- Yves Engler thoroughly discusses how the Harper Cons' foreign policy has included bullying countries around the world into placing the profits Canadian mining interests over the needs of their own citizens - and the effect that action has had on Canada's reputation:
Under Harper all levels of Canadian diplomacy have promoted mining. Anthony Bebbington, director of the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University, told the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in February 2012 that a "sub-secretary in a [Latin American] ministry of energy and mines" told him "as far as I can tell, the Canadian ambassador here is a representative for Canadian mining companies." The Massachusetts-based academic also quoted an unnamed Latin American environment minister, who complained about Canadian lobbying and mining, saying: "I don't know if Canada has been quite so discredited in its history."- And recognizing the difference between Canada's actual economy and the narrow interests being pushed by the Harper Cons, Thomas Walkom suggests that our premiers work together on the former point without expecting the federal government to offer any help at all.
Further south, the Conservatives signed a free trade agreement largely to protect $5 billion in Canadian mining investment in Peru from the type of legislative changes Ecuador implemented. Signed in the midst of intense mining conflict, the 2010 trade agreement -- with environmental and labour safeguards "even weaker than NAFTA's" -- was designed to remove any future Peruvian government's ability to change mining regulations or to expropriate the properties of Canadian companies. In June 2011 indigenous Aymara in eastern Peru led a wave of anti-mining protests. Six protesters were killed when 1,000 demonstrators tried to occupy the Inca Manco Capac Airport near Lake Titicaca. In response to the protests the Ministry of Mines and Energy withdrew Vancouver-based Bear Creek Mining's concession to develop a silver deposit. After the company's concession was withdrawn Bear Creek CEO Andrew Swarthout threatened the Ministry.
In at least one case the Conservatives established diplomatic relations with a country simply to serve mining interests. In April 2008 Agence France Presse reported: "Canada will establish a new trade mission in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, this year to help Canadian companies active in the region's mining sector."
With some 20 Canadian mining companies active in the country, Canada was the second largest investor in Mongolia. Ottawa's biggest concern was Vancouver-based Ivanhoe, which owned a copper and gold project in the Gobi desert. This $6 billion project, noted the Financial Post, "was the major campaign issue" in Mongolia's 2008 election. In April 2006 at least 3,000 people marched against foreign mining in Mongolia's capital, with protesters burning an effigy of Ivanhoe's Robert Friedland. The ire directed towards Friedland was partly because of comments he made in 2005. Friedland explained his Mongolian venture to an investor's conference this way: "So we're coming in from outer space and landing at Oyu Tolgoi... And the nice thing about this: there's no people around; the land is flat, there's no tropical jungle; there's no NGOs. We're only 70 kilometres from the Chinese border. It does not snow here. You've got lots of room for waste dumps." The company also took heat for loaning $50 million to the government in exchange for tax concessions.
The Conservatives actively lobbied the Mongolian government on behalf of Ivanhoe. A Globe and Mail Report on Business headline described a Jan. 2008 trip to Mongolia by Trade Minister David Emerson (who joined the board of a mining company after he left public office): "Emerson to push for Ivanhoe deal in Mongolia." As part of its efforts to woo the country's decision-makers, the Conservatives doled out tens of millions of dollars in aid to Mongolia. In Aug. 2011 development minister Oda visited Mongolia and CIDA ramped up its funding to a country with limited historic ties to Canada.
- Susan Delacourt wonders whether conditional promises will turn out to be one of the lasting political developments of Canada's 2011 election campaign. But I'm far from sure we should see that development as a plus to the extent it offers an excuse for inaction based on outside factors which may or may not be beyond a government's control: better instead to identify problems and paths to solve them which will be pursued to the extent possible, rather than announcing massive promises coupled with an intention not to start pursuing them until much later.
- Finally, John Moore follows up David Macdonald's demolition of the Fraser Institute's spin on inequality and poverty with a rebuttal based on his personal experience:
The Fraser Institute study hinges on the false premise that because someone starts their career in the salary basement, they are necessarily “poor,” in the sense of the word that is commonly understood. By that assumption, a 22-year-old commerce-degree holder from a first-rate university who’s doing a Bay Street internship while sleeping on a friend’s sofa is exactly the same as a high-school drop-out from the wrong side of the tracks who will spend the rest of her career working the cash at a supermarket. Almost all of us set out from the same set of starters blocks, but we’re not all running the same race.
There’s no doubt that some poor people do manage to lift themselves out of poverty. One of my radio listeners wrote to tell me about being born in Montreal’s Griffintown to a family of six kids. She put herself through night school working for $80 a week at Dominion Textile and today is a highly successful career woman. That is a great story of grit and determination. Probably also luck and mentoring. But it’s not a common one. And to pretend it’s the story of most Canadians ignores issues of poverty, race, status, gender, education and countless other variables that factor into lifetime economic outcomes.
Far from blowing myths out of the water, the Fraser Institute is merely muddying the currents.