by Yule Heibel on August 4, 2003

Via Dawn’s site, a pointer to an article in The Nation by Naomi Klein, Canada: Hippie Nation? Klein writes about Canada’s new cutting-edge laws on gay marriage and legalized drugs, and that this is suddenly making Canada — long the boring white-bread north-of-the-border silent partner of the US — world-famous, particularly since our liberalism stands in such a marked contrast to the cynical fundamentalism of the current US administration. But as Klein goes on to stress, most of the hype around Canadian changes is mostly …hype. Klein knows that all the liberalizing in the world isn’t going to change the status quo if the determining economic conditions aren’t altered. And what’s really determining Canada’s status vis-a-vis the US is our bondage to the North American Free Trade Agreement: “Our economic dependence on the United States is staggering: Almost 40 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product comes from exports to the United States. More troubling, particularly given the Bush Administration’s unquenchable thirst for oil and gas, we have traded away our right to put Canadian energy needs before those of the United States. A little-known clause in NAFTA states that even in the event of a severe energy shortage, Canada cannot cut off its oil and gas exports to the United States — we can only reduce the flow south by the same rate as we reduce our own domestic consumption.” Klein goes on to call “this dramatic ceding of power” to the US Jean Chretien’s true legacy, and Canadian government is pushing to extend NAFTA to all of Latin America.

I hate NAFTA. Perhaps irrationally so, since I don’t really understand global economics. But what I do understand and hate about it is that it leads to a loss of local control, and that agreements of its kind continue to pretend that bigger is better, without asking, better for whom? On Saltspring Island, a developer is planning to build a 9,400-sq.-ft. sablefish (black cod) hatchery. The locals complain that the plant will probably cause the collapse of the wild sablefish market here, and, more ominously, that it represents an “industrialization” of their sensitive eco-system and makes a land-use decision over which locals have no control whatsoever. This is a situation that is bound to get worse: “If B.C.’s proposed Bill 48 passes, communities along the coast will see local control eroded. The contentious bill would include fish farmers in the Right to Farm Act. This would let the province overrule local governments. In the past, communities have relied on zoning bylaws to block fish farms from starting up [sic] their areas.” In other words, we have here another example of government — which is supposed to be answerable to the citizens — ceding control to corporatist interests. I guess you don’t need fancy black boots anymore to make the world a more fascist place: the quiet co-operation (in the name of “progress,” not ideology) of government and big business will suffice.

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