Tom Mulcair and the Tar Messengers

Mulcair seems to believe Harper has the premiers of the western provinces waiting by the Harperphone

by Paul Wells

Sean Kilpatrick/CP Images

One obvious response to Tom Mulcair’s remarks about the Western premiers — apparently they are Stephen Harper’s “messengers” — is concern. If there’s, like, a messenger fight sometime, who’ll show up on Mulcair’s side? Probably not Jean Charest. He’s busy, and Mulcair quit his cabinet in a huff a few years ago. Dalton McGuinty? He seems unsteady on the matter at hand. PEI’s Rob Ghiz? Future McGuinty-in-law.

Meanwhile, Mulcair seems to believe, Harper has the premiers of the three western-most provinces waiting by the Harperphone (don’t ask; it’s black) for their instructions. “He’s not going to try to contest that,” he told Postmedia’s Peter O’Neil, in regard to Mulcair’s belief that resource exports are pushing the dollar up and ruining central Canada’s manufacturing base. “What he’s going to try to do is send in messengers to take that argument to me. I’m not responding to any of them… My argument is in the House of Commons with the federal prime minister who is failing Canadians.”

Before I make a bit more fun of Mulcair, and then try to take some of his arguments seriously, I should first stipulate that the Harper government is fully capable of childish absurdity on the energy/environment front. Indeed I think the confrontation between resource exports and environmental activism is turning into less of a slam-dunk political winner for Harper than he seemed to think  in the New Year.

But we see two longstanding Mulcair traits in his remarks. First, a kind of Byzantine certainty. Not just that he knows what’s going on, but inevitably that what’s going on is so complex that only a fellow such as he can grasp its intricacy. Journalists have known for a long time that Mulcair was their go-to guy for some cockamamie wheels-within-wheels theory about his opponents’ motives and actions. It cannot possibly be that Alison Redford, Christy Clark and Brad Wall simply disagree with Mulcair, or even that they don’t care whether he’s right but are playing to different electorates. No, they say what they say because they are in league with Harper against him.  Mulcair surely knows Christy Clark’s chief of staff, Ken Boessenkool, helped script Harper’s winning 2006 campaign. If he didn’t know that Brad Wall’s former environment minister, Nancy Heppner, worked in Harper’s PMO for a year after that campaign, he knows it now and will take great satisfaction in tucking it away for future use. See? She’s the go-between. I knew it. 

The notion that Alison Redford is Harper’s preferred Alberta premier, or that she scans the skies at night for the light from the Harpsignal, is harder to square with the available data, but whatever. On to the second Mulcair characteristic: the belief that disagreement is synonymous with illegitimate attack against him. You will tell me that’s hardly unique. You’ll be right. Just look at the prime minister. But now we know Mulcair is no more immune from the garden-variety political martyr complex. Wells would write crap like “martyr complex.” He’s from Maclean’s. They hate me. 

On the substance of the thing, I won’t claim to be the arbiter of Canada’s susceptibility to Dutch disease. A debate is underway and readers will draw their own conclusions. I note Mulcair’s certainty that the expertise lines up his way — O’Neil paraphrases him saying Harper must know Mulcair is right because Harper is an economist. Yet it’s pretty easy to find economists* who think Mulcair is wrong. Even Mark Carney gives Mulcair’s thesis only a fraction of the credit for Canada’s poor manufacturing export performance.

I don’t think Mulcair is wrong, in general, to seek environmentalism, manufacturing, Quebec and Ontario as philosophical and political bases. His positions are legitimate and will appeal to a lot of voters. But we haven’t seen the last of his wheels-within-wheels theorizing or the way he gets his back up when crossed.

*UPDATE: At least one reader seems to have had some difficulty verifying the credentials of the economists I linked to. Stephen Gordon’s cv is here. Here are excerpts from the bios for the authors of the IRPP paper Barrie McKenna wrote about:

“Richard S. Gray is a professor and acting head of the Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics at the University of Saskatchewan. He received his PhD in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California, Berkeley… and is a fellow of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society.

“Jeremy Leonard is research director at the Institute for Research on Public Policy… He holds an MA in economics (summa cum laude) from McGill University and a BA in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.

“Mohammad Shakeri holds a PhD in economics from the University of Saskatchewan. The current study is based on a part of his PhD dissertation…. He is currently researching economic issues related to the agriculture sector at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in collaboration with Linking Environment and Agriculture Research Network.”




Browse

Tom Mulcair and the Tar Messengers

  1. Conservatives aren’t bothering with attack ads because they believe Mulcair’s arrogance will do him in.

    Give him room to breath. Let him think he’s a contender. Let him get ahead in the polls. Sit back and wait.

    Its just going to be one stink bomb after another with Mulcair from now until the election.

    • The goal of the Conservatives is to destroy the Liberal party so they are fighting the “socialists” in the next election. That’s why they run Liberal attack ads, but not NDP ones.

      Mulcair is right to fight Harper on this issue. Canada needs balanced economic policy that allows all provinces to prosper. We need to emulate a country like Germany that has a trade surplus of 6% GDP founded on value-added exports.

