Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This is no softwood victory

With a combination of heavy political pressure and a handy lowering of the bar of required industry support, the Harper government's softwood sellout will get enough reluctant industry support to go to Parliament for a vote. And with the BQ's support looking likely, it will pass too. That doesn't make it a good deal.

Now, that won't stop the Conservatives from telling us how fantastic a deal it is. It's a deal, but it's far from fantastic, or even good. The fact that they've been able to browbeat a tired, demoralized Canadian industry into submission should not be cause for celebration for Harper and Emerson. And it would be insulting to every forest worker from Port Hardy to Peggy's Cove if they pop the bubbly.

Because the forest workers aren't celebrating, and I doubt forest company executives are breaking out the caviar either. That over $1 billion bribe they had to give to the U.S. forest industry probably put a crimp in the caviar budget.

The industry is coming on board with this "deal" but that doesn't mean they like it. They had no choice. The Conservatives made it clear this was a take it or leave it deal, like it or lump it, but they were done. Reject this and no more assistance for depressed communities and laid-off workers. This is one issue the Cons have no trouble politicizing.

Abandoned by their own government, a government that couldn't be bothered to tough it out and Stand Up For Canada, they were faced with the prospect carrying-on with expensive lawsuits on their own, and even knowing they were legally right, facing a U.S. government that has shown no respect for the rule of law anyway. With no support from the Canadian government what chance did they have?

I'd be interested to learn of the threats and "persuasion" that Emerson and co. engaged in behind closed doors to get their "support." So the industry has swallowed hard, wringed whatever minor changes they could out of Emerson and Harper, and signed-on. But certainly, to claim a great victory is insulting to all involved.

My own position, I feel, has been fairly consistent all along. This is a bad deal, a sellout. If this is what everyone wanted, we could have surrendered years ago. It's not the long-term fix that we were fighting for, the hope of which sustained us through the tough years. I felt we should continue to fight, because we're in the right.

However, I also felt that we need to defer to industry. After all, it's their $5 billion-plus at stake here. If they wanted to keep fighting, we should keep fighting and have their back. If they felt their situation was such that they had to call it quits and if they felt this was a good deal, then that's what we should do.

What to do?

You can bet softwood will be on the agenda at the Liberal caucus meetings in Vancouver this week. How should we vote? It will largely be symbolic, because with Conservative and BQ support the deal will pass. I'm pretty sure the NDP will vote no. While our vote won't change the outcome, it's not any less important, particularly when we fight the next election in B.C.

Given that it will largely be a symbolic act, I think it's important that the Liberal caucus stands-up as one and votes a symbolic No to this deal. We can't let the Conservatives claim this as a victory, because it's not. We need to vote No, and make clear this was a capitulation the Conservatives rammed down the throats of the industry for political gain. The forest industry was forced to pay $1 billion to improve Harper's changes of getting his majority government. I hope they report the contribution to Elections Canada.

It's a bad deal for British Columbians, and for Canadians, that will have us right back to square one in a few years. Only we'll be $1 billion poorer, and the Cons hope to have a majority by then.

If we vote yes, there's no way we can still make the case this is a bad deal, or easily counter Conservative claims of it being the greatest deal since the U.S. bought Alaska from the Russians. We'd also leave the NDP on their own as the only party to vote against the softwood sellout, something you know they'll milk in forest industry communities in the next campaign.

If the industry really, truly believed this was a good deal that would be one thing. But given the fact that Harper had to beat and bully them into submission, not to mention redefine his "victory conditions," that's another matter all together.

Sometimes the right thing to do is also the right thing do. We need to vote NO on softwood.

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Anonymous said...

I saw Peter Julian, NDP interviewed this morning. He claims Canada only had two more legal battles that if won couldn't be appealed and this it would only take approx 12 months. So why in hell is Harper settling for this?

The NDP were constantly on Paul Martin's case to hurry with this file. Hearings and trials take time and now their saying only two more hearings?

I gather that Harper and gang have pretty much said to the industry take or leave it an no help from this "new" government. So, what choice do they have. They aren't agreeing - they're submitting with no choice. This really smells.
We've been bullied and sold down the river by Harper.

CuriosityCat said...

How to Outflank the Bloc on the Softwood Sellout.

The deal has to go to Parliament, and the odds are that the Bloc will support Harper and so pass the legislation.

Unless ....

Unless the Liberals this weekend in Vancouver pay some attention to the framing of the discussion. The most pernicious part of the softwood capitulation engineered by Harper, Emerson and Wilson is the attack made on the sovereignty of the provinces of Canada.

Harper made the provinces subordinate to the government of the USA in his softwood sellout.

And the Bloc – normally so insistent on the rights of the province of Quebec – are going to vote in favour of the law that subordinates the power of the province of Quebec to the USA.

Are the Liberals going to allow the Bloc to agree to such a surrender of government powers?

EX-NDIP said...

1 Billion dollar bribe . . . is that more than the 5 Billion dollar bribe they had from the Lib era of incompetence???
BC coastal lumber industry woes have little to do with US duties and more to do with a decade of NDP rule in the 90's that drove at least 2 large corporations into bankruptcy. The federal Libs also get some of the credit for tax laws that made it difficult for companies to afford new technologies. Hence many became uncompetitive.
Its amazing how all the left-leaning critics emerge, so vocal . . . after sitting quietly for sooooo many years.

Anonymous said...

What? A left winger bitching that Canandian big business didn't get enough cash? wow, thats a first.