Posts Tagged ‘MDA’

Blame Canada!

April 20, 2008

Normally, I try not to get too caught up in American politics.  I don’t want to follow every development in Washington.  There are some things you can’t ignore, of course, but I don’t need to know everything that goes on.  I don’t watch American news, particularly the cable news channels.  Even so, we get plenty of American political coverage on Canadian TV – more than is necessary, in my opinion.  Two of the funniest shows on television also happen to poke fun at American politics, providing me with all the knowledge I need.

The current presidential primary campaigns in the U.S. are a perfect example of too much foreign coverage.  Canadian networks have followed every step of the year long run up to the next election.  I try not to pay attention to all of it.  A periodic update on the races, results of major primaries, and reports of major gaffes would probably suffice.  One story has caught my attention, though.

NAFTA has become an issue in the campaign, with both Democratic candidates claiming that it is costing Americans.  Hillary Clinton even mentioned Canada by name, saying she will renegotiate the trade pact because American companies can’t get their products into Canada due to invisible barriers.

She’s right.  I just can’t find an American product anywhere in Canada.  I hunt high and low for American brands, but they’re just not there.  They’ve been squeezed out by Canadian brands like…. uh…. you know…  Well, I can’t think of them at the moment, but they’re pretty ubiquitous and have so much clout that they can actually get the government to prevent American brands from entering Canada.

Really?  You think we put bogus barriers in place?  How about American refusal to accept NAFTA panel rulings on softwood lumber and imposing tariffs?  They use the Canadian stumpage fee system as an excuse but stumpage fees apply to trees cut down, or raw logs.  Yet, there seems to be no limit to the number of raw logs they’ll import from Canada for their mills to process.  They apply the tariff to processed wood, not logs.  Where do stumpage fees figure in that?  Looks like an excuse to protect American mills and reduce the Canadian forestry industry to a primary one.

American farmers are directly subsidized.  Canadian farmers aren’t.

There was also the U.S. cattle and meat packing industries exploiting the Canadian industry during the BSE crisis.  American producers picked up young Canadian cattle for a song from desperate ranchers while the U.S. border remained closed to older Canadian animals for longer than was necessary.  This was despite the fact that there had been cases of victims of mad cow disease in the U.S. (in New Jersey, for example) that were not related to Canadian cattle.

How about security restrictions, even against their friends and allies?  Why did MDA have to try and sell its space division to an American military contractor for a chance to sell some satellites to the U.S. government?  Both Democratic candidates should remember that they have stated the need to mend relationships with friends and allies that have been damaged by the Bush administration.  Sen. Clinton’s comment sounds a bit like more of the same foreign policy derived from ‘South Park: The Movie’.

Are there some protectionist practices on this side of the border, too?  Probably.  The CBC reported that some agricultural shenanigans are used by both sides.  But, if NAFTA is opened up, it works both ways.  Both sides will have things they want to change.   That won’t address the American tendency to flout the rules and ignore rulings they don’t like, though.

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I Am Canada and So Can You

April 11, 2008

Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t make a difference.  Don’t ever allow yourself to fall into the trap of fatalistic defeatist bullshit thinking that says, “What can I do?  I’m just one person.”  This one person made a difference.  In fact, I may have changed the course of a nation.

Almost three months ago I wrote about the proposed sale of MDA‘s space division to an American defence contractor and how the transfer of its Radarsat2 to American control represented a threat to Canadian sovereignty.  I also urged people to write to the Prime Minister, other relevant cabinet ministers, and their MPs.  A couple weeks later, I reported that some of you must have paid attention and spread the word because Industry Minister Jim Prentice had just announced that he would review the sale.

On March 18th, in an email to me and cc’d to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, he wrote that he was continuing his review and mentioned the criteria he takes into account.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, because security considerations were pretty vaguely defined.

Well, yesterday, it paid off.  It looks like the government is going to stop the sale, as reported in this news story.  As Stephen Colbert would say, “I did it!”  You can thank me for saving the country later.  I’m considering changing the subtitle of this blog to “Saving the Nation One Post at a Time”.  And any goalkeeper, the last line of defence, will tell you that posts are his best friend.

Now, of course, I’m not the only one who was against the deal but, if I can toot my own horn for a bit, no one else seemed to notice or care about the security and sovereignty considerations until I brought it up.  I wrote emails to the media, too.  One sour note in the news yesterday was that NDP leader Jack Layton was trying to take credit for it and claiming that the government was coming around to his way of thinking.  I must have missed those speeches.  Maybe he expressed concerns about losing Canadarm, but I didn’t hear a word about Radarsat2 or security concerns from him.

