The federal government is facing a backlash from some provinces over a report it plans to change the formula for equalization payments, with Saskatchewan's finance minister calling it an "absolute betrayal" of a Tory campaign promise.
In the last two election campaigns, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives pledged to exclude natural resource revenue from the federal program that gives to poorer provinces to help narrow the gap between "have" and "have-not" regions.
But the CBC's French-language network reports the government will renege on that pledge in its next federal budget, expected in March. Radio-Canada said Harper instead plans to follow the recommendation of a federal task force by including 50 per cent of the natural resource revenue when calculating a province's wealth.
If Harper makes the move, it would mean big losses in equalization payments to provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan Finance Minister Andrew Thomson said his oil-producing province stands to lose up to $800 million next year under this plan.
"It's clear what they are trying to do is buy Quebec votes with Western oil. And I think that is a very dangerous game to be playing. This is not the way that Confederation should work," Thomson said.
The Ottawa syndrome strikes everyone there, even Stephen Harper. When you can see Quebec from for your office window, its parochial concerns take on exaggerated importance.
People in Ottawa seem to forget that the political equation that balanced Confederation for so long no longer applies. The Bloc Quebecois is now firmly entrenched as the party of Quebec, and the Tories and Grits can do no more than pick around the edges of its support.
The West, on the other hand, has shown an incredible political volatility as the incubator of protest parties. Stephen Harper, of all people, should know that.
It is no longer possible to buy a majority government in Quebec. But it is possible to lose a minority government in the West.
It would be a shame to see the equalization plan become this government's version of the CF-18 contract to Canadair.