National Post, Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Domestic cars and a national grid
David Orchard, Special to the National Post
In the lead-up to the Jan. 27 federal budget, the
National Post has asked prominent Canadians to tell us
what kind of fiscal blueprint our country needs. Here's
what they told us, in 250 words or less.
The most productive government spending is on people.
Investment in training and education is returned
manifold over recipients' working lifetimes. Canada has
a much-reported shortage of skilled labour, yet many
Canadians are unemployed or underemployed, with no
opportunity for training in the skills required.
The situation is particularly striking in aboriginal
communities across Canada where the unemployment rate is
often 80%. Federal leadership and training support could
— and should — provide skills, and hence opportunities,
where they are needed.
A large high-risk bailout package is in the works for
the U. S. auto industry in Canada. This money could
instead be targeted to create and foster a domestically
owned and controlled Canadian auto industry with all the
attendant long-term benefits.
Canada has no east-west electricity grid. During the
electrical blackout in Ontario the lights in Quebec and
Manitoba were on. Those provinces had surplus power they
were trying to sell into the United States. Ontario and
some other provinces are looking to build more costly
nuclear stations to achieve provincial self-sufficiency.
Instead, with federal leadership, we should plan, and
then construct, a national electricity grid that will
allow Newfoundland, Manitoba, Quebec and B. C.
electricity to find a home in other Canadian provinces.
This would rationalize our existing infrastructure,
yield cost savings and leave the country feeling linked
together. First Nations and Metis should be fully
involved in all steps from the initial discussions to
the supervisory and construction roles.
A domestic auto industry and a national electricity
grid are two big ideas that could energize our economy
and inspire Canadians.
David Orchard, a farmer and author, ran for the
Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 1998 and
2003. He was a Liberal candidate in the 2008 election
for the northern Saskatchewan riding of