      Instead Harper is following the example of developing nations like Russia and Brazil trying to turn Canada into a resource “super power.” In the process, he has turned a Liberal-era $20B trade surplus into a record $50B trade deficit (which means Canadians are spending more than they are earning.) Clearly, a country cannot maintain a high standard of living off of resource welfare.

      • hogwash. the libs and dippers forced harper to spend stimulus cash or face a non confidence vote. careful spending and tactful tax reductions steered canada thru the worst recession in 75 years. canada’s economy is the envy of the wealthy g-7 nations and harpers performance is being lauded by noted ecocpmists worldwide. go peddle your lefty bs elsewhere ,knowledgeable canadians don’t buy it.

        • The discussion is on “trade surplus/deficit” – i.e. whether we are exporting more than we import (surplus) or vice versa (deficit) – not on governmental deficit spending. You seem to have confused the two.

    • Right—-MulcaIR is a one man band!!–Can’t see anyone working with his Ideas. He’ll shoot himself in the foot sooner or later—as he is living in the past–how would he deal with the economy –his way! HOpe he destroys himself–sooner than later——————
      Mars.

  2. I remember reading a lot about the Dutch Disease in Canada before the contrarians came out. First Stephen Gordon (G&M Economy Lab) said the Dutch Disease existed, but wasn’t all that bad. Next he came out saying proponents of the theory are economic “hypochondriacs.” Like climate change, the public debate is all too politicized.

    According to the OECD, the fair value of the Canadian dollar is 81 cents US (based on PPP.) That means we have a de facto 25% tariff slapped on exports, which is an obvious barrier to the competitiveness of our value-added sector (higher dollar means higher wage costs for one.)

    And the numbers bear this out. Over past 6 years as the dollar rose far above the 81 cent level, we have seen $20B trade surpluses plunge to $50B trade deficits. According to Gordon, the 300,000 full-time jobs created during the value-added boom have been lost in the bust.

    Since we can’t cram all Canadians into a few resource-heavy provinces, we obviously have to do something. Also, focusing the entire economy on resource extraction in this century is incompetent on many levels.

    Gordon: Is ‘Dutch Disease’ getting a bad rap? http://bit.ly/kGttX2

    Gordon: Dutch disease? Economic hypochondria http://bit.ly/JqAYml

    • When discussing “trade” surplusses and deficits, we are not only discussing manufacturing. Industries such as farm produce (beef, pork, chicken) take a big hit with a high Canadian dollar. Is that also “dutch disease”?
      Stephane Dion made an interesting point about manufacturing in Canada in the last 35 years. He said that when the Canadian dollar was low, manufacturers complained that they were at disadvantage because they could not afford to buy the expensive new technologies that were built in other countries. They said they needed this new technologies to boost their productivity and make them competitive. Now, they blame a high dollar on their failure. Really, the so-called “Dutch Disease” is only one nail in what was already a problem industry. The USA does not have alot of resources and yet their manufacturing industry is in the toilet too. Could it be that cheap goods from China, India and Malaysia are really what dealt the dealth blow. Also, apparently some manufacturers are doing well in Canada…in Manitoba they are producing the drill bits used to rescue the miners in Chili. Maybe in Canada we need to concentrate on manufacturing items that need to be made with integrity (lives depend on it)….ie toys without lead paint.

      • China and India have 8% productivity of the US, so they don’t have the capability to replace all value-added jobs in Canada. Those countries are no threat to the German economy, e.g., which has a 6% trade surplus based on value-added exports.

        The OECD fair value of the Canadian dollar is 81 cents, so both an undervalued and overvalued dollar have disadvantages. And overvalued dollar increases the cost of wages and makes exports less competitive.

        The way globalization works is that the developing nations get the low-value added industry and the developed ones handled the high value-added stuff. The developing nations don’t have the social and physical infrastructure to support high productivity levels. So the key to remaining at the top is to have a government strategy that works on increasing productivity and helps in other ways to make our value-added exports competitive.

        If we put all our focus on resources, that would appear to put us lower on the food chain than developing nations. It stands to reason we would not be able to maintain a high standard of living in the long run.

        • While what you say about 8% productivity might be true…it is also true that the things they are producing in China and India are textiles and clothing. If you read Aaron Wherry’s latest blog, a new research paper shows that is where Canadian manufacturers have been hit the hardest. I am not sure what they are manufacturering in Germany. I do know they export specialty food items. I haven’t bought any German made clothing and besides yoga wear, I haven’t seen much Canadian-made clothing either. Even great Canadian companies like Sorrel are making their boots in developing countries.

      • USA has more resources than Canada. For instance, more mining in California than all of Canada. The difference is that it’s not as big a share of the overall economy.

        And US manufacturing is doing fine. It makes more than ever, it just is highly productive, requiring fewer people to do the work. US mfrs are enjoying a renaissance with the falling USD, poised to do very well over the next few years.

  3. All our major parties seem to think there are conspiracies, they just differ in who is doing what to whom, so Canadians used to some garden variety conspiracy talk from pols but Mulcair proved himself to be a full blown conspiracy kook when he went on cbc to question whether Americans assassinated bin Laden.

