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Clashing Trade Theories and a Common Challenge

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump appear diametrically opposed on international trade and paths to domestic prosperity, at least in rhetoric, and to some extent in real policy. Granted, they are proving more constrained than they would like: long-established bi-national associations, and enduring internal divisions, modify practice.   They also puzzle both friendly and hostile critics, not only due to their individual singularities, but because both international affairs and domestic economic developments have become more confusing over the last three decades. The wider publics in both countries probably remain more unsettled by rapid socioeconomic changes than by threats of nuclear incineration. And while both leaders can cite some good economic news at present, Trump especially, neither 'market globalism' nor 'populist nationalism' have been all that persuasively demonstrated as bringing joy to the majority of citizens.   Neither the Prime Minister nor the President are all that unusual among democratic political leaders in presenting ideological and over-simplified explanations of economic happenings. In fact, both are appealing to opposing arguments about the effects of trade barriers that have not changed a great deal in a century. But this makes it easy to forget that the rising levels of political discontent since the 1990s are not all that closely bound to trading relationships at all.   International trade certainly remains what both of them like making noise about. Trump has continued much of his election campaign rhetoric as First Tweeter. Trudeau favours gestures. Shortly after being elected, he changed the Foreign Affairs Department into a 'Global' one under Chrstia Freeland, although retaining a subordinate Minister for Trade and International Development.   He has also recently boasted that, while signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord, he has much improved on the version accepted by Stephen Harper, with more bells and whistles. More narrowly but more concretely,… Read More

Presidents, sacred texts, and their helpful scribes

Le bon Dieu n'en avait que dix! --George Clemenceau (1841-1929), 'Le Tigre', Premier of France 1917-1920, on Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, proclaimed on January 8, 1918. *** Donald Trump's National Security Strategy speech of December 18 contained some of his usual rhetoric, but was prosaic and conventional compared to his last standards. The speech was in a long tradition. American Presidents, far more than leaders of other countries, have repeatedly been fond of producing grand public declarations of principles in foreign affairs. The most famous, or notorious, appeared exactly a century ago: Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. They somewhat resembled, as Clemenceau sourly observed, God's Laws brought down from the mountaintop to instruct the peoples of the world, but with more ambiguous impact. They did guarantee some permanent fascination with Wilson himself. Other such pronouncements, earlier or later, while also identified with the Presidents who made them, have usually been recognized as also revealing wider currents of ideas and the backstage advisers who helped form them: The Monroe Doctrine, for example, was in both theory and practice, more the achievement of John Quincy Adams and British Foreign Secretary George Canning than of President Monroe, and the recent one of George Bush was largely shaped by neoconservative policy wonks. But this backstage aspect has received less attention in the case of the Fourteen Points. Wilson was a PhD. in political science and prolific scholarly author, of books on government, the classic academic intellectual in public affairs. Nonetheless, his Points had been constructed with the aid of his own kind of brains trust, and reveal more about the American 'progressive' ideology of their time than of war and diplomacy in 1917-18. They have also cast long shadows in American dealings with the world ever since. Wilson's list included some straightforward war aims, like… Read More

The Year of the Pot: A Fantasia

  [May be sung to the air of 'California Dreaming']   Old taboos are down, and state gays are gay; Pardoned by the crown, Justin's sunny way. Natives cease to frown, star in P. M.'s play; Marijuana's coming, so provinces make hay.   It was Justin's vision, in his bold campaign, But did not envision, how he would attain; So he drew young voters, he dare not disappoint; Or they'll turn to floaters, ceasing to anoint.   Quebec is still resisting, legal reefers' lure; Government insisting, for us no high bonjour; Still would like a big tax, should demand increase; Growers in their pot shacks, will greet new Pot Police.   Albertans don't worry, lack Quebec's alarms; Wildcatters now hurry, to plant their dreaming farms. Real estate's declining, oil no longer hot; To keep on gourmet dining, time to bet on pot.   Cash and pot will change hands, on Pacific coasts; Okanagan prime brands, are a special boast. Speed boats filled with hash bricks, take their slice of pie; Armed to prevent cash tricks, crews already high.   On Atlantic waters, more smuggling may return, As Newfie antic plotters replace their fish with fern. Nightly trucks in convoys, transfer leaf to boats; Bringing bucks for old boys, all in U.S. notes.   New taxes hit our lumber, as thump of Trump is heard; But do not ruin our slumber. as all our loins regird; Our U.S. trade may flourish, one export always sold; We merely need to nourish, our Acapulco Gold.   The reefers go back aeons, but always in hot climes; Brought joy to sweating peons, relief from tiresome times. But never has the weed smoke blown over wintry lands So pray it's not a grim joke, a stink bomb in our hands.   If a bomb it… Read More

Should stadiums receive public funding?