The scale of this achievement shouldn’t be underestimated.  The network news reporters are saying this is unprecedented.  It’s the first time a cross-border acquisition has ever been overturned by the government for security reasons.  That it was done by a Conservative government whose priorities seem to be to guarantee and increase the flow of capital into the country and maintaining friendly relations with a security obsessed administration in Washington is even more noteworthy.  It is an indication that they are aware that there is something called Canada that is more important than any business transaction.  That is not a principle most Canadian governments could convincingly say they upheld.

I want to make it clear, I’m no commie.  I have no problem with companies making an honest profit, and I generally don’t like taxes.  But, there was a higher principle at stake, here.  It’s amazing what you can do with a blog, an email account, and knowing how to speak someone’s language.

Does Canada Lack Ambition?

January 30, 2008

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about the pending takeover of MDA’s space division by an American company and the threat to national security it represented.  I asked readers to write their MPs, cabinet ministers, and the prime minister.  I don’t know if anybody did, but I did and it seems to have been noticed. 

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently announced plans to begin examining foreign takeovers for national security threats in the near future.  See this article: http://www.mytelus.com/money/news/article.do?pageID=ex_business/home&articleID=2860914.  The article also discusses something else I’ve noticed:  the lack of leadership in this country has not only been at the political level, it’s also in the boardroom.

Many of our biggest and best companies are being bought up by foreign companies that aspire to be the global leaders in their sectors.  You may not realize it, but Tim Horton’s isn’t even Canadian owned anymore.  It was bought years ago by Wendy’s.  If you’ve wondered why they’ve started sharing premises, now you know.

Why don’t Canadian companies aspire to be the global leader and start buying others?  It seems that even our companies lack ambition.  They just don’t think big, or big enough.  Or maybe they’re just lazy.  Why make all that effort to make the market, when there’s a huge market on your doorstep?  Let the Americans do the hard part, we’ll just sell them the materials they need to build their vision of the world.

Why don’t we build our own vision of the world?  We’re sitting on three and a half million square miles of everything you need to build an economic monster, an empire, and what do we have?  One of the most underpopulated countries in the world, where governments typically rely on primary industries to drive the economy, sometimes at the expense of other industries.

This happened recently when government regulators dragged their feet while two Canadian electric car companies waited for approval of their vehicles.  It finally came for one after the story was featured on the news, but it was too late for the other.  The Richmond, BC based company had already decided to move overseas.  A Canadian car company lost because the government relies on oil revenue.

We need visionary leaders, in government and business, to build the kind of country we are capable of being.  But right now, they’re not there.  I hope they come along soon because if this keeps up, before long none of us will work for a Canadian company.

Sometimes a Business Transaction Is More Than a Business Transaction

January 14, 2008

For a while now, I’ve felt that the greatest threat to Canadian sovereignty could be summed up in two words:  shareholder value.  Late last week, Richmond, BC based MDA announced it would sell its space division to an American company.  The media made a bit of a fuss about what a blow to national pride this would be, as the Canadarm, the robotic arm used on the space shuttles and the international space station, is one of the space division’s assets.  But there is an even greater loss, or even threat, involved with this transaction.

The media, for some reason, didn’t talk a lot about the fact that the division’s other assets include RadarSat2, and the implications of its falling into foreign hands.  The sale could actually result in a threat to arctic sovereignty and national security.

RadarSat2 is a remote sensing satellite that was put into orbit fairly recently.  Its capabilities and duties include monitoring arctic waters for vessels – as small as cars – to protect and reinforce Canada’s sovereignty.  Aside from the usual reasons for not allowing an asset used for defence purposes from falling into foreign hands, the problem with the sale is that the Americans refuse to recognize Canadian sovereignty and rights over waters that clearly fall within the limits set out by the UN Convention on the Laws Of the Sea (UNCLOS).  So, ownership of the satellite that enables us to monitor our own waters will transfer to the people who want to take them away from us.

The northwest passage has become an important issue lately because global warming is melting arctic ice at a surprisingly fast pace.  The passage is now being seen as a viable navigation route for the near future.  There are also believed to be valuable resources beneath the seabed.  If UNCLOS definitions are recognized, Canada has economic rights over them and can impose environmental standards.  If they are not, anyone can take them and not have to worry about environmental practices.

Contact your MP, any relevant cabinet ministers, and the PM. Tell them that RadarSat2 must not be allowed to be sold to foreign interests.  Even if the MDA deal goes ahead, provisions will have to be made to keep RadarSat2 in Canadian hands.

It’s our melting ice, damn it!  If the Americans – or anyone else – want it, they’ll have to take it from our cold, dead, wet hands.