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  • Help us build a better Ontario September 14, 2017
    If you live in Ontario, you may have recently been selected to receive our 2017 grassroots poll on vital issues affecting the province. Your answers to these and other essential questions will help us decide what issues to focus on as we head towards the June 2018 election in Ontario. For decades, the CCPA has […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Does the Site C dam make economic sense for BC? August 31, 2017
    Today CCPC-BC senior economist Marc Lee submitted an analysis to the BC Utilities Commission in response to their consultation on the economics of the Site C dam. You can read it here. In short, the submission discussses how the economic case for Site C assumes that industrial demand for electricity—in particular for natural gas extraction […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Ontario's middle and working class families are losing ground August 15, 2017
    Ontario is becoming more polarized as middle and working class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper middle and rich families take home even more. New research from CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block reveals a staggering divide between two labour markets in the province: the top half of families continue to pile […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in October for the CCPA-BC fundraising gala, featuring Senator Murray Sinclair August 14, 2017
    We are incredibly honoured to announce that Senator Murray Sinclair will address our 2017 Annual Gala as keynote speaker, on Thursday, October 19 in Vancouver. Tickets are now on sale. Will you join us? Senator Sinclair has served as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba, […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • How to make NAFTA sustainable, equitable July 19, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is consulting Canadians on their priorities for, and concerns about, the planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood point out how NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise with respect to job and productivity […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The New ABC: Abitibi Bowater Conservatives

As sometimes happens, I started writing a comment on Jim’s excellent post and then realized that there was enough material for a new post. I agree with Jim that Ottawa’s $130-million settlement with AbitibiBowater deserves more attention, but I have been waist-deep in potash.

I think that my initial take on Abitibi’s NAFTA challenge still holds up pretty well. But here are three further thoughts:

1.) Jim writes, “There is no constitutional way for Ottawa to force Newfoundland to pick up the tab.” Constitutionally, it would actually be quite easy for the federal government to deduct $130 million from its transfer payments to the provincial government. But that would be politically toxic.

2.) It is not unusual for governments to contribute to the restructuring of economically significant, but financially bankrupt, companies like Abitibi (which has many operations in other provinces). So, I wonder to what extent Harper is using the NAFTA challenge to characterize the $130 million as compliance with trade obligations rather than as a “bailout.”

Of course, an explicit federal bailout of Abitibi would be preferable because Ottawa could attach public-interest conditions to the money, obtain equity in the company, and not set such a rotten precedent for future NAFTA challenges. But as Jim notes, federal Conservatives probably view that precedent as “a desirable loss of sovereignty.”

3.) Harper has set another precedent: provincial governments can disregard NAFTA with impunity (although I am not convinced that Newfoundland really violated NAFTA in this case). If “foreign” investors challenge a provincial policy, Ottawa is left holding the bag.

I believe that is one of the federal government’s main motives for encouraging inter-provincial “free trade” deals like TILMA. The goal is not to remove unidentified inter-provincial trade barriers, but to have provincial governments directly commit to NAFTA-style rules.

PS – The old ABC was Premier Williams’ “Anything But Conservative.”

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