By Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, September 17, 2010
Yet one highly placed source familiar with the finer points of Canada-U.S. relations told the Star that a Republican resurgence may very well ease Ottawa’s battles on two key fronts — trade and energy.
“The whole Buy American impulse could actually become less of a problem as Congress shifts to the right,” the source said, speaking on background. “If we see a critical mass of Republicans in the House, the conversation can shift away from the Democratic Rust Belt mantra of job protectionism to getting out of the way and letting business do its thing. That would make it much easier for Ottawa’s argument that our integrated economies create jobs on both sides of the border.”
On energy — which more than ever is the focus of Ottawa’s lobbying efforts in Washington as the anti-oil sands movement gathers momentum — it’s a foregone conclusion that Team Obama’s efforts toward a single epic climate bill now are dead.
Short-term political gain, in the form of increased respect for and sales from the tar sands, making the Canadian dollar even more embedded as a petro-dollar, and increased sales of products to the U.S. economy is not in the Canadian long-term interest at all. We do not want a more fully integrated economy with the U.S. and the Canadian government's position on global warming and climate change is aardvaarkian in the extreme.
While we all know that some $2 billion in trade already flows across the 49th parallel, most of it going south, and this is not a complaint about those figures, this "Washington insider" take on the upcoming elections in the U.S., obviously from a Republican source, is more an indication of the kind of short-term thinking and reporting that characterizes much of today's political discourse and reporting.
Long-term, the tar sands is not a good project for either Canada or the U.S. although, in the short term, there are some transitional advantages to both countries. In Canada, there is the obvious fact that we are the largest supplier of fossil fuels to the U.S., and that is both short-term "good news" and long-term "bad" news for Canada. As the U.S. transitions away from dependence on fossil fuels, and the quicker the better, such sales will no longer be sustainable. And in that instance both countries will, hopefully, have made the long overdue transition to renewable fuels.
With respect to increased sales of manufactured products to the U.S., there is certainly no guarantee that Republicans will be more "global" in their approach to imports than Democrats, especially when, in the medium and longer term, the current policies including infra-structure stimulus and tax-breaks to innovative business ventures will prove both viable and worthy of congressional support, even if controlled by Republicans.
But let's not write the obituary of the Democrats in the November elections just yet.
The Tea Party wins this week do not spell sweet for Republicans, since, as one caller to NPR's On Point yesterday put it, "The Republicans may well be swallowed up by the Tea Party, an indivious collection of intellectually empty and socially irresponsible organizers and candidates who, while providing primary focus and target for American frustration, will not be able to govern, if elected, and more likely will not be electable when the voters see what they offer, in comparison with what the Democrats under Obama have already accomplished in a toxic, hostile political environment.