    “Meanwhile, Mulcair seems to believe, Harper has the premiers of the three western-most provinces waiting by the Harperphone …. ”

    Wall St Journal ~ China’s Private Party:

    “On the desks of the heads of China’s 50-odd biggest state companies, amid the clutter of computers, family photos and other fixtures of the modern CEO’s office life, sits a red phone. The executives and their staff who jump to attention when it rings know it as “the red machine,” perhaps because to call it a mere phone does not do it justice. “When the ‘red machine’ rings,” a senior executive of a state bank told me, “you had better make sure you answer it.”

    The red machine is like no ordinary phone. Each one has just a four-digit number. It connects only to similar phones with four-digit numbers within the same encrypted system. They are much coveted nonetheless. For the chairmen and women of the top state companies ….. “

  4. “Indeed I think the confrontation between resource exports and environmental activism is turning into less of a slam-dunk political winner …. ”

    I was born in 1970 and since I’ve been alive, scientists have warned us the earth was getting cooler and something must be done, then they moved on to earth was getting warmer and something must be done and now scientists claim climate is changing and something must be done. We live in an era of quackery and goblins.

    Scientists have also managed to get people worried about carbon – Greenies have subjected us to at least 40 years of their pseudoscience so I am not at all surprised Canadians are not keen on creating wealth through mining.

    “Carbon … the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It is present in all known life forms, and in the human body carbon is the second most abundant element by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen.”

    Wall St Journal – Jan 2012
    Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 “Climategate” email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

  5. Blame the West!! It couldn’ have anything to do with the massive Health care tax McGuinty snuck in at the start of the global recession; couldn’t have anything to do with the doubling of electric rates to business thanks to the greenie-babies; couldn’t have anything to do with the greed of the public sector unions nor the childishness of the entitled students in Quebec; couldn’t have anything to do with the anti-business policies and processes of the Liberals in central Canada — no all their problems are because of the big, bad West!!!

    • See that’s the thing. While there is no doubt that some of the policy decisions that have been made in Ontario and Quebec have ranged from marginal to somewhat damaging to the public purse, it does not amount to a hill of beans when the shifts in our economies are considered.
      The problems being faced by Ontario and Quebec can only explained in part by the level of expenditure. So far as Ontario is concerned, there is little doubt that manufacturing has taken it in the gut in recent years and much of what remains is in something of a precarious position.

      With that being said, the juvenile jabs and shots that the feds are taking at some provinces and that some provinces taking at other provinces are neither productive nor are they a good way to spend time when our own gardens have things that me must tended to. It’s a waste of time for each premier to be racing to be victim or martyr of Confederation.

      To make matters worse, they’re about as true as the accusations of profligate spending are insofar their effect on the overall provincial states of affairs (read: a small vein, but undeniably present). Nevertheless, there are no victims in these pot-shots, only perpetrators.

    • It’s extremely unlikely to be these things overall, so you’re right.

      • Could it be the ready availability of cheap manufactured goods from China? Who in Canada is going to pay $80.00 for a Canada made couch cushion when you can buy a Chinese-made cushion for $15.00?

        • That’s a more likely explanation than the guy above, indeed. Heck, in the long run maybe only tariffs and a strong green energy sector can save the country.

          • Or we could work at manufacturing items that people are motivated to pay more for because it is important to them to get a good quality, safe products that are environmentally sensitive…ie: safe, high quality children’s products …clothing, toys, sleeping systems; dishes; and then there is pet products……
            We have to look at where people’s priorities are and where they are willing to spend money. China has a problem with a reputation for producing poisoined baby products. They might be cheap but they aren’t trustworthy. Manufacturers here could exploit that big time.
            As I mentioned in an earlier post, we are having success manufacturing products such as drilling bits (those that rescued the trapped chilean miners).

          • Frankly, I think your “plan” is only slighlty less likely to work than the one i outlined above.

          • I am just looking at the success of companies like Lu Lu Lemon; Sorrel boots, Uggs, Denby dishes. There are also successful cottage industry businesses like cotton diapers and diaper covers; baby slings; futon crib mattresses.

          • Good for you.

          • Frankly, I think your “plan” is only slighlty less likely to work than the one i outlined above.

        • I don’t think it’s accurate to generalize too much about the the value-added sector which has a wide spectrum. Developed nations have much higher productivity than developing nations like China and India (about 8% US). So they don’t have the capability to displace all value-added jobs.

          A country like Germany has a strong economy based on value-added exports and a 6% GDP trade surplus.

          The real culprit is the rising dollar. One can follow the rise of the dollar since 2006 (where it was around 81 cents, the OECD fair value) and the trade balance which was $20B (current account.) As the dollar soared the trade balance plunged into $50B trade deficits (or 3% GDP.)

          The way globalization is supposed to work is that the developing nations get the lower value-added industry and the developed nations increase their social and physical infrastructure to develop the high value-added stuff. This requires some strategy and investment from government because the free-market place is not going to do it or do it efficiently (e.g. the free-market solution to worker training is to fleece students and put them on the hook for oppressive student loans…)

          • Yes, Germany has those expensive toy exports…they realize that western parents spent LOTS of money on their kids to ensure their safety.

