Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Blue Eyed Sheiks

For Stephen Harper, Canada's future is about oil. Everything he has done in his last two omnibus budget bills has been about transforming Canada into an energy superpower. If you want a  glimpse into what that future looks like, read a report titled The Petro Path Not Taken, which Bruce Campbell wrote for The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Never mind the future,  Frances Russell writes. The present is pretty grim:

Seventy-six per cent of the total North American GDP benefit from the tar sands occurs in Alberta, 20 per cent in the U.S. — and only four per cent in the rest of Canada.

Projected future tar sands GDP benefits to the U.S. are five times greater than to the rest of Canada outside Alberta. The U.S. enjoys employment benefits from our tar sands development — wages and salaries — that amount to four times the benefits going to the rest of Canada.

Three states — California, Texas and Wisconsin — see a greater employment benefit from Alberta’s tar sands than the combined benefit to all provinces excluding Alberta.

The oil and gas sector’s effective tax rate is just seven per cent.

It's true that Harper gave Toyota's Cambridge plant $34 million yesterday to build hybrid cars. However,

Subsidies to the oil industry by both levels of government totalled $2.8 billion in 2008. Alberta received $2.1 billion, or 73 per cent, of those subsidies. Half of that subsidy money came from Ottawa.

And note that this corporate welfare comes as the government makes it harder for Canadians to receive employment insurance. It's not that the government doesn't distribute benefits. It's about who receives those benefits. The end result, writes Russell, is that Harper's Canada is about two new solitudes -- the few who are rich -- the blue eyed sheiks  -- and the multitudes who are poor.

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