How independent can Canada be?

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Sean in Ottawa
How independent can Canada be?

I raise this question as Canada has been warned of economic catastrophe from both China and the US over Huawai. We are independently able to choose which of the two powers will beat us up.

I know this question lies at the heart of the Brexit debate becuase it is one of the reasons the European project got off the ground. Certainly that was a project the right wing benefited from but the reason many European countries gave up a degree of independence from each other is they saw the vice that the cold war presented. They heard the US muse about limited nucelar war and believed that if they were not powerful enough, unified enough, the cold war would be fought, perhaps even as a hot war, on their territory. Both France and the UK developed nukes in part to have an independent force becuase they never trusted their ally, the US.

Today the UK is trying to decide which of the two evils on the table they should take: remaining in the EU, without a chance to get out or even renegotiate for a generation or to leave and become potentially a colony of the US without any bargaining power. 

In the middle of this debate you have people in the UK talking about a NAFTA style deal. They have no idea what they are contemplating. It is the present position where Canada pretends to be independent when the US permits it to do so. Trump's realpolitik has demonstrated this clearly. Canada in being independent has merely been indulged by the US and when the US wants to it can yank our chain.

In the middle of all this, Canada has engaged with the rest of the wold like it is independent. Now it is being into a battleground on its own territory becuase of major choice that the US no longer wants to, and is no longer inclined to tolerate the illusion of Canadian independence.

Canada's choice: are we a subservient dependency of the US, where we rely on involvement in an alliance that will partol our shores and and economic colony where we accept the jobs we are allowed as long as we do not get to noisy and ask for too much?

Or do we find a collective bigger outside the US to be able to assert ourselves. With the collapse of the influence (that was illusory anyway) of the UN what choices does Canada have? Do we join the EU in order to play two bemoths agaisnt each other - the US and the EU or do we accept that we can be independent where the US wants but when push comes to shove we cannot do either pushing or shoving?

When there were mostly skirmishes on smaller matters, Canada could win the odd battle as our industry was hollowed out we were able to get a string of victories from the NAFTA panel (as the US bought out much of what was Canadian). But now as things rationalize and there are fewer issues with no compromise left what do we do? We cannot let Huawai half in after all. We incurr the anger of eithe rthe US or China. This is just the start. A string of battles may just be starting where Canada, no longer the US's first trading partner but now a falling third behond both Mexico and China, has no bargaining power. 

Canada used to dream that it could be an energy superpower. But new sources of energy can be produced locally and the US has outflanked us on fossil fuels. Back in the 1990s we believed that we provided so much energy in oil, gas and hydro power that the US could never truly bully us. Maybe that was true at that time. Now we are getting an education about how the times have changed.

Canada may be able to assert independence. To do so might cost some short term economic benefits and require investment on the part of governments that seem disinclined to make public investments. Even then when something big happens Canada is going to get bullied.

A policy option that can mitigate but not move fast enough to avoid this -- using what many social scientists understand -- Canada can increase population through immigration. Rapid population increase through immigration requires considerable public investment to provide for the population's growing needs and political efforts to keep the country unified and policy efforts to make the population grwo in the areas most needed and not overheat. In short it is difficult but not impossible and could be a part of the solution.

I am starting this thread to consider how Canada may be able to gain and maintain a greater degree of independence in the present context. I really think the answers are different today than they were 30 years ago when we were talking free trade with Mulroney as PM.

 

 

 

Pondering

All western nations, and the economic system we rely on, makes us somewhat dependent on the US. I think we are trying to diversify but China is even less trustworthy than the US. In any case the US is right next door so there is no doubt they will be our largest trading partner and they do have a lot of influence over our decisions. Influence is not force. We are still independent. The US will retaliate against any country including Canada if they think it will benefit them. We just have to decide if going against them is worth the punishment. 

Current trade deals are a mess. Free trade was promoted as a means of keeping peace because we would be inter-dependent. Instead it has become a way to undermine the independence of countries and to give control to international corporations. 

