Education and health care both, as services, have low level delivery but with high level standardization (2 + 2 = 4, fixing a broken leg is just fixing a broken leg) and, combined with the large budget requirements, this should mean a federal responsibility.
Having high quality education and health care, regardless of the local economic conditions, is a much better way to share prosperity than transfer payments are. This works whether you are looking at it government-to-government, or government-to-citizen.
Across-the-board commitments to education and health care, along with policing and other services, are a part of the fundamentals of Canadian civilization. The guaranteed provision of these fundamentals should be a covenant between the government and the people, and the success in the delivery a testament to our culture.
However, the 1867 constitution was a reflection of the communication and organizational limits of its time (as well as the bigotry), and unfortunately the 1982 constitution is a reflection of the extreme limits of politician, bureaucrats, and lawyers.
But even limited to provincial levels the principles remain the same: If the provincial government takes care of the fundamentals, regardless of location within the province, then it leaves the other levels of government, and the people, an even-playing-field with which to prosper.
On individual economic levels:
The poorest families within our society will always have the fundamentals provided for them, and it is pointless to try to corral the rich into anything (just make sure their activities are legal and not subsidized by the public system - just because someone is rich doesn't mean they aren't cheap).
It's the people who are in the middle who get squeezed. Almost any voucher or refund system will cause those in the middle income range (especially the low end) to have to compromise on quality somewhere in their lives; it could be in their children's education, or their own health care, or somewhere else.
Voucher and refund systems are meaningless to the poor since they require (and receive) full funding. For the rich, and upper middle income earners, voucher and refund systems are just more money (perhaps simply as a tax break) since the use of the public system was never going to be their first choice anyways.
High quality delivery of the fundamentals allows the poorest among us to concentrate on fixing themselves and their economic situation; someone in the middle can enjoy the quality of their life and aspire to achieve more; and the rich do not need to be walled in to keep out the rioting masses (since the masses are pretty content).
Neither education nor health care has anything to do with religion (the same applies for any of the fundamentals).
The government is obligated for Standard Education and nothing else in that area.
Standard Education is what the tax money is collected for. Standard Education is why the buildings are constructed. Standard Education is the reason why the students are gathered together.
The government should be concentrating on providing the highest possible quality of Standard Education. None of the tax money, buildings, or students, is there to subsidize religious indoctrination. For that, a religion has to provide its own money, its own buildings, and gather its own captive audience.
It isn't the government's job to finance (by money, tax break, or other subsidy) any religion.
It isn't the government's job to endorse or promote any religion.
It isn't the government's job to verify, approve, qualify, or validate any religion.
It isn't the government's job to provide information about any religion or to keep informed about any religion.
In short: The government has nothing to do with religion and religion has nothing to do with government.
It is a mistake to state that a secular school system teaches secularism - or is even about secularism.
A secular school is not the opposite of a religious school; it is simply a school without religious content or basis.
A secular school does not teach non-religious beliefs it just doesn't teach religious beliefs.
Without a secular government, or secular institutions, you do not have religious freedom; and having a separate (Catholic) public school system is corrosive to everyone's freedom.
Every time some wayward individual decides to put a "Christmas" tree up in City Hall, instead of a "Holiday" tree, they put another nail into the coffin of their own religious freedom.
By not enforcing a secular government and institutions the door is left wide open to all varieties of non-compatible religious baggage. And while christianity has been continually modified over the last several hundred years to sell itself to a changing customer base - other religions have not been.
Our courts handle religious matters incompetently; mostly it seems due to its own interpretations of the constitution. With a fully secular government and institutions, there is less rope for the courts to hang us with, and allows us to keep our tax money free from the constant demands from organized religions' to be subsidized.
On provincial responsibility:
The provincial governments are responsible for education and health care in Canada, but they abrogate this by the use of the board system. This lack of direct control is a way for the politicians to sidestep their failures and avoid the rightful response from the electorate.
On any given news day you can here provincial cabinet ministers proclaiming:
- "Don't like what's happening? Well, it's the board that makes the decisions!"
- "Not being properly funded? Well, it's the federal government that isn't giving us enough money!".
The provincial governments are the responsible agencies and all failures in these areas are due to them. As much as I think that the federal government should be the responsible agency - it isn't. And so every time a federal politician goes on about education, or health care, you know that money is being wasted. It's about as useful as seeing those old "Burnaby. A Nuclear Weapons Free Zone." signs. Every level of government should concentrate on its areas of responsibility, regardless of how popular the topic is.
The best system is a high quality public (Standard Education) system.
Vouchers and tax breaks only give the illusion of choice when it comes to lower middle income families (and in rural areas - not even the illusion).
Trying to fix Ontario's system by funding all religious education is like pouring water on a grease fire. You can't fix a mistake by making more mistakes.
In Ontario the Liberals are rightly condemned for being hypocrites on this issue; the Conservatives are rightly condemned for being incompetents on this issue; and the NDPers are rightly condemned for being cowards on this issue.