NDP MP Peter Stoffer
©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Federal NDP Opposition MP Peter Stoffer says he believes the Maritime provinces should combine to form one jurisdiction — a move he says would save money and allow for more public services.
Stoffer was in Charlottetown Thursday for a meeting with Veterans Affairs deputy minister Walter Natynczyk at the VAC headquarters office, but the meeting was cancelled due to scheduling difficulties.
Instead, Stoffer met with veterans, postal workers and other interest groups.
In an interview with The Guardian, the Nova Scotia MP confessed he is a big believer in Maritime union.
“If you look at Amherst, Nova Scotia, and Sackville, New Brunswick, and the their tax systems are completely different. Why? They’re 20 miles apart. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He pointed to partnerships among the western provinces such as the TILMA agreement, aimed at streamlining regulations and increasing the free flow of goods and services.
“If you’re a nurse, a plumber or a teacher, you should be able to move throughout the provinces and our tax rates should be the same,” Stoffer said.
“I think if we did that, we could eliminate the high costs of some of our government services.”
The last time the notion of Maritime union was floated was in 2012.
Then-Conservative Senator Mike Duffy gave interviews across the region in an attempt to create a public conversation on the topic.
It was met with widespread criticism, including from P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz.
“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,” Ghiz told the National Post in 2012.
Stoffer acknowledged the notion of provincial amalgamation is a controversial one, but says that’s because politicians don’t like it.
“Eventually if you can show people you can still be Prince Edward Island… instead of paying all the salaries and pensions of all these people at the very top, I’m sure we can reduce these numbers.”
To ensure jurisdictions like Prince Edward Island do not lose their voices or influence in Ottawa through amalgamation, Stoffer suggests an overall reduction in seats in all of Parliament.
He also suggested provinces should reduce the number of seats in their provincial legislatures. Nova Scotia should go from 51 seats down to 27 and P.E.I. should also reduce its existing 27 seats, Stoffer says.
“If you’re a government telling the average person on the street, ‘You have to tighten your belt, you have to do more for less,’ it should start at the very top.”