          • Phew! Ontario is safe then!

            ……

          • Phew! Ontario is safe then!

            ……

    • Ontario energy prices increased due to grid upgrade, and the nuclear industry. The green projects did not significantly factor in on increased debt. Check the government reports on costs.

    • The concept of the Dutch Disease is founded on (debatable) economic theory, not blame. It states foreign purchases of resources can drive up the value of a nation’s currency pricing value-added exports out of the world market causing the value-added sector to decline.

      Another part of the debate is whether it’s a smart idea to focus a country’s economy on resources in the 21st century. We are in the middle of a resource boom now, but that could turn to a bust when the global economy recovers like it did in the mid-1980s. (If the price of oil drops below $70 barrel, that would make oil from the oil-sands unprofitable.)

      Another reality is that a country creates more jobs, wealth and business opportunities by producing and exporting value-added goods and services. This creates an economic engine that can weather the resource booms and busts. It’s probably not a good idea to put all our economic eggs in the resource-extraction basket.

      • In the mid-80′s China and India weren’t developing with the speed they are now. Emphasizing manufacturing – and in particular, the labour-intensive goods most hurt by the Dutch disease – is also a poor economic strategy. It ties our fortunes to sectors where we face constantly intensifying competition and declining margins from countries richer in labour than we are. Nor are resources unique in being exposed to booms and busts. If you’ve noticed, the two most dramatic booms and busts of the last decade were in housing and IT.

        Resource extraction is not mutually exclusive with the development of the high tech sectors in which Canada should also be competitive in. First, resource extraction involves high-tech production of mining equipment, and other downstream industries (for instance, if Alberta were to build a nuclear plant). Canada’s expertise can also be exploited in developing mines abroad. Second, while a high dollar is bad for low margin exports, it also enhances the ability of Canadian firms to purchase high-tech machinery abroad – a necessity for developing our own high tech industries. Third, equalization payments and tax revenues from the west enable ease the fiscal burden on the rest of Canada, allowing for eastern provinces to create a more viable business environment than would otherwise be possible.

        As well, we face a limited window in which to sell our resources. Eventually alternative energy sources will be cheaper than fossil fuels. If that happens, oil will become obsolete, as have so many resources through history. Remember – empires were once built on tin and iron – relatively inexpensive metals today. Pepper was once a rare spice, the transport of which could make or break a personal fortune.

  6. Mulcair is getting a little too uppity. He is going to put both feet in his mouth and choke with some of his off the wall remarks. I wonder if he knows whether Bin Laden was deep sixed or not yet. He is getting a free ride and while Canadians want to see some work on the environment they are not prepared to reduce their standard of living when push comes to shove.

    • Shouldn’t that be in point form? Lord know’s there’s no logically discernible thread there.

  7. Even if someone’s conspiracy theory is well-founded it’s usually best not to come off sounding like you’re wearing a tinfoil hat, especially if you’re a politician. Mulcair and some of his NDP colleagues are quickly getting a reputation for shooting from the lip.

    • But that is the NDP methodology; they shoot from the hip on almost any subject, valid or not, until they find one right or wrong that resonates with the public and their supporters. Then they attempt to construct a policy around what they have discovered. Similar to sending a rocket into space without any navigation system.

      • I won`t disagree that there`s a lot to make fun of with the Dippers. They are a political party, after all.

        It`s still pretty funny to hear the NDP accused of shamelessly courting public opinion. Are they elitists who are out-of-touch with the average Canadian, or shameless stalkers of the everyman? It`s kind of hard to be both.

  8. “Comment score below threshold” is my favourite new feature.

    • Morning Paul – I sure hope you will be commenting on the UN right-to-food envoy Olivier De Schutter and his 11 day Canada cross-country tour. Seems to be quite the “gem” and deserving of some political pundits attention.

      http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/05/15/marni-soupcoff-un-food-envoys-canada-visit-as-much-about-spreading-ideology-as-fighting-hunger/

      PS: I voted you ‘up’ as it gives be great pleasure to see many of OE1 posts extinguished, lol

    • Too bad there is no “article score under threshold” to classify this. You’re a much better writer than a hack- it doesn’t come off smarmy the way you think, reading it made me do a double take that I hadn’t clicked on my cnn news tab.

      Ps comment below threshold is as old as the internet- just because mcleans is exiting the stone age doesn’t mean its new.

    • I hate it; as much as I may dislike what someone says, it stifles debate when less popular comments are hidden. (I always open and read them.)

    • But, but, Paul, he uses a lectern in the House.

  9. Hey Mr. W – I challenge the accuracy of your conspiracy theories about who PMSH supports particularly in Alberta. All the signs pre-election seemed to be that Harper – at least the vast majority of his Alberta MPs – were firmly in the WildRose corner – so that fact that he’s speaking politely now of his Federal party’s second choice of two is par for the course for public consumption.
    I also think you have skewed Mulcair’s position. Looking at his consistent use of the key word “sustainability” – I’m reading him sounding more like Alison Redford than Premier Redford is sounding like Harper, Kent or Oliver

    • I think you misread Wells.

