Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 18, 2002
Ralph wraps himself in the flag
Who would have thought of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein as a Canadian nationalist? But by planning to go to Wall Street next month to ask American investors to take their money out of Canada, Klein is clearly playing the nationalist card.
The Canadian and Alberta establishments are currently reeling in horror at Klein's plan to tell Americans to keep their money away from Canada. In a Nov. 9 editorial titled, "An ill-considered mission," The Edmonton Journal argued Klein's "scare-mongering" about the effect of the Kyoto Accord "can only help turn predictions of doom and gloom into self-fulfilling prophecies."
To be sure, Klein's is a highly unusual move for a politician who has devoted many years to attracting outside investment with something called the Alberta Advantage.
It appears he has suddenly thrown that approach to the wind in his efforts to get Ottawa to reverse the Kyoto Accord. But Klein's government has changed direction before and another change would not be out of character.
The real question is: What is the battle and what is the war?
Most assume that bringing a halt to Kyoto is the war and that Klein's New York foray is just another, albeit extreme, step in trying to win that war.
More likely is that the premier knows what he is doing. That is, if Klein loses the battle on Kyoto, he may still win the war by getting Americans to withdraw their investments from Alberta.
As such, he would no doubt be party to throwing the province's economy into a tailspin, a recession not likely to be ended by the American investors he has chased away. It will have to be Canadians who ante up the money to rebuild the Alberta economy.
This will no doubt come at a price. Eastern Canadians would be unlikely to invest in Alberta unless they have some assurance that Alberta petroleum resources will be developed solely for long-term use in Canadian industry.
In this scenario, Canadians will start to gain some control over their economy, something we forfeited decades ago and continued to abdicate with the free trade deals of the 1980s and early '90s.
But free trade has clearly not paid off. It has failed to increase Canadian productivity and average incomes. Medicare is under threat, as are other programs in the social safety net. Undeterred, right-wing advocates of free trade are now proposing a united monetary system with the U.S. and further integration of our economies.
Under Klein's new nationalism, Alberta will not be as well off as it once was, but will have the consolation of knowing that Alberta resources are being developed for Canadians and are not being exploited as rapidly as they have been in the past.
The catch in this scenario is that the energy-hungry U.S., already willing to fight wars to secure petroleum supplies in the Middle East, may catch on to Klein's covert nationalism and simply ignore what he has to say on Wall Street. They will leave their dollars invested in Canada and allow the federal government to continue on its bumbling way towards ratification of the Kyoto Accord.
We may end up with a made-in-Canada approach to Kyoto (as opposed to a made-in-the-U.S.A. approach), but Klein will have lost his opportunity to steer Canada towards greater economic nationalism. Our prosperity will continue untrammeled and Albertans will continue to grouse about federal politicians enacting policies that are disadvantageous to the West.
Perhaps when our premier goes to New York, he should tell investors to leave well enough alone and to respect Canada's sovereign right to make our own political decisions.
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