Sunday, July 22, 2007

Partition or Peace

In 1870, after a few years of negotiation, the Federal Government acquired the landholdings of the HBC in North America, save for a few miniscule land interests. The Federal Government paid well for those lands and continued to pay well for those lands for some time through the building of railway, the subsidization of immigration, the settlement (well sort of) of Indian claims and the general development of the infrastructure of the west (of yes, and the settling of two not so minor rebellions).

These were national endeavours and paid for nationally. Indeed, when it was disocvered that in the course of settling a treaty the federal government had settled some issues in Ontario as well it tried to recover the costs associated with that work to no avail. The Ontario government argued (successfully) that this work had been done as a part of a national effort to settle and develop the west and should be paid for nationally.

This great western area was subsequently divided up and made into provinces. At first the Federal government tried to hold on to the lands in those provinces and merely dole out an annual allowance to each province in lieu of the riches that were now flowing from the land. This did not last long and in 1930 the land was finally partitioned and the history of the federal government's (ie our national) investment in developing the west dropped down the memory tube.

Fast forward to the period from 1980 to today where there has been nothing but warfare between all of the provinces and the federal government and each other over the benefits of resource revenue sharing. The cries go up long and loud that 'this is mine and mine alone' should there be even the slightest thought of redistribution. Even Danny William's position that the oil is his and should be transfered to newfoundland regardless of the national investment looks more reasonable in light of the largescale history of national investment and provincial partition that made the west.

While the decision to partition our natural resources is firmly part of national history and constitution now (indeed so much so that a different history is both unremembered and unimaginable) has it really bought us peace? Perhaps we need to know a bit more history to understand that the claims we have on one another are stronger than this history of partition would suggest. It may be then that we could think a bit more clearly about how it is all to our benefit to accommodate each other's claims on each other's strengths when issues arise where we cannot go it alone.

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