      He was saying exactly what you’re saying, obliquely, that the balance of evidence out there suggests Harper preferred Smith.

  10. I didn’t like divisive, cynical politics that attacked certain regions and Provinces when the Conservatives did it, and I don’t like it now that the NDP are doing it.

    “I’m not responding to any of them…”

    What a mature and statesmanlike ‘leader’! Sorry, you introduced the topic into the public discourse, now other elected officials have responded. You can’t just take your ball and go home and attack them as illegitimate foes.

    Who does Mulcair think he is, Tim Thomas? If you didn’t want to debate the issue, you shouldn’t have brought it up.

    • The Dutch Disease is an economic theory. Many economists say this theory describes what has happened to the Canadian economy over the past 6 years. One can disagree with their analysis, but clearly these economists are not conspiring to attack Western Canada. Just like climate scientists who support the theory of human-caused global warming are not conspiring to attack the “ethical oil” industry. These people are just calling it like they see it.

      I think we should debate the issue based on the facts and use Occam’s Razor to cut out the rest. After all, people are not going to start believing the sky is green just because it offends someone to think it’s blue.

      • I never said any economists are being divisive and cynical in attacking western Canada’s resource economies.

        I said, Thomas Mulcair and the NDP are.

        #readingcomprehension #herpderp

        • Duh, dumb ol’ me… let me get this straight… When economists say Canada is suffering from the Dutch Disease and this is the reason why 500,000 good-paying jobs have disappeared they *aren’t* attacking Western Canada. But when Mulcair says the exact same thing he is??

          My original point is that it’s absurd to suggest someone is attacking someone else for pointing out economic theory and facts in an economic debate. In fact, your prejudice you just revealed shows the people playing the victim card in this debate are the really the ones with the political agenda.

          • Actually the latest analysis suggests that any “Dutch disease” impacts are pretty mild in Canada (
            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/western-premiers-fume-as-mulcair-sticks-to-dutch-disease-guns/article2434996/ ). Mulcair is – quite wisely – playing east-west politics, and stamping the NDP as the party of the east. It makes sense for him politically because the path to an NDP majority lies through southern Ontario (the NDP will never win in Alberta, and the days of social gospel dippers on the prairies are long gone).

            There’s a reason Trudeau pushed for the NDP, Chretien remarked that he didn’t like westerners, and Dion launched the green shift (admittedly without success). They wanted to aggravate a cleavage in Canadian politics, pitting the resource-rich west against the manufacturing rest. Heck, you can even see elements of that strategy in the old fights over the CPR (protectionist Tories with their base in the manufacturing centers wanted to build a country on east-west lines, while free-trading farmers and woodsmen preferred north-south trade, so they could buy better equipment and sell their resources dearly).

          • Is that the latest analysis or an analysis? History certainly shows its easier to pit West vs. East than East vs. West. From an eastern perspective, it doesn’t appear to take much to get the Westerners up in arms over something. Mulcair is questioning the wisdom of putting too much emphasis on resource extraction and makes a good point: it’s a backwards and shortsighted economic policy, not to mention environmentally irresponsible. Western paranoia or no, I hope Mulcair stands up to the right-wing bullies because this is not the last he’s going to hear from them.

          • Well the IRPP report goes deeper than Mulcair’s argument. Mulcair is saying that manufacturing is in decline, so it must be Dutch disease. The IRPP report asks why manufacturing is in relative decline.

            As for “east vs. west”, it’s not primarily about demonizing the other side (though that happens). It’s about proposing policies that redistribute wealth from one to the other. Sometimes that involves policies that are good for the country as a whole as well. For instance, free trade.

            As for resource extraction vs. manufacturing, there are some issues of mis-perception. The manufacturing sectors (which do not include, for instance, the auto industry) most badly hurt by Canada’s high dollar are labour-intensive ones like textiles which are hardly areas with high growth potential. Over time, more and more countries become able to produce manufactured goods, driving down the prices.

            Resources do eventually get depleted, but as they do, they grow scarcer and more valuable. Moreover, it would be a mistake to call the kind of operations you see in Canada as low tech. It’s highly mechanized, with lots of need for skilled workers, and lots of high-tech (and often Canadian-made equipment). And while the resources will be there forever, humanity may eventually develop alternatives that make such resources worthless. It makes economic sense to sell oil before alternative energy renders it obsolete. Moreover, Canada’s edge in mining technology and skill allows our mining industry to A. export high tech machinery (Canada is #5 globally in exports of mining equipment); and B. to develop mines abroad.

            As for the environmental costs, you are absolutely right. We should make sure that the negative externalities for fossil fuel consumption make their way into the balance sheet of the relevant actor (I support a carbon tax, at least in principle). That should include both producers and consumers – if you drive a car, you are as responsible for the tar sands as any Calgary oil tycoon. But beyond that, it makes sense for Canada to exploit its comparative advantage in resource extraction – particularly during an era of high commodity prices.

