As Justin Trudeau gets ready to face a rejuvenated official opposition under the leadership of Erin O’Toole another potential political force is looming–the new political alliance between Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier Francois Legault. After two days of meetings between the two premiers and members of their respective cabinets in Toronto. the two premiers presented a united front to reporters on the issue of health care funding. When Medicare was introduced nation-wide on July 1, 1968 the funding formula was essentially a 50-50 split between Ottawa and the Provinces. Since then the Ottawa share has continually declined, yet the legislation still gives Ottawa jurisdiction for setting nation-wide standards. Ford and Legault in their remarks today were on the same page when it came to calling for more funding from Ottawa.
There is a history of Ontario and Quebec cooperating with each other, but mostly in the area of trade and commerce. A public display of personal friendship and solidarity between two premiers such as was on display in Toronto today has not been seen in decades. From 1960 until past 2000 Quebec was always an outlier with English Canada as the province went through its internal struggles with separatism and external battles, mainly with Ottawa over special status. In the late 1930’s Ontario Premier Mitchell Hepburn and Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis formed a political alliance against Prime Minister Mackenzie King . It was the middle of the Depression and both provinces were angry with Ottawa over Federal relief spending, which they saw as inadequate. The press at the time was filled with speculation that the two premiers were planning to form a national political movement to oust the King government. That movement ended with the defeat of Duplessis in a provincial election, and a landside federal Liberal victory by King in 1940. There was no suggestion in the two premiers’ remarks today that they planned to “gang-up” on Ottawa, but united they represents for than 60 percent of Canada’s population and GDP.