Campbell and Williams: transfer payments as they exit

by John Geddes

Mulling over this month’s two big political resignations, B.C.’s Gordon Campbell and Newfoundland’s Danny Williams, I got to thinking about their contrasting styles when it came to federal-provincial relations.

Williams presided over an unprecedented boom for Newfoundland and Labrador, and famously fought to maintain federal equalization payments to his province, even as its oil-fueled economy outgrew have-not status.

Campbell’s run coincided with uneven economic times for B.C., and he sometimes argued for a better deal on transfers—in mainly in the context of the broader “fiscal imbalance” debate of a few years back—but he never made fighting Ottawa a major focus of his politics.

So where did they leave their provinces as they step aside, when it comes to payments from the feds? Newfoundland is slated to receive $2,268 per person this year from Ottawa, while British Columbia gets $1,385.

(Those per capita figures are based on all transfers, including the big ones, like those for health and welfare, along with niche programs, such as labour market training and the like; the Finance Canada tables are here.)

One might think Newfoundland’s larger take still makes sense, since the West Coast remains more prosperous. But that depends on how you assess relative wealth. Statistics Canada tells us that average weekly  pay in Newfoundland, including overtime, was $798.82 last year, about the same as B.C.’s $797.13.

Williams’s popularity was, of course, based on more than how hard he bargained with prime ministers. Campbell’s unpopularity was not simply due to his failure to establish himself in the popular imagination as a fighter for B.C. against the centre. But this is not a negligible reason for their very different exits.

 

 

 

 

 

 




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Campbell and Williams: transfer payments as they exit

  1. Mind you, that figure doesn't include this year's portion of the$2.6 Billion that Williams received in lieu during his first battle with Ottawa.

    And why is it that national reporters only decide to cover the country's "other 8" premiers the week that they quit?

  2. Williams was honest with Newfoundlanders and fought for Newfoundlanders. Campbell was repeatedly dishonest with British Columbians and fought for the interests of business and especially the development community. I guess we know where the nine percent who support Campbell are.

  3. Really there is no comparing the two Williams stands out Campbell was/is running with the pack BC Quebec Ontario Harper..yuk!
    Furthermore Danny stands heads and shoulders above that den of thieves.

  4. What about Special Ed here in Alberta! He's fighting hard for Albertans: our right to sit in emergency waiting rooms, our right to hand over our oil and gas wealth to industry, our right to gutted and scarred parks, our right to single party Soviet style rule, our right to be lied to…could be worse. Liepert could be premier. Or Klein could come back. Oh well, best to just drink the Kool Ade and go with the flow.

  5. Please, it always makes me laugh when someone uses per capita numbers like this. There's a reason NL recieves more in transfers per capita than BC, it's simple. With a population of only 500,000 people the per capita numbers have to be higher in order to allow similar services to be provided. If small provinces like NL got the same per capita funding as larger ones the people living in them would end up doing their own home surgery for crying out loud.

    Like they always say, there are lies, D@mn lies and then there's statistics.

    • In other words, the bang for our buck is clearly lower in Newfoundland… not exactly the greatest good for the greatest number, this fiscal federalism.

  6. Every time I read an article written like this, I just have to wonder if it's from "Premier Envy".

    Newfoundlanders had to fight to even get the revenues out of the offshore oil industry – the federal government is the entity with jurisdiction over the oceans beyond the 12-mile limit so what Peckford negotiated in the 1980's could widely be considered a "compromise".

    "One might think Newfoundland's larger take still makes sense, since the West Coast remains more prosperous. But that depends on how you assess relative wealth. Statistics Canada tells us that average weekly pay in Newfoundland, including overtime, was $798.82 last year, about the same as B.C.'s $797.13." -Geddes

    BC Population: 4,510,858

    NL Population: 509,739

    So is the average you provided the median, the mean, or the mode?

    • And does the average weekly pay account for the unemployment rate, which we have been told endlessly is higher in Atlantic Canada? If average pay for those employed is the same, but unemployment is twice as high, higher transfer payments might make sense.

      • Here's another one. If the unemployment rate in NL is 16% and the unemployment rate in BC is only 2%, does that mean the 90,217 unemployed BCers are somehow better off than the 81,558 jobless NLers?

  7. Median family income, all family types, 2008:
    NL – $59.320
    BC – $67.890

    The difference isn't only explained by unemployment rate, but also the fact NL has a large cohort of seniors receiving pension benefits.

    If you remove benefits of the Atlantic Accord (1985) from Mr. Geddes' figures, then transfers to BC are around $1400 and transfers to NL are around $1500.

  8. Williams was so popular because he was leading an ethnically homogeneous & ill educated population who could always be played for chumps via tinpot Newfie nationalism.

    High time we kicked NL out of confederation. They add zero value and they're obnoxious as hell, every single bloody one of them.

  9. Just radically simplify equalization. Just consider credits and debits based on per capita government spending and GDP per person, both relative to the national average, with a hard cap on the proportion of federal-derived revenues. Treat non-renewable resources revenues embedded within government spending at half price, and don't consider them at all if they go into some sort of fund for future generations. Quebec and BC shale and more Hibernia, a not-so-lucid Quebec and a McGuinty-produced deficit are going to collectively force this issue.

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