The renovation has started a familiar debate over whether or not the costs of arenas and stadiums should be paid for by the public, giving the billionaire owners of teams a place to play on the taxpayers dollar. Despite my love of baseball, and my hope that the Expos will return to Montreal, I believe that stadiums should come at the cost of the team owner and not the taxpayer, unless the benefits should equal or outweigh the cost. When former Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was defeated in the recent Montreal municipal election, many sports fans said that the dream of baseball died with him. However, new Mayor Valerie Plante has said that she won't use public money to finance a new stadium or team without a referendum. Even though Montrealers would likely vote against spending hundreds of millions of their tax dollars to bring a MLB team back, I think Plante has the right idea. According to a 2013 study by the Montreal Baseball project, it would cost over a billion dollars for a baseball team to return, including the project quoting “while 33 per cent ($335 million)would come from government”. Even with the return of the Expos, and the jobs it would create, that is a very high price to pay. I would be alright with paying public money for a new stadium if the municipal government does hold a referendum and the majority votes vote yes. Even if a yes vote occurred, I would need to be convinced by the team’s ownership group that the benefits of a new stadium and team, (an increase in jobs, tourism, economic boom, etc), would be worth the costs. As many die-hard Expos fans know, it wasn't the lack of fan support that killed the Expos. The Olympic Stadium and poor… Read More

Why Canada should rethink its immigration policy

Despite pro-immigration “diversity is our strength” platitudes/rhetoric coming from the Federal Liberals, the facts are starting to show that this may not be true. PhD student Sanjay Jeram, who was quoted in a column by Douglas Todd for the Vancouver Sun, said, “Housing, employment, urban congestion, the welfare state and training are all affected by Canadian immigration policy”. With 300,000 people entering the country each year (to put that in perspective, it’s the population of Laval is 420,000) it’s fair to ask how those numbers are bearing out. Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta are the provinces that carry the biggest burden when it comes to accepting new immigrants. Ontario is leading the way, receiving a staggering 52 per cent of new immigrants—the grand majority of which are going to Toronto, and Quebec amd British Columbia receiving 17 and 16 per cent, respectively. The Globe and Mail claimed that, out of one million immigrants this government plans to take in, 58 per cent will be economic, 27 per cent family class and 14 per cent will be refugees. While 58 per cent being economic immigrants might sound nice, the fact is even the most well-educated immigrants coming to Canada have a difficult time acquiring work in the country within the first five years of arrival, according to a Global News article. This puts a tremendous burden on our welfare system. Furthermore, “millionaire migrants,” as described in David Ley's book of the same name, showed that many were paying less taxes on average than other immigrants and refugees, and not declaring their global assets. This once again puts tremendous short-term strain on landed immigrants and natives alike. Wealth inequality has also risen more quickly in Canada than it has in the United States over the last decade, according to the Canadian… Read More

Trudeau’s approach to the TPP is a good sign for Canada

Negotiating a deal that would secure fair trade with 11 nations, including some of the world’s biggest economies, is not easy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after taking his time to announce any progress with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), has declined to sign an agreement in principal to finalize the TPP, according to several sources. Trudeau has come under intense scrutiny, from media at home and abroad, for not showing up to a meeting about the TPP in Vietnam and delaying the TPP talks further. Trudeau nonetheless maintains that it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. Despite the reaction from most people, and his stubbornness, I agree with how Trudeau has handled the situation. In a deal that is as far-reaching, and because of how much of Canada’s economy will be effected in this deal, Trudeau should be focused on what is best for Canada. If being stubborn on the terms, and missing out on a meeting, secures Canada a better deal, the negative press is worth it. There have already been changes made to the deal regarding the automotive sector—a vital part of Canada’s economy. I find that Canada has been far too timid in past economic deals, and it is refreshing to see a Prime-Minister, especially one in the Liberal party, take a stand for the well-being of Canada’s economic future. I like Trudeau’s firm stance on the TPP for one specific reason, and it actually goes beyond the reach of the TPP. With ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks becoming increasingly difficult, this can serve as practice for when Trudeau must eventually come to terms with U.S President Donald Trump. Trump has chosen to remove the United States from the agreement, prompting re-negotiations. The NAFTA agreement, should it be reinstated, will effect cross-boarder relations with… Read More
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