Thursday, February 03, 2011

On advantageous choices

There's plenty to quibble with in James Travers' latest. But the most important point seems to be an assumption Travers (rightly) makes about the U.S. which seldom seems to be considered true in Canada:
Living next door to the elephant makes the mouse nervous. Long and sometimes bitter experience — remember P.E.I. potatoes and softwood lumber? — teach that Americans are relentless, as they should be, in pursuing national advantage.
Which would seem to be an entirely reasonable expectation from Canada's governments at all levels as well. But from softwood lumber to fighter jets, the Harper government's pattern in dealing with the U.S. in particular is one of signing stunningly bad deals for the sake of being able to claim to have done something, then forcing Canada to accept the terms and costs. And at all levels, the current discourse tends to assume far too often that governments' interactions with businesses and peers should be based on catering to elite whims rather than looking for possible public advantage.

Of course, there's ample room for debate as to where that advantage may lie. But given the recognition that our trading partners and other actors will rightly look to protect and develop their own interests, it's long past time for us to demand that our governments do the same on our behalf.

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