Friday, January 22, 2010

On trade-offs

Environmental Defence makes a great point about the consequences of the Cons' attempt to pretend that what's good for tar sands operators must be good for the rest of the country:
A recent study by a University of Ottawa professor and others estimates that 42 per cent of the job loss in Canadian manufacturing over the last few years resulting from the rise in the dollar can be attributed to our rise in oil exports, and identifies the computer and electronics, textile, transportation, machinery, paper and plastics sectors as those most affected. Ontario and Quebec are home to the majority of these industries.

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, Frank Stronach, chairman of Magna, and many others have pointed to the damaging impact that a high Canadian dollar has on the manufacturing sector. The Ontario government estimates that a sustained five-cent change in the dollar has a $6 billion impact on the Ontario economy.

Instead of being Canada's economic engine, the tar sands could actually prevent many regions from recovering from the recession as oil prices continue their relentless upward march due to global scarcity.
Sadly, there hasn't been anywhere near enough pushback yet against the Harper line that the rest of the country should be glad to have a government that puts the tar sands first.

But there's every opportunity to make the case that the actual public policy tradeoff isn't between the environment and jobs but between dirty, one-time resource extraction and cleaner, more sustainable manufacturing. And the more that choice is presented to Canadians, the better the chances that we'll be able to orient our economy toward the latter rather than accepting the argument that the oil industry should be able to buy our silence.

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