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Mar 18, 2012

Look Down Under for Solutions to Canada’s Equalization Woes

March 18, 2012

New Mowat Research Suggests Arm’s Length Agencies Better Administrators for Federated Countries.

Toronto  Over the past decade, federal equalization payments have become a politically contentious and sensitive topic. Politicians, both federal and provincial, have shone a light on the program and, in doing so, exacerbated conflicts over the program.

A new research study from the Mowat Centre at the School of Public Policy at the University of Toronto, Equalization at Arm’s Length, argues that there is a more effective way to implement national Equalization programs – through an arm’s length agency modeled on the example of another Commonwealth federation.

The new study is the second in the Mowat Centre’s Fiscal Transfers Series. More papers in the series will be released by the Mowat Centre in the coming weeks.

In Equalization at Arm’s Length, researchers Daniel Béland from the University of Saskatchewan, and André Lecours of the University of Ottawa, argue that Australia provides a more principled model for Equalization by using a non-partisan, arm’s length agency for its governance and administration.

“Our federal-provincial conversation has been corroded by misinformation and a lack of transparency in how federal fiscal transfers are calculated,” says Matthew Mendelsohn, Director of the Mowat Centre.

“Anything that can be done to depoliticize conflicts over equalization would be a step forward for the country,” he adds.

“Tensions over wealth redistribution may be unavoidable, but they can be mitigated and largely de-politicized through arm’s length governance agencies,” says Daniel Béland.

André Lecours notes that there are existing Canadian precedents for arm’s length agencies overseeing critical national social programs.

“The CPP Investment Board is one such example. Arm’s length governance is compatible with the Canadian policy context,” he says.

Read the full report