Eddie Goldenberg, in his book The Way It Works: Inside Ottawa has some interesting insights into Paul Martin’s and Jim Dinning’s relationship prior to Paul Martin’s tenure as Prime Minister. Goldenberg was “senior political advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Jean ChrÃ¯Â¿Â½tien, and served briefly as ChrÃ¯Â¿Â½tien’s Chief of Staff during his final months in office.” We already know that Dinning sent a handsome sum of $25,000 for Martin’s leadership bid – however, their relationship appears to have been strongly than previously reported.
Goldenberg had this to say when asked about Alberta’s involvement in the Canada Pension Plan:
Ontario represents more than one-third of the population, which makes its consent essential. Mike Harris apparently doesn’t want to move on it now, and unless Ontario moves quickly, Alberta could drop out. As you know, because there wasn’t unanimity amongst the provinces, without Alberta, we won’t have the requisite number of provinces on side even if Ontario later signs on.”
“Paul, what’s the problem with Alberta?” I asked. “You keep telling me you have great relations with its finance minister.”
“I do,” Martin answered. “The problem is that my friend Jim Dinning, who is the current minister, is about to leave politics. He’ll probably be replaced by Stockwell Day, who unlike Dinning, apparently opposes the increase in employer and employee premiums that are fundamental to the reform package. (pg. 316) [Emphasis Mine]
Apparently Dinning was on board with the Liberals Pension Plan reforms, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this support was based on their “friendship” or what was best for Alberta.
I stumbled upon another interesting quote, this time from Janice MacKinnon in her book, Minding the Public Purse: The Fiscal Crisis, Political Trade-Offs, and Canada’s Future
Jim Dinning was a powerful force at the finance ministers’ meetings and one of Martin’s strongest allies in stormy seas
Dinning split off from the rest of the finance ministers in his support of Martin’s need to cut transfer payments to the provinces. As a province with deep enough pockets to withstand more federal cuts, Alberta’s position irked many of us. (pg. 161) [Emphasis Mine]
At this point, if you didn’t know any better, you might think Dinning was Paul Martin’s go-to-guy when it came to implementing federalist policies? Perhaps Dinning was just a die-hard federalist and Paul Martin was speaking his language.
While we’re on the topic of transfer payments, Liberal Leadership candidate StÃ¯Â¿Â½phane Dion in his book, Straight Talk: On Canadian Unity outlines Dinning’s position on the fiscal imbalance,
Mr. Dinning eloquently summed up the fairness issue when he said: “Albertans believe in the principle of equity. Clearly those who have sometimes are going to be asked to pay more than those who have not … I don’t believe this government is a believer in cheque book federalism.” Reflecting on Alberta’s experience in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, Mr. Dinning concluded that Albertans “are in fact net beneficiaries of being a partner in this country.” (pg. 54) [Emphasis Mine]
I’m willing to wager that the many Albertans who plan to vote in the upcoming leadership election would likely disagree with Dinning assessment of the “fairness issue.” Perhaps Dinning would find federal politics more to his liking – he’s got most of the Liberal Party talking points down, he would be a natural.