It seems to have captured a bit of interest, but it seems safe to say you are very much opposed to combining the Maritime provinces, yes?
From my perspective right now, we’re very fortunate that we have three provinces. That gives us more clout when it comes to dealing with the feds, or dealing with other provinces. The arguments that are being made for it, I think if [the senators] did a little research they’d realize that there is a lot of co-operation that takes place amongst the Maritime provinces.
For example, we don’t have our own lottery commissions in each province. We have what we call the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. In the Maritimes, we have an institution that deals with issues around post-secondary education. We do a lot of procurement together when it comes to purchasing things. So there already is a lot of co-operation. I think it’s counterintuitive to what the Senate is actually supposed to be there for, which is to defend the interests of the regions that they’re appointed from.
Do you think there’s something to the argument that if the provinces did unite there would be fewer jobs for premiers like your good self?
Let me just put it to you like this, if this were ever to go ahead, it would take years upon years to put something in place. I’m not going to be around in 10 or 15 years anyway as Premier, most likely, so it’s irrelevant to the job that I have.
Your province obviously does have a disproportionately large representation in Parliament. It would hurt your representation if you were to meld with the other provinces, wouldn’t it?
Absolutely. Right now we have four members of Parliament, we have four senators. This goes back to the 1864 conference, the 1867 formation of the country, the joining of Prince Edward Island to Canada in 1873. If [P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy] or the other senators, who are from the respective provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, think that it is a good idea, I think perhaps they should consider stepping down from the Senate, running for provincial politics and putting that at the top of their agenda.
One political scientist interviewed by CBC was right to note that the topic of Maritime Union is only raised whenever there's a perceived state of crisis.
Donald Savoie, Canada research chair in public administration at the University of Moncton, said the fiscal challenges facing the Maritime provinces and an aging population are what have brought the idea to the floor once again.
He said the three provinces are all stomaching immense financial pressures and the concept of the Maritime Union "is in fashion."
"Whenever there's an external force that threatens us in the Maritimes, we tend to talk about the Maritime Union," said Savoie, noting that he has supported the idea for years.
"What we're witnessing all through the Maritime provinces is some pretty serious fiscal challenges and some pretty serious economic challenges. We have a fast-aging population, and I don't think we have the financial resources to maintain the status quo."
At this stage, however, the fiscal crisis isn't nearly severe enough to overcome particularly sentiments. Speaking particularly about my native Prince Edward Island, almost everyone is invested in the island having the status of a full-fledged province, whether as a deeply-felt expression of identity or materially. (The infrastructure of provincehood employs a lot of people.) I doubt many Islanders at all would like the fair island by the sea to be little more than a larger version of Ontario's Prince Edward County.