B.C. Sell Out

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These days, it is not often that I agree with much comingout of Victoria.

But I have to hand it to British Columbia Forest Minister Mike de Jong. His summation of President George W. Bush as a “gutless wonder” and the United States as a “hostile foreign power” are far closerto the mark than anything put forward by hiscritics.

I am glad to see that someone inLiberal government finally woke up, if only fora moment, to the reality that there are atleast two sides to the face of the UnitedStates.

One should never forget that Canada’s greatest friend is also our greatest enemy and the only real threat in the world to oursovereignty.

B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell has, of course, taken a morediplomatic stand; talking tough — in generalterms — from one of his faces, while laying theground work for selling British Columbians out with talk ofcaution and fantasy marketing schemes fromthe other.

All this while quietly authorizing the shipment of tens of thousands of truck loads carrying raw logs to mills in the U.S.

And then there is Campbell’s hypocrisy of calling for increased aid for workers in the forest industry, while maintaining that his government does not believe in subsidies.

What a crock. Subsidies, such as aid packages to individuals and communities hitby the tariff, by any other name, are stillsubsidies. And they distort the dynamics of thecherished free market.

For Campbell, however,they will act as pacifiers to soothe the publicwhile he ends this crisis by disposing of ourindustries and crown forests to well heeledforeign interests.

The real questions are, what iswrong with subsidies, anyway? And why did Canadaget into undemocratic and secretive tradeagreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that — when it suits the U.S. government — limits Canada’s ability, at all levels of government, to determine how to do businessand protect our society.

Subsidies by government are nothing more thanpublic investment in enterprises, whether in the form of tax breaks, reduced cost in accessing public resources or social serviceprograms, such as government fundedhealthcare — all things that spread the costof doing business across the whole society.

Subsidies are no different in many ways fromcorporations investing in each other, or inusing the profit from one aspect of theiroperation to carry the costs of another.

The real issue behind the attack on subsidies isto force the privatization of public services and resources and move wealth from all of us collectively to a select few.

There may have been real problems withhow the B.C. government conducted its forest industry, andthe view that this action by the U.S. may forceus into better practices may have some merit,but don’t count on it.

Our government's response to the U.S. by reducing what they see as “subsidies,”may cause more long term damage as far aslocal control and benefit, than any resumptionof markets can repair — while surrendering our right to create our own independent forest policy.

Better that we stand up to the U.S. now, and keep alive thepossibility of fixing our problems with ourown solutions that serve our interests, not theirs.

The Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada (I.W.A. Canada),calling for boycotts of select Canadian based U.S. businesses and American goods, is a start.

Politicians with some guts, should also connect to softwood lumber: energy, access to Alaska, military cooperation andany number of things making life cheaper and easier for Americans.

With Mr. Bush currently involved in military adventures abroad to prop up his popularity and cover up poor economic policy — and needing all of the support that he can get — he might be more vulnerable to this tactic than most pundits would predict.

Stopping the flow of cheap raw logs is also imperative — something for which (I.W.A. Canada), the Canadian Alliance Party and others are calling for — but to which the current governments are turning deaf ears.

What is needed now, in both Victoria and Ottawa, is real leadership.

The question is, where will it come from?

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