Friday, August 10, 2007

Canadian Politician Stands Up for The Little Guy

Sorry to make political commentary, but this is so ridiculous to me. Maybe someone with political savvy can explain it to me. Seems official opposition leader Stephane Dion is now a salesman for Chrysler (yes the US automaker), and he finds it a travesty that Canada buys a lot of cheap, crappy cars (think Kia) from South Korean companies, whereas South Korea barely buys any expensive, crappy cars from Chrysler (think PT Cruiser), who happen to have factories in Canada. Naturally we need to tweak the trade rules to rectify this situation.

As a Canadian, I don't care
a) how many second-rate cars Chrysler or any other US auto-maker sells to foreign countries or
b) who South Korea buys automobiles from.

Of course the argument will be made that Dion is fighting for Canadian jobs provided by Chrysler's factories. I say why Chrysler? There's lots of ways to create jobs, especially in a so-called knowledge-based economy. Why not provide an environment where the thousands of brilliant engineers and PhDs that our universities churn out every year can apply their skills to develop new industries that serve the interests of Canadian needs, values and culture? We are a prosperous and highly-education nation - why are our politicians always pimping us out as servants to the first heavily-polluting American corporation to cough up a Loonie?


Anonymous Coward said...

Plus the auto industry is the worst, they plunder resources to get nearly- ree water and electricity and are subsidized to the gills just to get a few thousand jobs. We get nothing back, no taxes, and not even job stability, because they'll shut those factories the moment another country offers better incentives.

Bayman said...

Yup plunder and move on, it's the multinational corporate lifestyle. If the US dollar keeps tanking much longer, we'll see it happen soon enough.

Anonymous said...

I won't claim to have political savvy. Basically they're negotiating a free trade agreement and Korea currently has rules in place that prevent Koreans from buying non-Korean made cars (beyond normal tariffs and duty), like caps on the number of foreign cars imported and tax audits on people buying those cars. Canada doesn't have similar regulations and the Liberals (yes, at the behest of the car companies, but also of the auto-workers union) are opposing a free trade agreement that doesn't include steps to make it more balanced to give Canadian manufactured cars a *chance* of penetrating the market. Of course, this is just one part of a larger trade agreement, and there are other groups (such as Canadian shipbuilders and beef exporters) that also have concerns. This is maybe a better story on the issue from the Globe and Mail, with this rebuttal from the Tory trade minister.

If this aspect of auto-trade is negotiated into the deal, it would benefit more than just Chrysler (that just happened to be the company Dion chose to make his statement), but any cars manufactured in Canada and exported to Korea.

Now, I agree with you that I personally don't care how many Chryslers are sold to Korea but the "manufacturing sector, which lost 90,000 jobs since January" would definitely disagree with us. Yes, their argument is going to be about jobs, but this isn't about reducing Canadian taxes or increasing subsidies for those auto companies - it's about negotiating a small part of a larger trade agreement to try to reduce job losses in specific sectors and has nothing at all to do with creating jobs in other sectors. As far as I can tell, this opportunity taken doesn't mean other opportunities/avenues are lost.

That's just my naive understanding of the situation though, and I could be totally wrong.

Bayman said...

Anonymous -
Thanks for the comments. All excellent and well-argued points.

While I appreciate the fact that Canadian jobs are important, the stance Dion has taken here just strikes me as odd. In choosing to champion this particular issue, I find he comes across as more concerned about the sales of the multinational auto-makers rather than the interests of Canadians.

The larger issue, as you mention, is the massive hemorrhage of manufacturing sector jobs that's been occurring lately. Are we really to believe that this is due to the fact that auto-makers aren't selling enough cars in South Korea, and if we just fight for the automakers in trade negotiations, the bleeding will stop and the jobs will come back?

If jobs are being lost, I'd like my elected representatives to take a broad, forward-thinking look at the situation with the interests of Canadian citizens in mind. Maybe they should ask questions like, "Why are we losing jobs in manufacturing?", "Is it OK to lose jobs in manufacturing?", "Does the auto industry have any importance to Canadians beyond a few thousand highly volatile jobs?", "Is it better to desperately try and quench job losses in the auto sector, or are we better off spending our resources to bolster other, developing industries that have more growth potential and more value to Canadians?"

I wish that our elected MPs would have the maturity to engage each other and the public in this type of discourse rather than continually grabbing at easy votes like a kid in a candy story.