28 November 2008

Stability? Who Needs It?

The bile and the rhetoric are back in Ottawa already, mere weeks after all the talk about creating a new spirit of cooperation because we're all in this together during trying economic times. That is going out the window because the Conservatives want to trim $30M in handouts to the political parties; it's the arts funding cuts all over again, except this time it's due to sheer navel-gazing on the parts of the opposition parties upset that they'll no longer receive the majority of their funding from the government instead of going out and earning it from regular people who are their nominal supporters.

With the economic situation in the country maybe not quite as sound fundamentally as we would have hoped, with the dollar still fluctuating, with voter fatigue running high among everybody except for Montreal Canadiens fans who vote 4 or 5 times a day for the NHL All-Star Game Starting Six, they're threatening to bring down the government and have an election!

After all the hand-wringing that the last one was hailed as "unnecessary" and "Harper broke his word," with all the talk of the need for fiscal restraint, despite the fact that the people have spoken only 7 weeks ago, despite the fact that the Liberals have no leader and no platform and no money, the Liberals want to have an election.

Nothing would say "we don't give a damn about stability" in a time when stability is urgently required more than having an election. Economies rely heavily on political stability in a country. When a country is going through severe political turmoil, investors tend to take out their money and look elsewhere. There's a reason that only the gullible send their money to Zimbabwean princes: they're afraid of putting it into that country's economy because there's always the threat of the government seizing all the assets for itself. Should Canada be plunged into its second election in the last half of 2008 it will send a signal to investors that the country is panicking in the face of this economic crisis, and they will respond by removing their assets and plunking them into the United States or Europe or Asia. We will lose out severely if we succumb to the folly of the moment.

25 November 2008

Where's Mine?

Dear Messrs. Flaherty and Toews,
I don't own a fancy corporate jet to fly in and come begging for money. But I would like to know if you'd be interested in giving me a bailout, too? It'd be a fraction of what you're going to fork over to the auto sector--and if Mr. Campbell has his way, the forestry sector, though I'm a bit more sympathetic to their plight since the decline of B.C.'s forestry industry has adversely affected my family's livelihood--and if you like I'll give you a list of exactly where every penny would go. That's already three things in my favour vis-a-vis the auto people: no big jet to make me look like an ass when I come around with my hands open, small amount, and it's not a blank cheque.
Why on Earth would you want to give me, a regular guy with a book and a graduate degree, a bailout when you can give so much more money to corporations? Well, I'm a real spark plug for the economy. I like to buy stuff. I'd like to buy a car, but a good car, one that is enviro-friendly and good on the mileage. I'd like to buy a house, preferably one in B.C., and go about that sort of thing. Heck, I'd like to invest in the stock market. Like the Prime Minister said, now's a great time to get some deals and I'd really like to do that. With all my wages freed up, I'd be able to do all of these things. So there's my pitch to wipe the slate clean and let me do my part to keep Canada's economy strong and on the upswing. You probably won't go for it, but hey, if I don't ask I definitely won't be able to get a piece of the action.

06 November 2008

Ottawa Makes a Move to Appeal to Obama


This move represents the smartest action I've seen the Canadian government undertake on the issue of climate change. With Kyoto in tatters here and ignored in the United States, proposing a plan like this to the incoming Obama Administration--which has pledged to put climate change on the map as an issue in Washington--is the best means that our two countries can utilize to get a real agenda moving forward. There has been so much hot air on climate change in recent years, it looks as though there may finally be some concerted action on the way. Canada alone cannot reduce the impact of global warming. British Columbia's carbon tax cannot reduce the impact of global warming. California alone cannot reduce the impact of global warming. But working together to create a comprehensive strategy that will compel major producers to take serious steps to reduce their emissions--rather than factor in the costs of so-called "carbon credits" as an expense--can Canada and the United States make a difference? To borrow that very popular slogan, "Yes we can."

05 November 2008

Congratulations are in Order

I will start off by stating that Barack Obama was not my first choice for President. In the wake of the failure of Paul Martin, high rhetoric, while it sounds very nice, often runs into institutional barriers in the halls of power that can very quickly scuttle the press for real change in the way a national capital operates. Obama is a magnificent speaker and he ran a tremendous campaign. I still have serious reservations about him, chiefly his stated desire to get out of Iraq at a time when that country's fragile future is not secured. Say what you will about the war, the lives of 25 million people are still largely in America's hands, and to leave prematurely would put them in jeopardy. Iraq has come a long way since the successful surge, but the training wheels are still on and shouldn't be yanked off and have the guiding hand removed at this time. But again, how much of the rhetoric during the campaign can be fulfilled?
Also of concern is the rhetoric on NAFTA. Two billion dollars worth of goods flows across the Canada-US border every day, unimpeded by tariffs and duties that unduly burden the treasuries of our great countries. Obama has said that he would re-open NAFTA. As a free trader who is highly well aware of the importance of the Agreement for Canada's prosperity, that sets off alarm bells. With a strongly Democratic Congress, the potential for increased protectionism in America is higher than at any point since the original Canada-US Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 1989. But again, the institutional barriers may protect Canada from seeing its access to the world's largest market limited by tariffs and duties.
These two key matters aside, I was moved by the speech last night. It's not often I stay up until 1:30 in the morning to listen to a speech anymore. But this was historic. CNN declared the White House for Obama precisely at midnight, and it was an incredible moment, one that I knew would stick with me because of its significance for a long time. So I'm happy to be a little tired this morning for having witnessed the announcement and the speech. I'm a very practical person; I'm willing to listen to Obama and be supportive of him as President of the United States. I am, and always have been, a proud supporter of the United States for the message it brings to the world. People everywhere are filled with hope for this young man to "put America back on track," whatever that means. I'm going to give him a chance to inspire me and win my confidence as well.