          • As an Albertan I am used to other Canadians saying negative things about my home. However, the last few years it has become unbearable. I have worked overseas for the past 15 years and I have met many Canadians during this time. Probably half of the central and eastern Canadians I meet call me a “redneck” and that Albertans are arrogant and ignorant. Many of these people call me a redneck the first time they meet me. When I meet people from Ontario or Quebec I do not call them derogatory names and belittle or insult their homes. How would you feel if you were treated this way Ron? It surprises me because the amount of money Alberta contributes to federalism, which benefits all Canadians, is measured in the hundred on billions. Also, the oilsands are being singled out for dubious reasons by quasi-environmentalist groups. Australia sends thousands of tons of coal to China every year, which goes straight up unregulated smokestacks and creates enormous CO2 emissions. Why are the evironmentalists attacking this industry? I live in Shanghai and the CO2 from burning coal is the major problem, not the insignificant emissions coming from Fort McMurray.

          • As an Albertan I am used to other Canadians saying negative things about my home. However, the last few years it has become unbearable. I have worked overseas for the past 15 years and I have met many Canadians during this time. Probably half of the central and eastern Canadians I meet call me a “redneck” and that Albertans are arrogant and ignorant. Many of these people call me a redneck the first time they meet me. When I meet people from Ontario or Quebec I do not call them derogatory names and belittle or insult their homes. How would you feel if you were treated this way Ron? It surprises me because the amount of money Alberta contributes to federalism, which benefits all Canadians, is measured in the hundred on billions. Also, the oilsands are being singled out for dubious reasons by quasi-environmentalist groups. Australia sends thousands of tons of coal to China every year, which goes straight up unregulated smokestacks and creates enormous CO2 emissions. Why are the evironmentalists attacking this industry? I live in Shanghai and the CO2 from burning coal is the major problem, not the insignificant emissions coming from Fort McMurray.

  11. and, yes, calling Redford ‘Harper’s Messenger’ is absolutely ridiculous.

    They are political enemies since the Harper machine knee-capped her when she tried to contest the nomination in Rob Anders’ riding.

    • She also basically had to fight the legacy Klein machine and most of the Harper MP’s as they all went Wild Rose. To lump her in as some kind of Harper tool is just uninformed, or purposefully uniformed as it plays to a number of widely held biases about Alberta.

  12. Peter Lougheed, political godfather of Alison Redford (and recently named best Premier over the past 40 years by Policy Options http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/05/03/edmonton-alberta-lougheed-picked-best-premier.html ), has long advocated a more controlled development of the oil sands, and more value added (bitumen upgrading) within Canada. If you go back and review Politics with Don Newman c 2006, you will also see him as one of the first advocating a “National Energy Strategy”.

    Inflation (normally a real concern of economists) is a real problem in Alberta through too many projects underway all at once, driving up costs. One solution is to open the floodgates and more targeted immigration (Harper strategy) and promote ongoing rapid expansion. You won’t see Gordon and like minded economists addressing this and other external issues significantly.

    The other option (which I believe Mulcair is advocating in a way) is to take a more measured approach. The Alberta gov’t contiunues having difficulty keeping up with building necessary infrastructure (twinning of highway 63 to Fort McMurray for example).

    But, discussion over “Dutch Disease” is a distraction. There will be, for sure, problems if the price of oil falls significantly and is maintained at a lower level. Too many eggs in one basket, perhaps. Carney suggests high commodity prices are here to stay, so the ROC has to adjust. His guess/argument is as good as any.

    P.s. I thought Christie Clark’s comments about Mulcair were more directed at the “kooky” NDP in general, a party she appears to be trailing badly in BC, and facing an election next year.

    • “Carney suggests high commodity prices are here to stay, so the ROC has to adjust.”

      Carney is somewhat of an inflation hawk. Although he ignored an inflationary blip a few months back and began targeting inflation over the medium term, he is anxious to get interest rates back up as soon as the economy begins to recover. His main concern is containing a housing bubble and high levels of personal debt.

      The big problem is that the ROC could adjust by falling into a recession deeper than the original one in 2008 which could put Canada in a liquidity trap like the US (where the interest rate required to get the economy rolling again is below zero.) Then he will be back at square one with a much bigger mess on his hands.

      My guess is that Carney is banking the Dutch Disease is no big threat. But that doesn’t mean his position is free from bias and risk.

      • Targeting inflation at 2% began in the early 90s. Carney continues this tradition.

        • Well Carney took a page out of the Fed’s updated strategy to target inflation in the longer term (instead of a strict short-term target, which makes sense because one has to differentiate between internal inflation caused by an overheating economy and external price shocks.) Of course the plan of central banks from the 1990s to the 2008 to eliminate the business cycle turned out to be a colossal failure.

          I think too much control over inflation puts artificial limits on the economy and results in too much government interference. In the post-war Keynesian era, we had mild business cycles (some years had recessions but positive total growth) because the central bankers knew when to stop the party.