We need to rewrite trade deals and we need to have favored nations that rank high on trustworthiness. It is unbelievable that we are selling arms to Saudi Arabia because there is no proof they have used Canadian weapons in Yemen. We need to get out of the arms industry. Pick something else. How about medicine. Canada does not need an arms industry. 

We need to build economic resilience by partnering more with the EU, but not joining it. They have a lot of internal problems right now. It is good for a country to have a large proportion of its GDP internal. I think we need to give protectionism a new image. Unions should have a seat at the table during trade negotiations. We need climate scientists at the table. Subsidies are supposedly barred but there are no minimum taxes. Minimum taxation is a no brainer. 

The US is a bohemeth. If they decide they want or need our water they will take it regardless of our relationship. We can do it nicely or we can do it the hard way. 

It's best to be diplomatic where possible but I don't believe that Canada needs to stand with the US on every foreign policy, Bolivia for example. I think when Canada takes a conflicting view (which we should) we better have our facts straight. 

I'd like to see more reasoned discussion on the pros and cons of having local production of certain things. For example, people seem quite supportive of our supply management of dairy. We happily pay more to defend the local industry. My motivation is food security. I don't want us to be dependent on open borders to feed ourselves the basics.  Food recalls seem to be for mass produced products rather than local ones. 

Misfit Misfit's picture

Pondering wrote:

"For example, people seem quite supportive of our supply management of dairy. We happily pay more to defend the local industry. My motivation is food security."

I agree with most of this. However, our supply side management of dairy actually has us paying less for our dairy than the United States. Their prices are cheaper at the grocery store, but they subsidize their dairy farmers $22.5 billion dollars annually which adds up to more expensive dairy in the States. So Americans pay for their dairy in two places, at the grocery store and through their tax dollars.

From the Huffington Post...

"If Canadians think that getting rid of supply management will result in lower dairy prices, more satisfied farmers, and better products, I have a bridge to sell them in Florida."

Canadian dairy prices are comparable to US prices...

https://bcdairy.ca/milk/articles/is-canadian-milk-really-that-expensive-theres-more-to-a-glass-of-milk-than

"Is US milk dramatically cheaper than Canadian milk? Not really

All too often, cross-border milk prices are used to justify the argument that Canadian milk is way more expensive than milk from the States. The truth is, cross-border milk prices are typically known as loss-leaders, meaning their price is intentionally deflated in order to get you, the Canadian customer, in the door. But, these prices are not representative of the overall cost of milk soldier in the US.

In reality, the average price for 2% milk across the US, according to the Retail Milk Price Report, was $3.21 USD per gallon. After converting to Canadian dollars, this gallon of milk would cost a Canadian consumer $4.22 CAD.*  By comparison, a 4-litre pack of 2% milk in Western Canada costs $4.89 CAD.** When converted into Canadian currency, the prices between US and Canadian milk are comparable. ***"

cco

BC Dairy wrote:

When converted into Canadian currency, the prices between US and Canadian milk are comparable.

I've lived in both countries. Dairy industry propaganda aside, they really aren't. But telling Canadians we're not being gouged is one of the few remaining growth industries in this country.

Pondering

It remains true that Canadians support dairy management despite thinking that it negatively impacts the price. 

Sean's question is about the degree of independence we have. Trump wanted dairy management gone. He didn't get his way but he did gain greater access to the market. 

Trade deals are a means through which we are losing independence. 

 

Sean in Ottawa

Pondering wrote:

It remains true that Canadians support dairy management despite thinking that it negatively impacts the price. 

Sean's question is about the degree of independence we have. Trump wanted dairy management gone. He didn't get his way but he did gain greater access to the market. 

Trade deals are a means through which we are losing independence. 

 

Yes, although not just trade deals.

