Stephen Harper tells us that there are lots of things we can't afford -- like veterans affairs offices, lawyers to check the proposed constitutionality of legislation, and home mail delivery. But last week we paid the tab -- $300,000 -- to fly two European representatives round trip to celebrate the Canada European Trade Agreement.
Linda McQuaig wonders what, exactly, there is to celebrate:
According to Harper government hype, routinely repeated uncritically in the media, the trade deal will be a boon for all Canadians, boosting our economy by $12 billion, generating 80,000 jobs and adding $1,000 a year to the incomes of Canadian families.
But as economist Jim Stanford has pointed out in a concise analysis, these big economic gains were calculated by a computer model — based on a series of assumptions that are “not remotely realistic.”
For instance, they assume Canadian companies will sell as many services in Europe as European firms do (despite being thousands of miles away), and that Canadian firms will then invest these profits in new capital here – even though Canadian firms have notoriously hoarded profits in recent years rather than re-invest them. Yet this wildly optimistic assumption about re-investment accounts for more than half of the $12-billion economic boost.
As for job gains, well, the models actually showed productivity gains, not job gains. But knowing the public has little interest in something as esoteric as productivity gains, these somehow morphed into more politically popular job gains, in a sleight-of-hand by government spin-doctors that Stanford dubs “intellectually dishonest.”
Most far-fetched is the claim that the deal will boost the incomes of Canadian families by $1,000 each. As Stanford notes, the government simply took the $12 billion economic boost – a specious number at best – and divided it by the number of Canadian families.
That last calculation is mind boggling. Our prime minister claims to be an economist. But he's obviously math challanged. The last Conservative minister who suffered from the same disability was Bev Oda. When she started ordering $16 glasses of orange juice, she disappeared.
What has Harper bought? He's bought a legal regime to protect investors from Canadian law:
This could mean, for instance, that if a future Canadian government wanted to create a new public program – such as universal pharmacare or national child care – it could face lawsuits from disgruntled European firms objecting to the way the program limited their opportunities to sell drugs or child care to Canadians.
Imagine the outrage if a Canadian government had negotiated a trade deal that gave such an extensive set of rights to labour unions, allowing disgruntled unions to sue the Canadian government for millions of dollars. And then, to top it off, the government had spent $300,000 so that foreign officials could attend an exclusive soirée with Canada’s “union bosses.”
Mr. Harper's is a proud Thatcherite:
Over the past 30 years, virtually all the gains of economic growth have gone to the top 10 per cent of Canadian families. If this pattern of the past three decades continues, there will be no gains from the trade deal for ordinary Canadian families. Really only for the corporate sector are the gains significant. Indeed, the trade deal is, above all, a kind of constitution that enshrines corporate rights above the reach of national laws, that is, above the reach of democratically-elected governments.
During the last election campaign, Mr. Harper accused Michael Ignatieff of not coming back to Canada "for you." While it's true that Harper has always been here, it's clear that whatever he does, it's not "for you."