Vive Le Canada

Thinking the unthinkable about Canada’s future
Date: Saturday, July 01 2006
Topic:


Thinking the unthinkable about Canada’s future

Is it time to start using the “f”word?

by Geoff Olson

In the eye-opening film Hoodwinked: The Myth of Free Trade, former Liberal prime minister John Turner reflects on the mid-’80s battle over the North American Free Trade Agreement. After a famous heated exchange with Brian Mulroney, Turner lost the battle for Canadian hearts and minds on the divisive trade issue – and their votes in the process.

Turner reflects on how, unlike most politicians, he had read the actual NAFTA agreement. After discovering an absence of binding agreements on such things as monopolies, antidumping, and labour standards, he decided the document had more to do with investment than “free trade.”

Cut to 20 years later. Iconic Canadian institutions like Hudson’s Bay and the Laurentian Hotel chain have disappeared into the deep pockets of foreign investors. Provincially, it’s more of the same. Texas-based Kinder Morgan owns BC’s gas delivery system. One third of the operations and services of BC Hydro, our most profitable public company, has been outsourced to Bermuda-based Accenture. The BC Medical Services Plan and Pharmacare are in the hands of American firms. The CEO of the privatized BC Ferries hails from the US, where he presided as vice-president of Covanta Energy, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001.

Neo-conservative apologists in academia and media continue to applaud the high levels of direct foreign investment, federally and provincially, even though the bulk of it is in takeovers and acquisitions. Foreign direct investment has more than doubled in Canada since 1990. The Ontario governments’ website boasts that “Canada puts no restrictions on the repatriation of capital or profit by foreign investors – one of the reasons the country attracts a high level of foreign investment.”

In a speech this January in Utah, former US vice-president Al Gore said “the election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta… and the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra-conservative leader in order to win the election... and to protect its interests.” (Under Chapter 6 of NAFTA, Canada agreed to a “proportional sharing” provision. A fixed proportion of our energy supplies to the United States are guaranteed into the future. Even in the event of a national crisis, Canada cannot reduce the 65 percent of its oil and 61 percent of its natural gas which it now exports to the US.)


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