- Thomas Walkom points out that with oil prices in free fall, we're now seeing the inevitable consequences of the Cons' plan to build an economy solely around unstable resource revenues:
Sensible countries try to lessen their dependence on volatile commodities. Canada, whose economy has been dominated by resource exports since the 16th century, spent much effort over the years trying to do break free from this dependence — usually by encouraging secondary manufacturing.- Meanwhile, Bill Curry points out how a drop in resource prices will affect the Cons' budgeting in the short term. And Raphael Lopoukhine notes that there's reason for doubt that investors will want to be involved in Harper's planned petro-state as increased costs of production meet lowered revenues for the dirtiest tar sands projects.
The aim was to diversify the economy so that offsetting forces were created. A fall in oil prices, for instance, might hurt Alberta’s petroleum sector. But the consequent cheap energy would aid Ontario manufacturers and the country could keep on an even keel.
For years, this was the unstated theory behind what was in effect a crude form of industrial strategy.
Much of the time, it more or less worked.
Harper has his own unspoken industrial policy. It can be summed up in a word: pipelines.
The Conservatives have used federal government power to override or repeal any kind of environmental regulation that might interfere with the export of oil, by pipeline, from the tarsands.
Harper wants pipelines from Alberta to reach the Pacific coast, the Gulf of Mexico and New Brunswick — all to transport oil that, if prices continue their slump, will be uneconomic to ship.
The fall in oil prices does, on its own, create some countervailing offsets. Low oil prices mean a low Canadian dollar; a low dollar benefits Canadian manufacturers exporting to the U.S.
But for this low dollar to work effectively there must be enough Canadian manufacturers willing to take advantage of it.
Thanks in part to globalization and in part to the actions of this particular government, there aren’t.
- Seth Klein challenges the business lobby's constant griping about even the most basic steps to offer workers a reasonable standard of living - such as a fair minimum wage.
- Dylan Robertson reports on the Parliamentary Budget Officer's latest recognition that the Cons aren't willing to provide accurate information about the costs of their plans to anybody - even the office created specifically to ensure transparency in budgeting.
- And finally, the Star's editorial board makes the case for a national pharmacare program.