R.E.Wood

I think our independence on multiple fronts has been eroded over the past decades. It's very difficult when you live next door to an 800-pound gorilla. We've lost ground on trade. (Dear USA: We don't want your milk!) But not just dairy, it's lost ground for multiple other industries as well.  We've also never adequately encouraged / supported / funded our own cultural arts like film & TV, which I think is necessary when you have a small population living next to a massive one with the cultural media output of the US. And yet we have remained culturally distinct from the US, (and culturally distinct within our country as well) despite the most fervent dreams & efforts of people like Harper & Scheer, who have done their damndest to import the worst of right-wing Republican political tactics to our country.

I don't think we can be economically independent (ie: insular) and survive, but we need to work harder and smarter in arranging economic partnerships with countries and regions other than the US, which will never treat us fairly because their mindset is that they must win everything. We need to play with fair-minded adults. For example, I remember Audrey McLaughlin championing a curcum-polar (trans-polar? I'm not sure of the correct term) trade partnership, and doubt that has ever been pursued adequately.

Interesting topic, and a huge one. I'm not sure I'm adequately addressing it.

Misfit Misfit's picture

Pondering wrote:

It remains true that Canadians support dairy management despite thinking that it negatively impacts the price. 

Sean's question is about the degree of independence we have. Trump wanted dairy management gone. He didn't get his way but he did gain greater access to the market. 

Trade deals are a means through which we are losing independence. 

 

Pondering is correct again on this. They think that they are being gouged when, in fact, they are not. It is an erroneous perception but one which won't subside despite all the extensive evidence and sound reasoning to the contrary.

Sean in Ottawa

Misfit wrote:

Pondering wrote:

It remains true that Canadians support dairy management despite thinking that it negatively impacts the price. 

Sean's question is about the degree of independence we have. Trump wanted dairy management gone. He didn't get his way but he did gain greater access to the market. 

Trade deals are a means through which we are losing independence. 

 

Pondering is correct again on this. They think that they are being gouged when, in fact, they are not. It is an erroneous perception but one which won't subside despite all the extensive evidence and sound reasoning to the contrary.

Indeed the management is designed to protect the industry as well as the supply for the people. The subsidies that the US have to put in are enourmous to buy the product that is over produced. 

kropotkin1951

Pondering wrote:

All western nations, and the economic system we rely on, makes us somewhat dependent on the US. I think we are trying to diversify but China is even less trustworthy than the US.

I  think you are wrong in that assertion. There are no capitalists in the world who are as untrustworthy as the ones from the US.

We can be more independent and the "free trade" shit is just hype. Prior to signing any trade agreements the US was already our largest trading partner. However twenty years ago I heard the Governor of Washington State point out that the Northern Border states do over 80% of their trade across the border. We have allies in the US but unfortunately we only send corporate lawyers to negotiate deals that always seem to benefit the corporations that sent their lawyers to talk the talk with the government's corporate lawyers.

We don't need trade deals GATT was heading the globe in the right direction until the US capitalists sold the people of the US and Canada the NAFTA pig in a poke. When the cat came out of the bag our economies declined.

 

Misfit Misfit's picture

R.E. Wood wrote:

"We've also never adequately encouraged / supported / funded our own cultural arts like film & TV, which I think is necessary when you have a small population living next to a massive one with the cultural media output of the US."

I agree with you , but I also know what Canada is capable of whenever it tries. Not to be an art critic, but you cannot forget about this...

Pondering

We can try to forget about it, or start a petition to sell now while we still can. 

Trade deals were sold as deals that were to remove tariffs on goods. There aren't about that anymore. They are about corporate rights and limiting the rights of citizens to take decisions based on reasons other than economic competitiveness. For example, buying local produce because it doesn't need to travel as far or to support the local industry. There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect local industries. We should have the freedom to choose non-local suppiers. They should have the right to compete. They should not have the right to compensation if the community decides to go local.  

This http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2019/10/linda-mcquaig-how-private-enterprise-took-over-canadas-public-wealth#at_pco=smlrebv-1.0&at_si=5ddcbe8d70715aff&at_ab=per-2&at_pos=0&at_tot=5 limits our independence. 

kropotkin1951

Pondering wrote:

We can try to forget about it, or start a petition to sell now while we still can. 

