We are, right now, experiencing a real political crisis in Canada because the prime minister and his inner circle got all exited about the criminal case being made against one (admittedly large and important) Québec company, the CEO of which denies the prime minister’s claim that 9,000 good jobs in Québec were ever at risk … two cabinet ministers and the PM’s most senior advisor and the head of Canada’s civil service have all resigned; that makes it serious. But, meanwhile, China has ramped up its attacks on Canada by refusing to buy any more of our Canola. (That’s rooted in the detention and potential extradition, to the USA, of Meng Wanzhou, who is deputy chair of the board and chief financial officer of China’s largest private company, the telecom giant Huawei.)
The CBC reports that “About 40 per cent of Canada’s canola seed exports last year went to China, worth about $2.7 billion. Canada also sent about $1 billion worth of canola oil to China, and about $500 million worth of canola meal, which is the name for canola seeds after they have been crushed and separated from their oil, leaving a product that is used as animal food … [and the report quotes Professor Meredith Lilly, the Simon Reisman Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University, who says that] … “China always links its trade diplomacy with its foreign policy” … [and] … “They’ve made this claim before,” she said, referring to the allegations Canadian canola is somehow unsafe, “because to not make one with a legal justification would be an outright admission that this is just about geopolitics.”” The article also notes that “China tore up a bilateral trade deal with Norway and restricted imports of salmon from that country after Norway awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo in 2010,” so this fits with the established pattern of China’s international behaviour.
According to CropLife Canada, an agricultural products association (lobby group), Canola is worth, in total, $26.7 to the Canadian economy every year and supports 250,000 jobs; if we accept the CBC‘s numbers (link above), then $3.5 Billion (12.5%) of the total value, is under direct threat and, presumably, over 30,000 jobs are at high risk too. The total impact, because China accounts for 40% of our canola export market, could be much, much higher, perhaps (extrapolating from CropLife Canada‘s numbers) as much as $8 Billion and 75,000 jobs. The CBC reported that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it an important issue on Friday when speaking with reporters,” saying that ““So, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and work with the Chinese officials to demonstrate that canola should continue to flow safely from Canada to China,” he said, adding the government is optimist [sic] it’ll be able to make headway this year.“
Justin Trudeau has provoked a major political crisis, it appears, because he was worried about 9,000 jobs in Québec that were never really at risk, but he’s only “optimistic” about making headway on an issues that threatens at least three times as many jobs in Western Canada?
Michelle Rempel gets it exactly right, and, in my opinion, this one picture says it all:
We have a national government, in Ottawa, that is so intensely focused on the perceived, by the Laurentian Elites, interests of the Windsor to Gaspésie corridor, that it ignores, because, I think, it is honestly ignorant of, the interests of the whole country, writ large.
The eminent Canadian Historian Michael Bliss was very prescient, almost 20 years ago, when he wrote that “More than ever, Canada has become politically two countries. The dividing line is the Ottawa River. The division is not, as we usually assume, between Quebec and the Rest of Canada. Rather it is between Old Canada, which consists of Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces, and New Canada, which stretches from Ontario to British Columbia … [and] … The Old-New distinction is profoundly, though not totally, rooted in history. Old Canada was a creation of the 17th and 18th centuries. New Canada emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries. The idea that, on the one hand, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces would become an identifiable region, and on the other hand, Ontario and the West would meld together, nonetheless seemed preposterous so long as two conditions applied. These were (1) Quebec’s extreme sense of ethnic distinctiveness; and (2) the Western provinces’ intense sense of regional identity and estrangement. Since at least the 1960s, Canadian national politics has swirled constantly around the challenges posed by either, or both, Quebec nationalism and Western alienation.” Well, Western alienation seems, yet again, on the rise, according to a report in the Globe and Mail, which says that “Western Canada is experiencing a rising tide of resentment toward the rest of the country amidst political battles over pipelines, emissions and equalization payments, with a majority in Alberta and Saskatchewan now saying they get so little out of Confederation that they might as well leave … [and it explains] … That’s according to a massive new survey from the Environics Institute, which confirms a widespread impression that Western alienation has gotten worse since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister.“
So, one picture says it all, doesn’t it? Prime Minister Trudeau’s laser like focus on the interests of the Laurentian Consensus threatens the survival of his own government, but his foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, his trade minister, Jim Carr, and his minister of agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau seem almost entirely disengaged from a much bigger international agricultural trade issue. I looked, for example, at one of Ms Freeland’s social media accounts: lots about Norouz and the UN Human Rights group and the budget and La francophonie, but her only words about trade in agriculture came on 7 March 2019 when she talked about “the opportunities created by the new NAFTA, Canadian innovation, and our government’s support for our grain and canola exporters.” In keeping with what I assume is direction from the PMO, Trade Minister Jim Carr’s Twitter account is also full of budget ‘good news,’ and pretty much devoid about our ongoing trade war with China, but, even though we know that our trading partners read government social media feeds, and react to them, the Laurentian Elites don’t know what canola is or why it matters, and jobs for prairie grain farmers are, clearly, not as important as office jobs in Montréal, so … one picture says it all, doesn’t it?