Thursday, August 31, 2006

On wrongful intervention

The Star picks up on the Bushco softwood slush fund story. And in case anybody thought there might be some shame about redirecting money which rightfully belongs to Canadian lumber producers to partisan political purposes this fall, think again:
Although no one is suggesting the money will go directly to fund political campaigns, some critics are expressing the concern that worthwhile projects, like low-cost housing, could take on a partisan flavour if announced by a Republican senator or member of the House of Representatives in a tough race.

But Michael Hart, the Simon Reisman Professor of Trade Policy at Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Relations, suggested that Feldman was being naive in suggesting that politics should not play a role in how the funding will be handed out...

Hart said that under the deal, the U.S. could settle only with the consent of the U.S. lumber industry.

"If that means low-cost housing in Katrina-devastated areas, so be it," he said. "If it means that the low-cost housing is going to be in Republican Congressional districts, that's politics. It's still low-cost housing."
What's truly remarkable is that Bush is apparently still pulling all the strings even as Canada bankrolls his party's reelection efforts. And the sheer absurdity of the Cons' managing to have lost out on every aspect of the deal only highlights both the Cons' woeful excuse for negotiating ability, and Harper's willingness to put his relationship with Bush ahead of the best interests of Canadians.

Meanwhile, the article points out that the idea of such a sellout didn't originate with the Cons, as the Libs were also looking for excuses to grease palms to get a deal done:
The Martin government named trade expert Gordon Ritchie, and former Bombardier president Paul Tellier, to explore possible agreements on the softwood dispute.

"I said, in so many words, `The U.S. industry isn't entitled to a penny of this money; we will hold our noses and pay a bribe to bring peace to the industry — but there are limits to our tolerance there, and half the money will not go to the U.S. industry, but will go to jointly agreed, constructive initiatives,'" Ritchie, whose involvement ended a year ago, told the Star.
Mind you, there's some difference between any standard of "jointly agreed" projects, and the total U.S. control reflected in the Cons' draft. But the Libs' willingness to enter into a similar structure will probably create a message that selling out is a sign of pragmatism rather than weakness - at least until it's too late to undo the harm that the Cons' capitulation may do to both the American political system and Canada's lumber industry.

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