Revitalizing Atlantic Canada

Writing for Free Exchange allowed me to examine a multiplicity of issues facing Atlantic Canada and the following are some that I have found to be of paramount importance.

The most prominent issue in Atlantic Canada is slow economic growth, which has resulted in an enormous outflow of skill labourers, young professionals, and families who have left for British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan to find work. Economic growth rates in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, for instance, have fallen below the national average of 2 per cent in 2013. Newfoundland and Labrador, which is currently booming due to oil production, is somewhat of an exception, however, declining revenues threaten to derail the province’s path to prosperity. In addition, the three Maritime Provinces experienced declining populations in 2013.

NL’s growth is largely attributable to strong oil and gas production, which has been growing in the province since the mid-2000s. The rest of Atlantic Canada could benefit from NL’s model and the region may need to look toward the oil and gas sector. New Brunswick currently boasts an opportunity to host the Energy East Pipeline and has a prospective shale gas industry. Other opportunities include increased cooperation or shared services between the three Maritime Provinces and exploring trade prospects with emerging markets.

Another problem facing the region, and the entire country, is unfunded liabilities. In other words, public sector pensions are a significant issue that plagues both federal and provincial government. This is where Atlantic Canada can lead: New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both made changes to their pension programs and the rest of Canada could learn from their progress.

In addition, Canada’s healthcare system requires additional consideration and policymakers must look into issues plaguing it. Through the Canada Health Transfer, the federal government allocates funds to the provinces to assist them with growing wait lists, quality assurance, and a number of other issues. However, progress has been futile. The federal government has given $41 billion in additional healthcare funding since 2004, yet, in 2010, Canada ranked last out of 11 countries in terms of wait times. This is why policymakers should consider alternatives to the status quo.

There are also serious democratic issues facing the country. The Senate remains unelected and unaccountable, and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling inscribed the current structure in stone. Its ruling does not need necessarily indicate defeat, though, and the Prime Minister, in addition to supporting premiers, must take the lead and ensure reform to the Upper Chamber.

While many Canadians may agree that these issues are of great importance, there must be action. We often criticize the political sphere for not dealing with these issues adequately, however, the truth is that we, as electors, must show that they are a priority or politicians will not give them due consideration. It is our duty to ensure that ideas, such as natural resource development, prudent fiscal management, and adequate healthcare, receive fair scrutiny, rather than arbitrarily dismissing them from the outset; it is our duty as citizens to place them on the political agenda.

Randy Kaye is a 2013-2014 Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ Student Fellow. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the Institute

Status Quo vs. Charter Rights

On 9 June 2005, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled on the Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General) case, which Jacques Chaoulli spearheaded–a physician whose efforts to offer private health care Quebec law frustrated. Chaoulli complained that provincial laws preventing private healthcare violated patients’ rights to life by putting them on wait lists on which they could die before receiving treatment.

The court ruled in Chaoulli’s favour, acknowledging that the wait lists characterizing Quebec’s healthcare system effective rationed life in violation of the provincial Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This charter–the province’s statutory, yet, quasi-constitutional declaration of rights–states that, “Every human begin has a right to life, and to personal security, inviolability, and freedom.” Canada’s constitutional Charter of Rights and Freedoms uses similar language, declaring that, “Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Despite the near-identical language of these proclamations, the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately found that laws prohibiting private health insurance only violated Quebec’s charter. While it made this ruling on a 4-3 split, the question about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its ramifications for bans on private healthcare divided the bench (and Justice Marie Deschamps refused to decide on the matter).

The court correctly recognized that enforcing a state monopoly on healthcare constituted an abridgment of life rights. If state healthcare could address every health woe immediately and effectively, this would not be the case. However, in Canada, government often fails to deal with healthissues that private institution could resolve.

According to the Fraser Institute, the average wait time for surgical and other therapeutic treatments in Canada was 18.2 weeks in 2013, up from 17.7 weeks in 2012. Patients in across Atlantic Canada wait even longer than this on average: 23.7 weeks in Newfoundland and Labrador, 25.8 weeks in Nova Scotia, 31.9 weeks in New Brunswick, and a shocking 40.1 weeks in Prince Edward Island.
As Justice Deschamps stated, wait times effectively ration healthcare. If patients did not leave these lists, they would continue to grow; lists exist only because more people add their names to them at any given time than can be treated at capacity. Nevertheless, wait times afford government the ability to ration care, both by deterring patients from seeking it and leaving them to die before treatment (although this is not, of course, the intention).

By using state power to prevent patients from seeking, and providing, potentially life-saving treatments outside of government’s confines, Ottawa breaches Canadian citizens’ right to life. While Chaoulli v. Quebec constituted a positive step for human rights in Canada, judges, politicians, and citizens should acknowledge that healthcare systems in every province violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, just as Quebec’s system violated its provincial charter. From this understanding, they will have to decide between the status quo of Canadian health care and the rights enumerated in the charter.

Michael Sullivan is a 2013-2014 Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ Student Fellow. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the Institute

On Trinity Western Law School

Trinity Western University’s (TWU) proposed law school has sparked debate across the country, not only in British Columbia, where it will operate, but also in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) held a public meeting recently and opened the floor to the public and legal professionals to present their concerns and opinions about the implications of TWU’s Christian mandate. In addition, there were several written reviews submitted to the Society in previous weeks.

TWU is a private Christian university and part of their faith-based mandate includes a community covenant that outlines values and principles that staff and students must espouse. The agreement, which requires signatories to abstain from, “Sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and woman,” has created tension among the public and legal community, and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s (FLSC) approval of the university’s law school this past December has exacerbated the dispute. The FLSC approval committee concluded that TWU has the capacity to provide a quality education to its student body, comparable to other Canadian law schools, however, the decision to recognize students with degrees from TWU falls under provincial jurisdiction.

Some provinces, including British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario have requested external input before making an official decision about whether they will accept TWU-educated law students, yet, whereas other provinces have chosen simply to accept FLSC’s decision.

Gathering public opinion on these issues is theoretically understandable, however, ultimately, the decision should be consistent with the FLSC. This would not only ensure that lawyers can continue to practice throughout the country, but also it upholds religious freedoms, which are entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As long TWU graduates represent Canada’s legal principles and abide by Canadian rules and regulations, personal beliefs are irrelevant.

For instance, refusing to recognize law degrees from a Christian university illustrates another form of discrimination. Although TWU requires students to espouse the values outlined in the university’s community covenant, they continue to accept gay and lesbian students that choose to study there. The province’s should also accept lawyers with varying beliefs and opinions, so long as they are able to put them aside to uphold the law. Diversity includes accepting differing religious beliefs and censuring prospective law students from studying in a religious setting is adverse to the principle.

Nevertheless, debate over this issue is certain to continue and some provinces are just beginning the process already begun British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. While there has been support of, and opposition to, TWU’s proposed law school in Nova Scotia, however, it appears that the provincial government will discredit law degrees based on discrimination against the LGBT community. In any case, the government will decide in April and it will be interesting to see whether popular opinion influences the NSBS, causing it to lose sight of the fact that TWU law graduates will receive an acceptable legal education and compelling it to focus solely on their personal beliefs.

Rachel Lowe is a 2013-2014 Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ Student Fellow. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the Institute