Thursday, November 4, 2010

Self-serving politics and price-fixing behind potash decision?

By Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, Novermb 4, 2010
Rather, the federal government blocked the proposed takeover by Australia’s BHP Billiton for the oldest and crassest of reasons: to do otherwise risked the 13 Commons seats currently held by the Conservatives in Saskatchewan.

As for the province’s government, its interest was not, as Premier Brad Wall insisted, just in protecting Canadian resources from grasping foreigners.
Nor was Wall, as he told the Star recently, striving to ensure that the 21st century belongs to Canada.
The Saskatchewan premier opposed the takeover because he feared BHP might wreck the cozy cartel arrangement his province has been using to keep world potash prices high
As he told a Toronto business audience recently, his government feared not only that the Australian company might crank up potash production but that it would withdraw from Canpotex, a marketing agency established by the province.
If Walkom is right, we see the preservation of 13 conservative seats, and the capacity to fix world prices at the bottom of the decision, and we wonder why there is cynicism about politics today.
Both of these reasons are self-serving in the extreme. Neither of these reasons would make those people in our recent past who championed our nation's economic interests, and cautioned vociferously against foreign takeovers, happy. Mel Hurtig, Pierre Burton and even Maude Barlow in an earlier life would not be inspired by the decision.
And when merely numbers are introduced, in the Prime Minister's words, "just looking at the facts," in the House of Commons during question period, and when those numbers take over the broader questions, the decision looks just like another Bay Street board room decision.
Isn't it interesting that the Prime Minister is prepared to spend $16 billion of taxpayers' money to protect what he calls "Arctic sovereignty" when there is really no Arctic sovereignty to protect, by purchasing 65 F-35 fighter jets, so that he can look like Captain Canada in a Canadian Forces uniform, and generate headlines in the mentally frozen boardrooms from which he hopes to generate campaign funds for his next campaign, while at the same time, he 'covers his ass' on two fronts in the potash decision.
Even Ignatieff's support for 'just say no' on this one is at least supportable in the fact that he does not have more than a single seat in Saskatchewan, Ralph Goodale, albeit a loyal and competent political soldier for the Liberals during this decade of chastisement, for which to fight. At least there might be a vestige of nationalistic spirit in his thinking.
Is this decision, by Harper, announced by his lackey, Tony Clement, he of the infamous porkbarrel spending to spruce up his riding for the G-8/G-20, another step to the enhancement of provincial power at the expense of Ottawa?
Is the country moving not so inexorably in the direction of being little more than a cluster of autonomous provinces, with the cover of a couple of national symbols like a currency, a few military forces with limited equipment and a postal service? There is certainly considerable evidence to support such a claim.
Pierre Trudeau must be turing over in his grave, with the latest developments.
Mel Hurtig must be shaking his head at the tragedy that was "Canada's national interests" when he conceived of the Company of Canadians and even ventured into the national political arena with his fervent pitch. Even Paul Hellyer has been roused to write a strong and convincing piece detailing the failures of previous governments to hold foreign corporate interests to their commitments in their purchase/takeover of Canadian companies like Stelco, Inco, Falconbridge and MacMillan Bloedel.
The preservation of something resembling a national resource based reservoir needs more than the cheap motives of holding on to political power and price fixing in a world gone mad with globalization to hold up to Canadian citizens. We deserve better. Yet if we continue to remain silent and impotent in the face of the tsunami's of "foreign"cash that want our resource-based industries, and then turn their backs on our workers, and on those commitments they made when they needed to "look good" in the eyes of the Foreign Investment Review panels, perhaps we do not deserve better.
Certainly, our current political leaders are not even creative in their crassness and their self-serving cynicism, while taking the public for stooges who might buy their high sounding rhetoric.
At least Walkom is not about to be seduced. Can we hope for others to join his prescience?

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