          No doubt, they government was too timid in getting inflation under control in the 1970s, which required drastic monetary contraction. This made the required action in the early 1980s all the more painful. But acting like we still are still in the 1970s and inflation can start soaring at any moment is to ignore all the factors that led to the problem in the first place. And tight inflation control isn’t a free lunch. “Opportunistic disinflation” can grind away GDP growth.

  13. Mulcair accuses WalMart of selling mostly Chinese-made goods and refusing to sell Canadian-made goods, thus destroying eastern Canadian manufacturing sector..!!!

    Ya think ….????

    • I heard Mulcair say that we have lost 500,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs over the last few years due to the Dutch Disease. I haven’t heard him say anything about Walmart or China. I think this apparent quote of his is nothing more than urban legend.

  14. It is only the right-wingers that are out in full force supporting Harper and the Western provinces. The economists producing the reports are all right-wingers. The IRPP is a right-wing institute (CEO is a right-winger, majority of board members are right-wingers).

  15. Bank of Canada governor suggested that Ontario manufacturing produce for resource companies. The resource companies prefer to buy their products from Asia using the high dollar. Most of the oil sand heavy manufacturing is done in Asia.

  16. So if people outside Alberta who criticize the tar sands are anti Albertan, what does that make Albertans who criticize the way the tar sands are developed? Does that make these people traitors?

  17. Hey Alberta, I don’t give a flying * if your oil is ever transported to anywhere. This country is not going to come ‘together’ for the benefit of one province.


  18. Wells would write crap like “martyr complex”. He’s from macleans. The hate me.”

    I had hoped Mulcair was smarter than this. That he’d spot an obvious opportunity to try and drive a wedge between Harper and Redford. It’s the heart of Harper mania for crying out loud. What’s he playing at ?
    Are you starting to craft a narrative of Mulcair, Harper’s alter ego? It seems plausible. It would be the logical outcome of a binary choice in Ottawa.
    Just makes me more sure than ever it is too early for Liberalism to wither away in this country-at least federally. Now if they only had the kind of leader who could exploit this unfolding scenario.

  19. If Mulcair wants to lose all NDP seats west of Ontario, this might be one way to go about it. Even people in the west that are not fond of their own premiers might not like the fact that their premiers are being summarily dismissed by Mulcair.

    • I’m betting the dozen or so new seats they have their eye on are in areas that don’t object to the description. Plus BC looks likely to have a new government soon.

  20. I know he’s the sandwich explainer but in photo for this post Mulcair looks like he’s explaining how to eat corn.

  21. I’d like to see Mr. Muclair keep his message a little clearer. Leave the reflexive lying and bafflegab to the CPC.

  22. After checking the original comments by Mr. Mulcair & Mr. Wall, they actually came across as spirited but relatively respectful. I suspect both were taken off guard by how they were covered on this.

    There`s a few inconvenient facts that nobody ever mentions when discussing western resources. For example, if you remove resource revenue from the equation, Alberta would still have a higher per-capita GDP than Ontario or Quebec. Or that there are huge mineral resources in Northern Ontario that are largely untapped due to long-term underfunding of transportation infrastructure outside of the original boundaries of the province which could take up a lot of the slack in manufacturing. (It`s not a big jump from assembly lines to refining, relatively speaking.)

    Once you start looking at demographics, it looks a lot more like the areas formerly known as Upper & Lower Canada versus most of the rest of the country. If you were to separate Ontario & Quebec along the original provincial borders & the rest of the current area, the north would be have provinces & the south would be bankrupt. The difference between the western provinces & the north of Ontario & Quebec is that, being their own provinces, they could set their own semi-functional development policies, & northern ON/QB remained colonies of Bay & St. James Streets.

    • The north of Ontario and Quebec are far from have-provinces. They are a drain on the provincial fisc. The south isn’t bankrupt either – they are still the primary and productive economic drivers of the country, even though less dominant than previous decades.

      However, if there were more development-friendly policies in both provinces (particularly ON), and no legal complications with First Nations, then both northern areas could be quite a bit better off. However, I doubt they would be richer than the diversified south. That would take a century of infrastructure development and population growth that is very unlikely given the terrain involved. Northern Ontario in particular beyond the road network is mostly fen, not exactly great for building much.

  23. The true story behind Mulcairs Statement is: Quebec and Ontario, NDP and Liberals cannot stand a Prime Minister from the West. Ontario being a Have Not Province and Quebec (Who knows what they are) cannot stand the fact that the West is flourishing. This is not West against East, this is East against West. I did read an article that said that manufacturing in 1976 was at 28% and now is at 11.6%, that’s not much of a manufacturing industry to sustain a country. It’s About time the East finally knows what it has been like all these decades for the Westerners being ruined by the Eastern biased governments.
    Let Mulcair have Ontario and Quebec, we’ll keep the rest.

  24. Well, we all know which side Macleans’s is on, especially since Rogers is the real boss there.

  25. I think we can safely say that the only reason Mulcair opens his mouth is to switch feet.

    Give him enough rope and he’ll eventually hang himself.

    His argument is not based on facts or logic, it’s purely a staking of political dividing lines, and people of his ilk will scream the loudest that the Harper conservatives “play the politics of division.” He’s doing his own much more crass and blatant version.

