Articles by David Orchard
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The StarPhoenix, Friday, March 20, 2009

Let's stand on our own two feet

David Orchard
Following is the viewpoint of the writer, a Saskatchewan farmer and the Liberal candidate for the Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River riding in the last federal election.

For decades we have endured the unrelenting promotion of the virtues of deregulation, free trade, privatization and globalization.

Canadian ownership of its corporations became passé. Institutions and programs serving Canadians were swept away.

Free markets were the future and any "barriers" inefficient relics. Government itself was best dismantled as far as possible. Canada should integrate its economy into the U.S. and, for greater efficiency, adopt the greenback, we were told.

Those who objected, including Liberal leader John Turner who led the fight against the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, were vilified as Luddites, protectionists and xenophobic.

Some of yesterday's preachers for an unregulated, borderless world now have turned 180 degrees. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who until recently promoted further deregulation of our financial sector by slamming "protectionists" and "socialists," now brag about Canada's independent banking and financial institutions. Separatist leaders, who said they didn't need the Canadian market any more, are alarmed at Quebec's dependence on a U.S. economy that's in free-fall. Former advocates of adopting the U.S. dollar now laud Canada's financial system as a model for the world.

We who fought to maintain our sovereignty and institutions watch in disbelief.

Yet, incomprehensibly, the drum beat for even deeper integration into the U.S. continues. Its promoters see Barack Obama's election as a golden opportunity. Former foreign affairs minister David Emerson says Canadians are "less defensive" now. Decrying the "tyranny of small differences" between Canada and the U.S., he says now is "an opportunity to really carry a much bigger vision ... of North America as an economic and environmental and security entity."

What Emerson and his colleagues brazenly propose is to adopt a North American border and U.S. foreign policy, and to end Canada's sovereignty.

Handing our resources and corporations to foreign owners has cost Canadians billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. To our surprise, we now learn that the "globalized" world has not followed suit, that 77 per cent of the world's oil belongs to national oil companies, not multinationals.

While America has a national energy policy aimed at self-sufficiency, national energy security and domestic control, Canada does not. Our leaders seem terrified at the very idea. So Quebecers, Atlantic Canadians and almost half of Ontarians depend on imported oil, and all Canadians pay an outrageous "world price" for a resource we own in abundance.

And the bottom line of this policy?

After decades of pumping oil south at giveaway royalties, Alberta is in deficit and about to tap its small heritage savings fund of $14 billion. Norway, in a similar oil-rich position, has saved its oil profits (some $400 billion in its heritage fund) and kept its industry in Norwegian hands. Canada has not saved a penny.

Are the Norwegians -- whose standard of living exceeds Canada's -- Luddites and protectionists, or simply good managers?

For years I have advocated a Canadian industrial policy built on our needs -- embracing our own ship building industry, east-west energy security, a domestic farm machinery and a manufacturing base that includes a cutting edge Canadian automobile sector. Instead of fostering a clean Canadian car, our government has billions ready to bail out the foreign-owned industry, which we don't control and whose track record is neither cutting edge nor clean.

No great power has arisen by relying on foreign ownership; yet following the disastrous giveaway of our steel industry, Ottawa is ready to give away more industries including -- by destroying the Canadian Wheat Board --delivering the western grain trade to foreign hands.

Already, more than half the country's manufacturing profits go to foreign owners. Instead of continuing the giveaway of our economy under a thoroughly discredited ideology of globalization, we should enhance control of what we have.

We could start by constructing an east-west electricity super-grid to allow existing hydro power from Newfoundland, Manitoba, B.C. and Quebec to flow across Canada. This would reduce costs, attract industry, make new nuclear stations unnecessary and help bind Canada together. There would be no more Ontario blackouts.

Our parents built an international airline, the world's third largest shipping fleet and the world's fastest jet interceptor, the Avro Arrow. Their parents constructed the country's great railways and national infrastructure.

Canada's founders conceived of a powerful country that was nobody's satellite. Louis Riel spoke of Canada as a visionary nation where the oppressed of the Earth could come. Georges-Etienne Cartier and John A. Macdonald saw Canada becoming a continental power.

What would they say to those who have allowed the selloff of Canada's companies, dismantled its institutions and now go cap in hand, pleading to bid on bit pieces of U.S. contracts and beg to become part of a "North American entity?"

All this precisely when U.S. power has peaked and is fading fast, while ours, with a spark of leadership, could begin to emerge.

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