Trade deals were sold as deals that were to remove tariffs on goods. There aren't about that anymore. They are about corporate rights and limiting the rights of citizens to take decisions based on reasons other than economic competitiveness. For example, buying local produce because it doesn't need to travel as far or to support the local industry. There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect local industries. We should have the freedom to choose non-local suppliers. They should have the right to compete. They should not have the right to compensation if the community decides to go local.  

This http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2019/10/linda-mcquaig-how-private-enterprise-took-over-canadas-public-wealth#at_pco=smlrebv-1.0&at_si=5ddcbe8d70715aff&at_ab=per-2&at_pos=0&at_tot=5 limits our independence. 

Pondering there are many of us on this board who actually stood up and fought against NAFTA when that great Quebec champion Mulroney introduced it. It was never about tariffs and I have been shouting that since I read the first draft and I have been pushing the NDP every since to continue to advocate for our withdrawal. Canadian buy and large seem to buy the propaganda on every issue. The MSM lies all the time in the detail and spin on history but most Canadians see that some of the MSM story is true so they accept things that are spin as actual fact.

The opposition to NAFTA was based on intelligent people seeing through the corporate media's spin. People like you have bought the corporate line for a generation and now think that this con game can be reformed. Lets see that was the debate in 1997 at the People's Summit on APEC between right wing CLC trade unionist from Canada and left wing, mostly indigenous women, activists from Latin America.  

I thought I might throw some history in to offset the regurgitation of the embedded media lies in our dialogue about "free trade". One of the first steps to regaining some independence from our current place as a vassal state is to withdraw from all the trade agreements except GATT. Who knows it might start a trend among other countries who are willing to try and break out of the US enforced trading blocks and get back to the globalism of the 1970's.

Rikardo

I like Sean's idea that we need to increase immigration. We could bus thousands of refugees up from south of Trump's wall. Colombians, Salvadorians love a chance to come here.  We're only 35K

Sean in Ottawa

Immigration as essenital as it is does pose a challenge for Canada. It costs more than the Liberals pretend it does in terms of investment and it produces more in terms of benefits than Conservatives acknowledge.

I absolutely would agree that the immigration numbers be boosted but it is not just about getting a vulnerable group of people and dumping them in our cities.

Canada, in order to bring in more poeple effectively needs to:

1) increase social housing to make sure there is a place for everyone to stay, including those who are here and the ones we invite - at a reasonable cost

2) streamline what immigrants have to do in order to have their work experience acknowledged including specific courses and tests to upgrade degrees rather than having the process start from stratch and the ability to certify professionals. 

3) Income support to all Canadians

4) Health support to all Canadians including medical, mental, eyecare and dental health. Many of these people would have long neglected issues that must be dealt with. We cannot do this without acknowledging that many Canadians also have neglected health. As well many of these poeple are victims of truama and need support

5) provide better settlement services so that immigrants get better information about this country than they are getting now. By that I do not mean a BS values test. I mean the basic information people take for granted about how to manage their lives here. This includes the legal framework, consumer and financial information and more

6) Advanced language education without charge. While we are at it provide this to Canadians who are interested as well: either courses to help them become bilingual, learn a language common where they live, or upgrade their first language skills

A good investment in immigration can pay off very well just as a good investment in people here can. Squeezing the poeple of Canada to below the minimum support they need and bringing others here without support is a recipe for disaster. 

Finally, the government of Canada has to really put the financial case in favour of immigration to the public. People who want to know already are aware of it but it could be public service ads to put out the economic and social benefits of immigration.

Then bring in many more people as the investment will be great for this country.

Pondering

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Pondering there are many of us on this board who actually stood up and fought against NAFTA when that great Quebec champion Mulroney introduced it. It was never about tariffs and I have been shouting that since I read the first draft and I have been pushing the NDP every since to continue to advocate for our withdrawal. Canadian buy and large seem to buy the propaganda on every issue. The MSM lies all the time in the detail and spin on history but most Canadians see that some of the MSM story is true so they accept things that are spin as actual fact.

