If you read Lenin’s Imperialism or more recent critiques of world capitalism, they usually tell the story of a predatory center imposing its will on smaller and weaker peripheral regions and exploiting them.
Canada is a member of the G7, the world club of the best capitalist nations, and the Yukon is definitely a small economy on the periphery. Many Yukoners grew up before responsible government came here in 1979 in what was actually a Canadian colony. The Federal Commissioner ran the show with as much determination as a British colonial governor in Hong Kong or the Falkland Islands, without the fancy uniform and sword.
Still, Lenin would be amazed at the Yukon’s relationship with Canada. Far from wresting resources from us like Moscow does from the Siberian regions, we are getting a massive transfer payment from Ottawa.
Tappan Adney, writer for Harper’s who traveled to the Yukon with Gold Rush stampers in 1897, calculated that Ottawa made a profit of about $ 20 per bottler during the rush. And although today the federal government is removing various small sources of tax and royalty revenues from the Yukon, that falls far short of the $ 27,766 per Yukoners that the federal money plane will deposit in Whitehorse this year.
Our masters in the Canadian power triangle between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto not only fail to extract money from us, they actually have to raise over a billion dollars a year in the big cities and us. send.
It’s a similar story on the political side. The Yukon has 0.1 percent of the country’s population. Yet our share of Canadian senators is ten times higher. We occupy 7%. 100 of the seats at the First Ministers’ Conferences. And our share of MPs is three times what our population would suggest.
I couldn’t find any numbers for this election, but consider them based on a 2015 study of Canadian ridings. In the riding of Brantford-Brant, which is near the Toronto end of the power triangle, there were 132,000 people with a single MP. At the time, we had one MP for a quarter of that number.
It is as if a Yukoner’s vote counted four times as much as a Brantford-Brant resident.
I hope that this disparity will not prevent any of them from paying their taxes to fund our transfer payment.
Now, just because we have a larger share of seats doesn’t necessarily mean we have more influence.
I have never heard insiders in Ottawa talk about what a premier of the Yukon said at a meeting of first ministers.
But our MPs have a different record.
The existence of the transfer payment dates back to Erik Nielsen. In addition to being the Member of Parliament for the Yukon, he was also Deputy Premier in the 1980s. Unfortunately, there is no footage available on Youtube of him negotiating with himself to lock in a favorable formula for the Yukon transfer payment. But obviously the fact that our MP was an influential minister was a good thing, as the transfer payment deal was negotiated in the early 1980s.
More recently, a lobbyist in Ottawa told me a story. He had attended a House of Commons committee meeting where people from the power triangle were talking about important things about the power triangle.
Then, at the end of the meeting, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell stood up and changed the subject to ask the Deputy Minister what he was doing about the issues at Ross River Airport that were interfering with night medical evacuation flights.
I’m willing to bet that Ross River Airport had more thinking time in Ottawa that week than it has had throughout the history of powered flight.
All of this raises the question of how to vote next Monday. We only have one MP and the federal government is particularly important to the well-being of the Yukon. So how do we make sure we have an MP who makes a difference rather than just disappearing into the power triangle like so many anonymous small town MPs?
There are many ways to tell the difference.
One is to be an influential minister. It’s easier said than done. Erik Nielsen spent over 25 years as an MP learning Ottawa habits before he was able to complete the transfer payment.
Another is to be a relentless constituency MP. It takes persistence, hard work, and a certain ability not to care if the people in the power triangle raise their eyebrows when you bring up Ross River Airport for the eighth time.
Members of Parliament can also make a difference by passionately defending an important issue. Michael Chong, for example, finally convinced Parliament to adopt major reforms to the functioning of political parties and caucuses in order to hold backbench MPs accountable. Elizabeth May did the same for a private member’s bill on Lyme disease.
In the Yukon, we often have the privilege of knowing our candidates a little more personally than voters in large ridings. When you vote, in addition to party platforms, also think about who has the potential to really make an impact on us in Ottawa.
Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist and received Bronze for Best Columnist at the 2019 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards.