The Harper government's budget is all about oil. The changes in environmental assessment and employment insurance are all about goosing Canada's petroleum exports. As an economist, Stephen Harper supposedly learned something about the wisdom of diversification. "But," Lawrence Martin writes,
in the past decade, the clock has been turned back. Because of a boom in the oil and gas sector and a range of other factors, the economy has reverted toward being a staples-driven enterprise. “In July, 2011, unprocessed and semi-processed resource exports accounted for two-thirds of Canada’s total exports, the highest in decades,” [economist Jim] Stanford wrote. “Compare that to 1999, when finished goods made up almost 60 per cent of our exports.”
As is the case in so many areas, the Harper government is hell bent on marching backwards -- and they will smear anyone who questions the wisdom of returning the Canadian economy to the nineteen century. Stanford writes that oil has become the driving force behind a new McCarthyism:
These diatribes against anyone who even acknowledges potential downsides or side-effects of the bitumen boom seem to herald a new, dangerous tendency in Canada’s political culture. Opposing a bitumen-exporting pipeline in Canada these days makes you a foreign-financed subversive. And it seems that questioning the economic effects of the bitumen export strategy makes you equally seditious. I call this “energy McCarthyism,” and it should be rejected forcefully not just by those concerned with Canada’s deindustrialization and staples dependency, but by those worried about the quality of our democracy.
Peter Lougheed knew that Alberta's oil should be used to build a diversified economy. When Stephen Harper looks at the Canadian economy, all he sees is oil. He assumes that anyone who does not share his vision is stupid. He's got it backwards.