Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jim Stanford responds to the claim that we should be eager to import whatever capital we can for lack of other means of developing our own resources:
Measured by foreign direct investment, Canada has been exporting capital, not importing it. During the four years ending 2011, Canadian companies invested almost $75-billion more in their own foreign subsidiaries than foreign companies invested here. By this measure, too, Canada supplies capital to the rest of the world, not the other way around.

Even if we simply equate foreign capital with “money,” we clearly don’t need it. Canadian non-financial businesses are sitting on $600-billion in cash balances (“dead money,” in Mark Carney’s parlance). After-tax corporate cash flow substantially exceeds new capital spending, so that stockpile is growing even further. Business has deleveraged dramatically: Debt-equity ratios are at their lowest levels in decades. Corporations could clearly releverage if money were genuinely in short supply – and Canada’s resilient banking system would be happy to oblige.

There are certainly cases when foreign investment adds value to a project: supplying proprietary technology or expertise, integrating Canadian operations into global product development plans, accessing international marketing opportunities. In those cases, I fully support more foreign investment. But none of these criteria fit the CNOOC and Petronas cases. Those takeovers add nothing to our economic capacity to develop and sell our resources. The only thing these foreign investors bring to the table is money – and we’ve got plenty of that. Our real national capacity to produce isn’t enhanced by these transactions, and may actually be undermined (given the risks posed by foreign control over a strategic, non-renewable resource).

In short, there’s no real economic sense in which Canada truly needs foreign capital (whether physical, human or financial) to develop our own natural resources. We’re quite capable of doing it ourselves, thank you – and we’d be much better off if we did it that way.
- Meanwhile, Michael Laxer comments on the human cost of prioritizing price cuts over all else. And Les Leopold documents how the wealthiest Americans have succeeded in hijacking public policy for their own purposes.

- And there's little doubt that the same is happening at home, with Michael Geist pointing out how the TPP is being forced through in total secrecy to ensure that citizens don't know what we're losing in the name of investor protections.

- Heather Mallick writes that Saskatchewan's latest provincial time capsule serves as an example of how our (official) records are both boring and lacking in substance:
Carpet swatches from the legislative chamber. An iPad manual. (Not an iPad. Just the manual.) A photo of Premier Brad Wall. A list of 2012 curling champions. Barley seeds. Chickpea seeds. Other seeds. A photo of the legislature’s cafeteria’s price list. A report from the Saskatchewan Provincial Constituency Boundaries Commission. A photo of an owl. A description of the previous time capsule from 1909, which appears to consist of a very thin phonebook.

“I hope these items convey to those 100 years hence the optimism and the energy, the vibrancy that is Saskatchewan today,” said Premier Brad Wall. I hope they don’t, sir.
Time capsules should be marvels, nuggets from life as it was actually lived: ketamine, locks of bleached hair, shiny things. Instead, left up to the politicians and protocol officers, they become encased festivals of propriety and quiescence. For every piece of birch bark biting (bark that native Canadians decorated with teeth marks), we have a copy of SaskBusiness Magazine’s “Top 100” companies in Saskatchewan for 2012.

Could anything be more stale? What this time capsule says is, “Behind all this dusty paper, people all over the vast grasslands of Saskatchewan were dusty.” I hope this isn’t true, but in this year of 2112, there will be no evidence to the contrary.
- Finally, Gerald Caplan discusses how bullying has become the default governing style for right-wing Canadian governments - even as most Canadians recognize it as both wrong and contrary to our national identity:
Bullying and abusing opponents is a way of life for Toronto’s mayor, and hundreds of thousands of Torontonians – the “Ford Nation” – still seem to love it. He won close to half of all votes cast in a three-man mayoralty race, and even now, after two years of enough self-inflicted wounds to finish off a T-Rex, he still commands significant support. Only the rash would bet against his re-election. Olivia Chow, be warned!

Maybe the traditional hype about us Canadians being such a caring, sharing bunch is all wrong. The evidence that we actually cherish bullies is pretty impressive. Our public broadcaster knows that. On the one hand, CBC Radio is awash in earnest little anti-bullying segments. On the other, you can barely turn on CBC TV without finding that menacing Dragon, Kevin O’Leary, glowering at you from one or another of his innumerable shows. “Business is war,” proclaims Mr. O’Leary. “I go out there, I want to kill the competitors. I want to make their lives miserable. I want to steal their market share. I want them to fear me.”

This is the very same CBC that the Conservatives and their Sun media pals demonize for its flagrant left-wing anti-business bias. And whose Don Cherry will be back sooner or later, another fine role model and champion for kids of every age.

You’d think Stephen Harper would embrace this new and nasty CBC as his government moves steadily to demolish the caring, sharing identity Canadians used to revel in. The Conservative technique for smearing their opponents is simply a form of political bullying. And it’s been enormously successful. They’ve made chopped liver of Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff and have begun their assault on Thomas Mulcair. As columnist Lawrence Martin reminds us, the PM “is still running a campaign of lies” against Mr. Mulcair on the carbon-tax issue, and Martin confidently predicts that “Harper’s attacks on [Justin] Trudeau will be vicious."


  1. Kristina D7:50 p.m.

    Ugh. When will politics become about people again?

    Where have all the true leaders gone? Do they exist anymore? I digress.

    I guess political corruption has been a part of humanity for as long as humans have desired power...but it doesn't make it any less frustrating.

    It reminds me of this video I recently saw:

  2. Anonymous10:00 a.m.

    To all,

    As usual, Caplan is lost. The "bullying" that he describes is mostly interpreted by the public as "righteous indignation".

    The cast of characters he cites are all populist performers. They recognize the hidden bitterness & rage lurking within the wider general audience. They make a sincere attempt at channeling 'it' against specific enemies & policies.

    Jack Layton was such a performer. He avoided complexity & embraced simplicity, mercilessly defined his enemies as threats to all hard-working people, and presented himself as an invincible gladiator acting on their behalf.

    Successful politics requires the mobilization of men. Here, you must seduce the arrogant and ill-informed (who are in the majority).

    Successful policy requires honesty & complexity. Here, you are free to discriminate against the ill-mannered & ignorant (whose numbers are irrelevant).

    Caplan confuses the two.

  3. Anonymous10:51 a.m.

    Why would you make a time capsule and let everyone know what's in it? I mean, people living one hundred years from now will have no need to look in it, because they'll probably already have electronic records of what it contains. Does Brad Wall think it's going to be hard for people living in the future to look up his picture?