Washington Tribute Tax (WTT) now in effect
Date: Saturday, October 15 2005
As a result of the NAFTA tribunal ruling on softwood lumber the US owes Canada several billion dollars. It is unlikely the Martin government will go beyond threatening rhetoric and it is even more unlikely the Americans will ever pay.
The reason they will never pay is that the US is rapidly approaching a debt crisis. This has come about for a number of reasons and one of the most immediate is the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These wars are costing around seven billion dollars a month. Then along comes Katrina. Even though the Bush administration has committed tens of billions to rebuilding the shattered Gulf region New York Times columnist/Princeton economist Paul Krugman anticipates that the administration is going to renege as even now there are indications it is trying to find ways to wriggle away from this commitment.
There is also speculation that Bush is going to have to forgo his latest tax cut for the rich.
So if we believe the adage, “charity begins at home,” it will be a frosty Friday in Hell before we see the softwood money.
In a seemingly unrelated event the NAFTA again looms large. The Martin government has just announced a 2.3 billion dollar program to help seniors and those on low income defray increased energy costs (as well as secure votes in the coming federal election). This is to be followed up with another program for middle income Canadians. But even as the program is unveiled we continue to ship vast quantities of oil and natural gas south to the US. Thanks to NAFTA we are not allowed to restrict this flow in times of scarcity nor are we allowed to give preferential pricing to Canadians or tax these exports.
What makes this situation somewhat more galling is that the US is by far the world’s largest per capita consumer of energy and it is making absolutely no effort to curb this ravenous gluttony.
So, however indirectly, and because of NAFTA, this program condones and subsidizes America’s insatiable lust for cheap energy; to say nothing of the fact that these are finite and rapidly diminishing resources.
We also get to pay tribute to the empire militarily. The decision to send our combat troops to Afghanistan was born out of America’s acute shortage of manpower. Not only cannot it not afford these wars financially there is a huge shortfall in manpower.
The Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson recently suggested that if Canada is so audacious as to challenge the divine ordinance of the NAFTA it might start costing us jobs. In fact it has already cost thousands of jobs and ultimately will cost us much more.
Tribute paid arrives in many forms.
Canada has just backed away from a UN initiative to advance nuclear disarmament, no doubt, as a result of pressure from Washington. The US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, is achieving his purpose: emasculation of the UN.
Whether it be on foreign policy, NAFTA, justice issues (the Marc Emery extradition for example), military support, and draconian security measures this Liberal government has its marching orders and they are not home grown.
In a recent speech to a BC audience PM Martin assured that Canada has an ”aggressive” foreign policy but on the evidence it would seem the opposite is true.
The NAFTA, as PM Martin described it in his recent New York speech is a “framework.” It is also the major component of deep integration.
As our federal government retreats from governance, increasingly becoming a surrogate for America’s neo-imperialism the only question for Canadians: How much tribute are we going to pay to Washington?
Though it is not a stated Liberal policy, we now have the WTT--the Washington Tribute Tax. There is no fixed rate. It is payable on demand. Nothing is in writing. As time will show, it will have a nasty tendency to escalate; especially when Canada's political leadership is ever so obliging.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 15, 2005]