federation if we ever question their way of exercising federalism," Charest said. "The Canadian federal system is a very decentralized system, by choice," he said. "It is not an accident of history that we have a decentralized federal system. It is one of the conditions that permitted the creation of the country."
A new vision for the country? Harper's federation of fiefdoms will drive Canadian traditionalists nuts LAWRENCE MARTIN From Thursday's Globe and Mail July 31, 2008 at 9:21 AM EDT Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been knocked for not giving the country a sense of direction, for visionlessly plotting and plodding, politics being his only purpose. Not true. Something has been taking shape - and it just took further form with pledges from Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon on the dispersal of federal powers. Yes, Matilda, the Conservatives have a vision. A federation of fiefdoms. Stephen Harper - headwaiter to the provinces. The firewall guy has curbed the federal spending power, he's corrected the so-called fiscal imbalance in favour of the provinces, he's doled out new powers to Quebec and now, if we are to believe Mr. Cannon, more autonomy is on the way for one and all. Mr. Harper has always favoured a crisp reading of the Constitution. He has always been - and now it really shows - a philosophical devolutionist. His nation-of-duchies approach will drive Canadian traditionalists bananas. They will see it not as nation building, but nation scattering. They will roll out that old bromide about the country being more than the sum of its parts. They will growl that we are already more decentralized than the Keystone Kops and any other federation out there save Switzerland, and that only rigorous paternal oversight can hold us together. But do these long-held harmonies still hold? Or are they outmoded, in need of overhaul? Has the country not moved beyond its vulnerable adolescent era to the point where now, like a normal family, it can entrust its members with more responsibilities? After 141 years, is there not a new sense of trust and maturity in the land? Identity? History is identity. If you don't know who you are at 141, if you still think some provinces have stars and stripes in their eyes, the shrink is in the waiting room. Now even Liberals don't think the new Canada is as dependent on the centre as the old. The old parts were fragile, in need of nurturing, in need of national and protectionist policies. But now there is more wealth and more equality, a levelling of the braying fields. Little guys like Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, with their newfound riches, are no longer little guys. They are not as beholden and their new level of maturity requires new thinking in Ottawa. Treat them like teenagers and they'll be more inclined to rebel. Give them space and they'll be more inclined to be part of the whole. Not to say that a balkanization of the federation is in order. Not to say that you want a host of provinces running off and negotiating treaties with other countries or that you want better north-south transportation systems than east-west or that national programs are not worthwhile. But a recognition of modern realities is in order. When we get more meat on the bones of Mr. Harper's plans, we'll know how they stack up. There's plenty of room for cynicism. It's well known that the PM will do anything to woo Quebec politically. Letting the province negotiate a unilateral labour-mobility agreement with France can be seen as some rather timely toadying. Shouldn't he be doing more for labour mobility between Ontario and Quebec? Extending his autonomy push to other regions smacks of smart politics as well. Headwaiter to the provinces? How about head cashier at the polling booths. Westerners will lovingly see it as a kick at the Toronto-Ottawa dictatorship. It's gravy for la belle province and down East, loud guys like Danny Williams won't be complaining. The PM needed something to take the focus away from Stéphane Dion's attention-grabbing Green Shift. This raw-boned conservative stuff might do the trick. Joe Clark was the original headwaiter to the provinces. Pierre Trudeau mocked him mercilessly. But of course it was Mr. Trudeau's great centralist grab, the national energy program, that backfired. Brian Mulroney undid some of Mr. Trudeau's work and tried to go further with his province-friendly constitutional accords. Under Jean Chrétien, the Grits got in the act, forsaking economic nationalism. Mr. Harper is following and hastening the trend line. We needed - thank you, England - grandparents. We needed - thank you, John A. - a national policy. We needed measures to keep us independent of the United States and our social security systems and national institutions. Thank you, other leaders. All part of growing up. But now? Noteworthy is that while in more recent times we have seen a trend away from centralized powers, unity is now well intact. Many would argue the country is more unified today than at any time since 1967. The big centre is still needed. It's still needed for infrastructure, uniform social programs, defence and multifarious other initiatives. But, with the old family having a better sense of its bearings, it isn't needed the way it was before.
