The Liberals are having a bad month: blame ideology



On trade issues, the global free traders who constitute our federal Liberal government are supposed to be the masters. Instead, they have in the past several weeks encountered rebuffs.

  • China has handed us our hats and asked ‘what’s your hurry?’ The Chinese did not want to make our free trade deal contingent upon extending various labour rights, employment equity provisions, and other crunchy granola to the Chinese populace.
  • Canada has angered long time allies Japan and Australia by intransigent demands in the Trans- Pacific Partnership trade talks.
  • The US is proposing absurd demands of its own in the NAFTA re-negotiations.

I cite Andrew Coyne who, on trade matters, is  sane.

If there is a common thread, in particular, it seems to be the Liberals’ insistence that agreements on liberalized trade should also commit the signatories, disparate in outlook and development though they may be, to Liberal Party of Canada policies on labour, gender, indigenous rights and climate change.

It is not clear what business these have in a trade deal, or why the economic interests of this country should be hostage to the project of imposing “progressive” values on other countries that are not even universally shared in our own. Certainly our negotiating partners have a right to be wary, for fine-sounding principles have a way of being turned to protectionist ends: seemingly even-handed environmental policies, for example, that just happen to hit other countries’ industries harder than our own.

Terry Glavin is one of the few who can still rouse himself to fury at China’s “gangster state”, as he calls it:

In a recent analysis prepared for Global Affairs Canada, Ottawa’s Centre for the Study of Living Standards calculates that at least 150,000 Canadian jobs were lost to Chinese imports during the first decade of this century, and at least 100,000 of those jobs were in manufacturing….

The Communist Party elites have amassed fortunes to themselves equal to the Gross Domestic Product of Sweden. They have the money, the guns, the technology, the numbers, the UN votes, the lot. And now Beijing is openly and explicitly waging an ideological global war against democracy, the rule of law, free speech, the “rules based” global economic order, the whole schmeer. They’re quite candid about it, too.

So let’s see: the Liberals are cosying up to China, snubbing the Japanese-Australian Trans-Pacific Partnership, and getting nowhere with NAFTA (not entirely their fault). Also they are not getting pipelines built to export Albertan oil. Since Alberta is now paying for Confederation, but is in recession, and Ontario is heading into the toilet, long-term, with politicized energy pricing and grotesque levels of debt. Am I missing something?

The reason I do not comment much on politics in Canada is that there are only a few issues we have to get right.

  • Relationships with Quebec
  • Relationships with the United States
  • Management of our economy

Quebec is quiet, but holds up pipelines and continues to be subsidized excessively by English Canada, particularly by Alberta. It is better managed under Premier Couillard than at any time since the 1960s.

Relationships with the US are so-so, or only as good as Trump wants them to be.

Overspending continues in Ontario and Ottawa, and one of the few tasks of the federal government, to build piplines and unify the country, is left undone. Quebec, by contrast, is starting to be run effectively.

If I were the federal Liberals, I might begin to be concerned. This government may not be turned out in the next election, but I am beginning to think their re-election is not as secure as it seemed a year ago.