Globalization - Opinion
Globalization is Killing Canada: Fight for Your Freedom
by Paul Hellyer
Is Canada worth saving? Is democracy worth saving? These are the two fundamental questions we must address now - before it is too late. Canadian values are disappearing rapidly as we lose our independence and our sovereignty. The country is being dismantled after more than a century of nation building. We are losing control of our most important industries. As we give up domestic ownership of our assets, we lose the most exciting and challenging jobs, which too often move to the new corporate headquarters outside Canada - and young people who want those jobs must follow. It's part of the brain drain. In effect, Canada has become a victim of "Globalization". We are told this process is both inevitable and good. It is only inevitable if we let it happen. It is only good for two to five percent of the world's richest and most powerful people. It is bad for the vast majority.
I should make a distinction between those areas where global cooperation is both good and essential, and those areas where it is harmful. We must cooperate globally to protect our oceans, the ozone layer and prevent Global Warming. International cooperation is also required to protect endangered species, fight international crime and in other areas of mutual concern. What we have to stop is the relentless drive on the part of multinational corporations and international banks - centred largely in the five big powers - to take over governance of the world for their own benefit.
The Canada - U.S. Free Trade Agreement
The "Globalization" process got a rocket-assisted boost with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Canadians were led to believe that this was a trade agreement. When I read it, I found, to my dismay, that it was primarily an investment agreement. Sure it called for reductions in tariffs, but this was already happening under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The most important parts of the FTA were about investment. The Americans wanted our industries and resources - especially energy and water. They also wanted our land. Instead of Canada being open for business again, as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney proudly boasted, it was up for sale.
Mr. Mulroney allowed the Americans to insert a "national treatment" clause which was a new concept in international law that gave U.S. investors the same rights in Canada as Canadian citizens. I think this is wrong in principle! Where is the value of citizenship if foreign investors have the same rights? In fact, the "national treatment" clause gave American investors the right to invest in Canada without conditions and without limits. We can no longer say "You can't buy more than 50% of our forest industry or oil and gas reserves" - because the treaty says they can own all our reserves. The same rule applies to our best farmland. With the FTA, Brian Mulroney accomplished two things: He virtually guaranteed the demise of Canada as a nation state, and he allowed the conquest of Canada by America. The conquest is still tentative, perhaps, for about two more years. Then we will reach the point of no return after which annexation by the United States will become inevitable. I am concerned that several hundred years of experiment in popular democracy is coming to an end because globalization is really a code word for corporate rule and colonization.
NAFTA - Canada is being sued
When we signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we granted U.S. and Mexican investors greater rights in Canada than Canadian citizens enjoy. Chapter 11, the disputes settlement chapter, allows foreign investors to sue if our governments - federal, provincial or municipal - pass any law or regulation that affect their corporate profits or potential profits. And we are being sued. The first suit was the celebrated Ethyl case. When the Canadian parliament passed a law prohibiting the importation and distribution of MMT, a manganese-based gasoline additive in Canada, the U.S. Ethyl Corporation sued the government of Canada. The government settled out of court for $20 million in legal costs and agreed to repeal the law. So who is running Canada when a foreign corporation can dictate to the Canadian parliament? Equally bad, the settlement agreement required two Canadian cabinet ministers to read statements to the effect that MMT was not harmful either to the environment or to health at the very moment that the latest scientific evidence suggested that it may indeed be injurious to the health, especially of children. There are other cases pending. The Sun Belt Water Corporation of California is suing for $1.5-$10.5 billion because we won't let it sell our water. Pope & Talbot Inc., a U.S. forest company is suing for $500 million. These suits are just the tip of the iceberg.
The WTO is Anti-Democratic
The World Trade Organization is another threat to our democratic traditions. It has ruled that the auto pact with the U.S. is illegal. It has ruled that the European Union has to accept U.S. and Canadian beef that has been raised on bovine growth hormones. It said that the U.S. could not ban tuna caught in nets that drown sea turtles. (In every case involving an environmental issue, the WTO has ruled against the environment). Now the WTO has ruled that our drug patents are too short and that, in effect, we have to change our laws to correspond with U.S. laws. In addition to this affront to our sovereignty, this ruling, if it stands, means that we will have to pay untold millions more for drugs at a time when our health care system is already in crisis from inadequate funding.