Montreal eyeing new tax on personal vehicles Under bill 22. Private swimming pools could also provide sources of revenue DAVID JOHNSTON, The Gazette Published: 7 hours ago City of Montreal residents probably will have to pay a new municipal tax on personal vehicles of about $75 annually under new tax powers the Charest government wants to give to the city. Senior government officials who spoke to journalists this week said a new "PVT" is the most likely new municipal revenue source to arise from the menu of options that Bill 22 would give Montreal. Bill 22 is the draft legislation tabled last fall to give Montreal new tax powers and make governance changes in the Montreal agglomeration. Email to a friendEmail to a friendPrinter friendlyPrinter friendly Amendments unveiled Thursday at city hall scrapped the idea of a new food and beverage tax or a return of the old Montreal amusement tax. But the amendments are now calling for open-ended, royalty-type levies in their place. Although Mayor Gérald Tremblay has refused to be specific about the new taxes he has in mind, bureaucrats did bring up the possibility of a new tax on backyard swimming pools. And Tremblay conceded that many of the new taxes he is considering are inspired by some of the new taxing powers the city of Toronto won from the Ontario government in 2006. Royalties are traditionally applied to the use of a natural resource, like oil or water, but Toronto has taken the idea one step further and is considering a new tax on billboards, for the use of public space. The Bill 22 amendments are said to have sufficient opposition-party support to be approved before the legislature recesses next Friday. If that happens, Montreal will get the power to tax movables and immovables, but sales and inheritance taxes won't be allowed. Neither will taxes on gasoline, income, payrolls or energy. The new tax powers would be given only to the city of Mont- real, not to the 15 demerged island suburbs. Any new personal vehicle tax in Montreal would apply only to residents of city of Montreal boroughs. The most notable difference between Bill 22 and the city of Toronto Act is that Bill 22 stops short of allowing Montreal to tax alcohol and tobacco. "We're going to take time to look at our options," said Renée Sauriol, an aide to Tremblay. No new taxes would be introduced before 2010, Sauriol said. [email protected] thegazette.canwest.com - - - New municipal taxes Mayor Gérald Tremblay says the new tax powers that the provincial government is proposing to give Montreal are inspired by the new powers accorded in 2006 by the Ontario government to Toronto. Some highlights: In September, residents of the city of Toronto will begin paying a $60 annual municipal personal-vehicle tax. Only one car per household will be subject to the tax. A $75 tax for Montreal residents was mentioned this week by senior provincial and municipal bureaucrats as a possibility. Toronto hasn't yet determined what kind of new parking-lot tax it wants to introduce. The Tremblay administration is said to be leaning toward a new property surtax tied to the number of parking spots on a property. In February, Toronto approved new tax brackets for land-transfer taxes. The new regime has resulted in higher "welcome taxes" on properties worth $400,000 or more. The Quebec government has said it is prepared to let Montreal set its own new welcome-tax rates on properties worth more than $500,000. Below this value, provincially set rates would continue to apply. Toronto is still considering a new tax on billboards, justified as a royalty on the use of public space. This idea of expanding the notion of royalties to the municipal level is something that Montreal finds intriguing. Quebec is proposing to give Montreal a lot of leeway to come up with inventive new royalty schemes. In February, Toronto Mayor David Miller proposed a new toll on all provincial highways within the Greater Toronto area. The proposal hasn't been received well by suburbanites and nothing has happened yet. In Montreal, the Tremblay administration has similarly begun to regionalize its own original proposal for new island bridge tolls. Tremblay is now saying he wants to share any new toll revenues with off-island suburbs to help expand public transit. http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=508d2256-8e5d-4700-8815-fac8e5f43c1f&p=2
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