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  • 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
  • What’s next for BC? July 4, 2017
    Five weeks ago the CCPA-BC began a letter to our supporters with this statement: “What an interesting and exciting moment in BC politics! For a bunch of policy nerds like us at the CCPA, it doesn’t get much better than this.” At the time, we were writing about the just-announced agreement between the BC NDP […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Could skyrocketing private sector debt spell economic crisis? June 21, 2017
    Our latest report finds that Canada is racking up private sector debt faster than any other advanced economy in the world, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences. The report, Addicted to Debt, reveals that Canada has added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years, with the corporate sector […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The energy industry’s insatiable thirst for water threatens First Nations’ treaty-protected rights June 21, 2017
    Our latest report looks at the growing concerns that First Nations in British Columbia have with the fossil fuel industry’s increasing need for large volumes of water for natural gas fracking operations. Titled Fracking, First Nations and Water: Respecting Indigenous rights and better protecting our shared resources, it describes what steps should be taken to […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Betting on Bitumen: Alberta's energy policies from Lougheed to Klein June 8, 2017
    The role of government in Alberta, both involvement and funding, has been critical in ensuring that more than narrow corporate interests were served in the development of the province’s bitumen resources.  A new report contrasts the approaches taken by two former premiers during the industry’s early development and rapid expansion periods.  The Lougheed government invested […]
    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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