What Kind of Democracy?
The decline of democracy in the U.S. has reached the point where Lewis Lapham, editor of Harpers Magazine, says the U.S. has two governments - the permanent government and the provisional government. The permanent government comprises: (a) the Fortune 500 list of the largest American corporations, (b) the largest law firms in Washington that do their legal work for them, (c) the largest public relation firms in Washington that do their advertising and public relations and (d) the top public servants both civil and military. These groups make up the permanent government that really runs the country. Then there is the provisional government - "politicians for hire". Every few years there is a charade called an election which picks a political actor to go on stage and read the scripts written by the permanent government. As some actors read scripts with less improvisation than others, the permanent government checks them out in advance and decides who they want. Then they put up the money to get them elected. George Bush is the perfect stereotype. Listen to him on "Free Trade" and foreign policy and you will know he is the actor of choice. Why did Elizabeth Dole drop out of the Republican race? Because she was not the choice of the permanent government and didn't have the funds to continue.
There are Strings Attached
The evolution of the system has led to a government that is little more than a big bully enforcer for giant American corporations. The U.S. government goes to the WTO and gets a ruling forcing us to accept whatever big corporations want. Their giant corporations want to dominate world markets. In a "Globalized" society, people don't matter - only corporations do. Small independent operators and family farms are doomed by globalization.
One of the coziest arrangements has been between the U.S. government and Monsanto Corporation - now in the process of changing its name due to a bad image. Monsanto is the company that gave us Agent Orange, the allegedly safe defoliant used in the Vietnam War which has now claimed thousands of casualties. Monsanto is also one of the companies developing terminator seeds, seeds that cannot be replanted because they are genetically altered to be sterile. This is one of the most frightening developments in modern history. Attempts to corner world seed markets and sell only genetically altered seed would impoverish millions of people. When I learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had assisted Monsanto in the development of such a patently evil product I wondered how this could be possible in a democracy. Then I learned that one of Monsanto's key directors was one of President Clinton's key fundraisers. It is a matter of national shame that the Canadian government has been aiding and abetting the U.S. in promoting the interests of this destructive company including its increased control of Canadian agriculture. Ottawa is helping to drive Canadian farmers out of business. Globalization in agriculture means three or four giant agribusinesses are determined to monopolize the world food supply with their genetically-altered species and make us all dependent on them for our food. As we capitulate, and let our farmers go under, these aggressive corporations are buying up some of our best agricultural land.
National Fire Sale
At the same time, many of our best companies are being bought out. Thirteen thousand Canadian companies have been sold to foreigners in the last decade or so - more than 10,000 to Americans. In a stunning admission to the National Post in early March, Industry Minister John Manley predicted the end of federal restrictions that prevent foreigners from buying Canadian airlines, communications companies and even banks. There will be nothing left of Canada but an empty shell. And the kind of corporate-controlled government that allows this to happen is a cruel joke. Canada and the world are being re-engineered without the consent of the citizens who are having their birthright sold out from under their feet.
Let, Corporations Rule the World
The substitution of corporate rule for democracy is being imposed around the world. Countries have to sign treaties that give transnational corporations the right to cherry-pick their industries and assets. If a country has a business that begins to cut into market share, the transnationals can buy it, make it part of their empire, shut it down or move it to Malaysia, for example. Under the rules of "Globalization", no country - other than the big five (or six) - can hope to achieve anything like self-sufficiency.
