Are we going to have to watch Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s disgusting TV attack ads on NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair for the next three years, until the next election? What’s the use of campaign spending limits if they only apply to the month before the election?
These ads wouldn’t be so bad if they were informational, part of a serious debate on the issues. In this first series, the issues are “the Dutch disease,” the carbon tax and free-trade agreements. The Dutch disease refers to a country whose major exports are not manufactured goods, but natural resources like raw logs and oil, i.e., a country like Canada. The disease results in a high value of the country’s currency, which punishes manufacturing companies whose exports become more expensive – companies like Victoria’s Carmanah Technologies and the recently bankrupt Trafford Publishing. Nationally, mid-sized companies are disappearing at a frightening clip and foreign firms are gobbling up our most profitable high techs.
Carbon taxes are among the suggested ways to reduce the amount of carbon we’re pouring into the atmosphere, causing global warming. It may not be the best solution or even a very effective one. But it is at least an attempt to do something about the looming catastrophes that global warming promises.
Free trade may be an admiral goal, but the current agreements force Canadian workers into a global economy in which they must justify their wages in comparison with workers from Bangladesh. The treaties are usually more about investment protection than free trade: Countries, provinces, and municipalities cannot support local businesses, protect workers and the environment, or keep health care and water off the table.
The issues in Harper’s attack ads are critical ones in determining Canada’s economic future. They are complex issues with no easy answers. They should be debated with respect, not with the scurrilous insults of a brief advertisement.