The opposition to NAFTA was based on intelligent people seeing through the corporate media's spin. People like you have bought the corporate line for a generation and now think that this con game can be reformed. Lets see that was the debate in 1997 at the People's Summit on APEC between right wing CLC trade unionist from Canada and left wing, mostly indigenous women, activists from Latin America.  

I thought I might throw some history in to offset the regurgitation of the embedded media lies in our dialogue about "free trade". One of the first steps to regaining some independence from our current place as a vassal state is to withdraw from all the trade agreements except GATT. Who knows it might start a trend among other countries who are willing to try and break out of the US enforced trading blocks and get back to the globalism of the 1970's.

At the time NAFTA was signed I didn't know what to make of it one way or another. I wasn't paying that much attention. My daughter was 4 and I was a single working Mom. Nothing I could do about it so not a priority. 

Since then I have read about us getting sued multiple times for various reasons to compensate American companies for not doing business with them. That is what alerted me to the problems with NAFTA.

When I am reading this board I often think of what would have reached me back then, or what would reach me now if I were currently in that situation. 

I just got through a reminder. I took care of a couple of kids for a few days and I was wiped. I'm older now and not used to it so it hits me harder than it would if I were younger, still, I would not feel like watching the news at the end of the day. I would check in the last couple of weeks before  an election but I would not watch the debates, even if I were younger. Pre-internet pretty much everyone watched the news most nights. Nowadays I wouldn't even do that because if anything big happened I could google it. 

Sean in Ottawa

Pondering wrote:

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Pondering there are many of us on this board who actually stood up and fought against NAFTA when that great Quebec champion Mulroney introduced it. It was never about tariffs and I have been shouting that since I read the first draft and I have been pushing the NDP every since to continue to advocate for our withdrawal. Canadian buy and large seem to buy the propaganda on every issue. The MSM lies all the time in the detail and spin on history but most Canadians see that some of the MSM story is true so they accept things that are spin as actual fact.

The opposition to NAFTA was based on intelligent people seeing through the corporate media's spin. People like you have bought the corporate line for a generation and now think that this con game can be reformed. Lets see that was the debate in 1997 at the People's Summit on APEC between right wing CLC trade unionist from Canada and left wing, mostly indigenous women, activists from Latin America.  

I thought I might throw some history in to offset the regurgitation of the embedded media lies in our dialogue about "free trade". One of the first steps to regaining some independence from our current place as a vassal state is to withdraw from all the trade agreements except GATT. Who knows it might start a trend among other countries who are willing to try and break out of the US enforced trading blocks and get back to the globalism of the 1970's.

At the time NAFTA was signed I didn't know what to make of it one way or another. I wasn't paying that much attention. My daughter was 4 and I was a single working Mom. Nothing I could do about it so not a priority. 

Since then I have read about us getting sued multiple times for various reasons to compensate American companies for not doing business with them. That is what alerted me to the problems with NAFTA.

When I am reading this board I often think of what would have reached me back then, or what would reach me now if I were currently in that situation. 

I just got through a reminder. I took care of a couple of kids for a few days and I was wiped. I'm older now and not used to it so it hits me harder than it would if I were younger, still, I would not feel like watching the news at the end of the day. I would check in the last couple of weeks before  an election but I would not watch the debates, even if I were younger. Pre-internet pretty much everyone watched the news most nights. Nowadays I wouldn't even do that because if anything big happened I could google it. 

I think this is a very important post. It speaks about where most of the population are and difficulty reaching them about political issues that risk their future. 

The implications include not just political but environmental messages. 

Pondering, perhaps you can move some of this post to a new thread about how to reach non-political people. Rather than have endless discussions about politics in isolation from where people really are we need some more discussion about how to extend the conversation to them or none of the other ideas will matter.