  26. So Harper’s comments about a Western/Alberta firewall are just “talk”. Of course these Premiers and Harper are working together on this, Harper because it hurts Eastern Canada, the West because they’ve got nothing else and don’t care about diversification, environmental impact or long term economic growth or prosperity (just profits for big oil)… and if it hurts someone else in another province well then so what to them right?

  27. Oh, poor, deluded Tommy. It must be hard to come to terms with reality. You have just blown any chance, remote as it was, of ever becoming Canada’s prime minister.

  28. Canada does 80% of its trade with the US. Ontario manufacturing sector probably does 95% or more of its total trade with the US. The US is currently destroying the value of its fiat currency by printing money. The manufacturing sector in Ontario was only competitive because of the the exchange rate which was 60 odd cents on the dollar for decades.

    The rising cost resources globally is not just due to increased demand but decreased value of paper money. Unfortunately even most economists refuse the to acknowledge the inevitable failure of a fiat currency system and the disruptive affect it has on the global economy. Ontario’s hardships stem from the US not Western Canada. The Canadian dollar is being not inflated greatly by the resource sector, the value of the US dollar is being destroyed and that’s really all most Canadians and politicians measure our currency against anyway. Also since the US is devaluing their dollar this pretty much forces every country that trades with them(which is pretty much everyone) to devalue their own fiat currencies. Since Oil and resources are not worth less they must now cost more dollars.

    FYI all official government(any government) figures on inflation rates are complete bullshit, its much worse.

  29. As an Albertan I am used to other Canadians saying negative things about
    my home. However, the last few years it has become unbearable. I have
    worked overseas for the past 15 years and I have met many Canadians
    during this time. Probably half of the central and eastern Canadians I
    meet call me a “redneck” and that Albertans are arrogant and ignorant. Many of these
    people call me a redneck the first time they meet me. When I meet people
    from Ontario or Quebec I do not call them derogatory names and belittle
    or insult their homes. How would you feel if you were treated this way
    Ron? It surprises me because the amount of money Alberta contributes to
    federalism, which benefits all Canadians, is measured in the hundred on
    billions. Also, the oilsands are being singled out for dubious reasons
    by quasi-environmentalist groups. Australia sends thousands of tons of
    coal to China every year, which goes straight up unregulated smokestacks
    and creates enormous CO2 emissions. Why aren’t the evironmentalists
    attacking this industry? I live in Shanghai and the CO2 from burning
    coal is the major problem, not the insignificant emissions coming from
    Fort McMurrayMany of these people call me a redneck the first time they meet me. When
    I meet people from Ontario or Quebec I do not call them derogatory
    names and belittle or insult their homes. How would you feel if you were
    treated this way Ron? It surprises me because the amount of money
    Alberta contributes to federalism, which benefits all Canadians, is
    measured in the hundred on billions. Also, the oilsands are being
    singled out for dubious reasons by quasi-environmentalist groups.
    Australia sends thousands of tons of coal to China every year, which
    goes straight up unregulated smokestacks and creates enormous CO2
    emissions. Why are the evironmentalists attacking this industry? I live
    in Shanghai and the CO2 from burning coal is the major problem, not the
    insignificant emissions coming from Fort McMurray.

  30. But for real reading pleasure, try Stephen Harper’s MA thesis in economics at the University of Calgary. It’s available at , in which Harper tests the thesis that government’s try to rig the economic cycle to coincide with the electoral cycle. Shocking! He got the idea from US researchers but was unable to make the indictment stick to Canadian governments in the 50s and 60s. Not surprising, the US economy is a whole lot bigger than Canada’s and folks in Washington have a bit more leverage when weighting the dice.

  31. We do wish Paul Wells would study a subject he has no clue on a bit more and do his homework in a more encyclopaedic fashion rather than rehash some old worn-out “conspiracy” theory Mulcair is currently on!
    Paul should read more ecoomic reports and study study study his subject well. It’s easy, and lazy, however, to simply pour scribbler’s scorn on Mulcair who is bringing to the light of day, at long last, a truth that the current Republican Party of Canada has hidden from the voters. Our artificially high dollar is causing a lot of pain on our manufacturing and we are being slowly reduced to a “back to the past” nation of wood choppers and resource exporters with no real potential to become world players in exporting our goods, pioneering Science and Technology innovations, not to mention environemtnal leaders.
    We are currently led by neanderthals whom Paul seems to think deserve some kind of protection from conspirational adversaries!
    Paul, give us a break….and so some more homework. Our current government is a disaster for Canadians—regardless of whether they voted pink, green, blue, red, orange or purple! It’s too easy to attack the “messenger” (Mr. Mulcair) than to dig in like a modern-day I.F. Stone, which you ain’t!
    Real News, anyone?!:)

  32. Mulcair vs Harper, it’s a race to take the incompetence crown.

  33. So, Tom may want to clean up his own backyard. I recall all the Hydro development in northern Quebec left a lot of environmental damage and upcoming projects have a huge environmental foot print. There is always a price to pay for energy. Be careful when you point the finger…there are always three fingers pointing back at you.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *