Transatlantic Echo Chamber
The big news for Canadians from the OECDâ€™s Going for Growth 2010 report was that we should privatize Canada Post. An article in the current issue of Macleanâ€™s (pages 26 and 27), which does not (yet) seem to be available online, sheds some interesting light on that recommendation:
[Yvan Guillemette was]Â working for the C. D. Howe Institute, the prominent business-oriented think tank in Toronto, back in 2007, when it released a report called â€œRerouting the Mail: Why Canada Post is Due for Reform.â€ And it was that reportâ€™s call for selling off the postal service that Guillemette imported unaltered into the OECDâ€™s competitiveness blueprint for Canada.
â€œHere at the OECD,â€ he told Macleanâ€™s, â€œwe havenâ€™t done a study of the postal sector or Canada Post.â€ Still, by having the OECD echo from Paris the case that impressed him back in Toronto, Guillemette at least revived the perspective of critics who see tackling mail delivery as a pressing economic challenge . . .
With national output well below potential, high unemployment, high carbon emissions and a soaring currency, it is beyond me why anyone would consider privatizing the post office to be â€œa pressing economic challenge.â€ However, Guillemette is obviously entitled to his opinions.
The broader issue is how the OECD formulates policy. If it has not studied Canadaâ€™s postal system, on what basis does it recommend privatizing Canada Post? Is the OECD so ideologically committed to privatization that it is happy to recommend selling any given public enterprise regardless of specific circumstances?
Since long before Guillemette went to work for the OECD, its recommendations have more or less been a repetition of the C. D. Howe Instituteâ€™s agenda: corporate tax cuts, deregulation, reducing Employment Insurance benefits, and eliminating (unidentified) inter-provincial trade barriers.Â
But whereas the C. D. Howe Institute is funded by corporate Canada, the OECD is funded by the Canadian government and other member governments to provide supposedly neutral policy advice.