Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Environmental innuendos about Canada-EU free trade negotiations

Complex policy projects occasionally attract the attention of big-name polemists. This is a mixed blessing. When a star gets excited about your work, your work can get exciting too. And your children, for instance, might be treated like little celebrities at school. Unfortunately, in order for the stars to keep the attention of the media, they often have to say extravagant and alarming things about what you’re doing.
Maude Barlow, National Chair of the Council of Canadians and visionary speaker on everything from American imperialism to water purity, has issued a call to arms to stop the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA.) Despite the treaty’s incomplete state, Ms. Barlow is unqualified in her opposition:
“At its heart, this deal is a bid for unprecedented and uncontrolled European access to Canadian resources . . . CETA is the wrong model for Canada and Europe. Unlimited growth and economic globalization are killing the planet.”

Her op-ed piece was headlined “What you don’t know about a deal you haven’t heard of.” The Globe and Mail could have altered their readers with “What Ms. Barlow doesn’t know about trade doesn’t discourage her.”
Even in Canada—a country where some people actually water their Canada Dry ginger ale—there are activists who can fly at 35,000 feet and slander entire forests by seeing trees others can only imagine.
While it involves many countries, CETA cannot possibly be the “largest tree-trade deal this country has ever undertaken,” as Barlow claims. The NAFTA, with the US and Mexico, affected approximately ten times more Canadian trade. Also, it encompasses markets that will grow faster than Europe. NAFTA was very big and scared Ms. Barlow twenty years ago. Her accusations haven’t changed—or been modified by how NAFTA has actually worked—but this time her target is less important.  
Barlow casts free trade as a menace to local and national decision-making on vital economic and environmental concerns. As a secular polemist, she refers to sources, not gods, for evidence. But her evidence is entirely speculative. Alluding to studies by European and Canadian environmental lawyers, she draws rather sneaky conclusions. The caveats are overwhelmed by the size of the accusations.
CETA will “open the door” for European water utilities to “challenge” local water conservation and source protection rules, as well as bottled water bans. Liberalized trade will “lead to” increased European investment in the Alberta tar sands and, thus, increase greenhouse gas emissions. A commitment to “regulatory cooperation” will make it twice as hard to bring in new rules and standards to protect the environment. And just to be thorough, she asserts that increasing commodity exports will increase “virtual” water exports. “Our current exports of water in grains alone,” she warns, is already “totally unsustainable.”
To keep Canada as the wettest big country in the world, should we turn the prairies back to wild grass? To keep ourselves, as citizens and governments, from mindlessly squandering our natural resources and ignoring our obligations to the environment, must we not make trade and investment more open internationally?
Rural Canadians and grain farmers can protect themselves from urban speculation about the depletion of our gigantic renewable water supplies.
Rather than suffer the rest in silence, free traders ought to raise their voices. Treating traders and foreign investors as equals under the law does intensify domestic competition, but it has not limited—and wouldn’t with this proposed deal—the rights of Alberta, Ontario, and federal governments to regulate resources and protect the environment. There are more than enough investors ready now to expand oil sands production. Canadian governments, not the availability of European money, will decide what happens.
If trade barriers and command-and-control economics were good for the environment, and capitalism per se was the problem, the Communist Bloc would not have been both dirty and poor.

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