Neo-Classical Economics - Bad economic theory and bad economic management
All of this change is justified in the name of laissez-faire economics, which insists that governments are bad and markets are good. Government-owned services must be privatized. Even basic services like health and education are on the block. This is all in accord with the ideas of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago. At first, the Friedman system (ideology) was called monetarism, but when that wasn't technically accurate, it was renamed neo-classical monetarism - and, more recently - just neo-classical economics. It should have been called retro-classical rather than neo-classical because it is not new. It is the same old pre-depression boom-bust system. Mainline economists won't admit it, but their 25-year experiment with neo-classical economics has been a monumental flop and resulted in a monumental 2,289% increase in federal debt. The increase in debt was not primarily due to overspending as the right insists. It was primarily due to the slow growth of the economy and debt compounding at high interest rates due to monetarist policies. Compound interest was the real culprit.
People are the Victims
The cold statistics can be translated into the heart-wrenching experiences of many Canadians. If you are a doctor or a nurse, you are likely to find yourself so overworked and stressed out that you are unable to provide the quality of care you want to give. The same can be said for many teachers whose workload has been increased to the point where they have felt obliged to reduce or eliminate participation in extra-curricular activities like drama or sports. If you are a student, you may graduate with as much or more debt as the mortgage on your parents' first house. And, no matter who you are, if you lack skills, you may be unemployed from time-to-time because a "Globalized" market system is not designed for full employment (four percent). Demand management, as practiced in the early post-war years is a neo-classical "no no". Your company may be bought and downsized leaving you with few options after long years of faithful service. This is just part of the price of "Globalization".
Is there any hope?
There is hope but it will require a revolution of the intellect followed by a revolution at the ballot box. First, and immediately, we have to abrogate the FTA and NAFTA in order to get rid of the "national treatment" clause that is killing Canada. This does not mean turning the clock back ten years on trade! Canada can compete in trade. But we cannot compete in investment - we just don't have money on the same scale. So, we must try to replace the FTA and NAFTA with new fair trade agreements and, if that is not possible, rely on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which served us so well for so long. Once we are rid of the "national treatment" clause, we must start screening foreign investment again and stop the sale of our best industries and with it stop much of the brain drain. Then, we must refuse to sign any more treaties, such as the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas) that will extend the "national treatment" clause to the tip of South America. And, at the same time, we must take health care, education, agriculture and intellectual property off the table for the WTO negotiations. To give up our sovereignty in these important areas would reduce all Canadian governments to a state of impotence. This must not be allowed to happen! Canada should say "No!" to any extension of WTO jurisdiction and influence until we can gauge the damage already done.
The Monopoly to Print Money
In 1974, the Bank of Canada owned more than 20% of federal government debt - the equivalent of an interest-free loan. But that is the year our central bank adopted the ideas of Milton Friedman and began to give back to the private banks their virtual monopoly to "print" money. The result is that today the B of C only owns about 4% of federal government debt and the shortfall has to be borrowed from the market, including the private banks, at high interest rates. In effect, taxpayers are subsidizing the private banks by $4-$5 billion a year. There is insufficient space to discuss monetary theory here but anyone who is interested can read books on the subject including one or two of mine such as 'Surviving the Global Financial Crisis', or 'Stop: Think', the latest one. A system where private banks print nearly all of the money is not a stable system (44 recessions and depressions in 200 years) and is not one that will provide full employment for Canada or the world. There is simply not enough money in the hands of rank and file consumers. So, we have to learn the lessons of history and revert to the system we had in effect from 1939 to 1974. Access to significant amounts of publicly-created, zero cost (debt free) money is the only way governments can meet the conflicting demands of increased expenditures for health care, education, environmental concerns, research and development, the arts and other legitimate areas of public concern while permitting lower taxes at the same time. There is no other way to reconcile the claims of left and right.
The War [Electoral] for Independence
The next federal election will decide Canada's fate. If any party - or combination of parties - that supports the FTA and NAFTA forms the next government, Canada is dead. Our only hope is a genuine alliance of patriotic Liberals, Conservatives, Reformers, NDPers, Bloc Québécois, and even people too cheesed-off to vote, getting together in one powerful movement to turn the ship of state around before it is too late. An independent Canada is best for the United States, the world and us. If we really believe that, we all have to enlist in Canada's war for independence and make it happen.
Editorial Note: Globalization directly affects our personal freedom, for example, to choose the food and medicine we need for our health.