Opinion Column

Canada, it’s time to grow up

Daily Observer editorial board columnist

By Alfred Villeneuve

It’s been true of all epochs throughout human history.

That is, there has existed a catalyst which emboldened society to take a step in unison, uplifting their fellow citizens from under the heel of oppression, culminating in benefits for the whole of that society.

Within the last 10 months the brewing political storm that seemed at first distant thunderclouds, now hovers over our collective heads, dark, ominous, threatening….

The latest thunderbolt emanating from the Republican presidency in the United States, a crippling 220 per cent tariff, aimed directly at the heart of Bombardier Inc., a Canadian multinational aerospace/transportation company that employs 55,000 employees world wide.

Is this a deft, politically nuanced move?

Hardly, it was more like a sucker punch from the school bully.

Bombardier is accused of unfair subsidies as a result of a loan from the Government of Canada (Hello there Chrysler and GM), and an investment by the Quebec Government. The charges stem from Boeing Aerospace, who by their own admission, are the largest aerospace company in the world dealing in commercial jetliners and defense; space, and security.

The irony of course is that they, Boeing, do not even produce a jet like the one Bombardier is manufacturing for an American airline company.

So it appears to be a historical re-enactment of confrontation; one of the biblical David and Goliath variety.

Nothing has been proven of course, and it could be appealed right up to the World Trade Organization (WTO) but the mere suggestion has put a chill

on the company and its workers.

With thousands of jobs at stake in the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Theresa May responded in a 21st Century version of Margaret Thatcher verses the Falklands by putting it on the line to the U.S.A.

She made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that these punitive import duties would not be tolerated and threatened that her government would engage in a ‘trade war’ with the U.S.A. to protect valuable jobs in Britain.

Now that sounds like a leader, doesn’t it?

Mr. Trudeau, at best, seems uncomfortable with the political grip of this issue.

The image of the POTUS (President of the United States), his sycophants at his side, and Russia on the phone cackling about how he’s putting one over on that young dude from Canada, is almost too much to bear.

I can almost hear him rasp, “The deal’s gonna be yuge, I mean really Yuge!” as Canada caves in to yet another corporate demand for more access to our land, water and people (read consumer).

Because folks, this is what we are really discussing.

Free trade is not between countries, it is the ‘Trojan Horse’ for corporate predators. If you are not a corporation, the only stake you have in this will be the one in your back.

So called ‘Free Trade’ is merely a process in which corporations trump (no pun intended) sovereign states, forcing them to accept the lowest common denominator in terms of rights, wages, health and social programs, the environment, in fact making governments bend to the ‘tooth and claw’ of capitalist dogma.

Regardless of what you think of Canada’s “...dark history” (Justin Trudeau, speech at the United Nations, Sept. 2017), we as a people must collectively resist this unbridled attack on our shared nation.

Quebec of course, has been the first out of the gate in Canada to condemn vociferously the American economic assault.

Quebec Premier Pierre Couillard, perhaps sensing history within the moment, exhorted fellow Quebecers exclaiming, “The war is far from over-and we shall win.”

That is the kind of leadership a country needs when it is beset by a predacious neighbour, not the lukewarm, disappointing, political shrug of our current prime minister.

Barring Mr. Couillard running federally, there will be soon an alternative to the right-turn Liberals and the way, way, waaay out in right field Conservatives.

And for those Conservatives who think this is unfair, all I need to say is...Gerry Ritz and Senator Beyak, you follow? At the current rate, you may run out of Senators and MPs before the next election.

But I digress.

The alternative I’m speaking of has surfaced with the results in the NDP leadership race. This may end up to be the most important political move in Canada for the NDP and Canadians.

Now I must declare I had a bias. I really liked Charlie Angus, a Northern Ontario MP (Timmins-James Bay, but in end, the NDP party voters turned the federal political landscape on its head and elected Jagmeet Singh, a 38-year-old former Toronto MPP.

Singh, who has based his campaign on “love and courage” will certainly make it almost impossible for the Conservatives to wave the alt-right flag without drawing fire, which is a good thing.

Hyperbole, the main plank in the Conservatives ongoing campaign, will be negated as Canadians realize that politics in this country needn’t be driven by extremism or screaming matches.

NDP leader-elect Singh has instead put out his policies for everyone to review - www.jagmeetsingh.ca/policy - and promises to end violence against and racial profiling of minorities and is willing to work closely with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, the working class, and women’s groups to ensure fairness, accountability and equality.

He further intends to finally bring about fairness in our tax system for working Canadians and liberate those who suffer under the yoke of substandard pay and benefits, rather than giving the wealthy and well positioned yet another tax break.

His enlightened attitude should encourage and embolden those who have been left on the sidelines by successive Conservative and Liberal federal governments.

Ontario and B.C. could even be kingmakers in a fractured political landscape in the next federal general election.

Canada needs the kind of leadership that Jagmeet Singh espouses to be an antidote to the hysterical Conservative Party of Candaa and the sheepishly deceptive Trudeau Liberals.

Let’s face it, these two parties have been mostly responsible for much of the destruction of our land, our resources, and the eroding of our sovereignty, especially when it comes to trading with our rambunctious, unpredictable neighbour south of the 49th.

It is this writer’s opinion that what is required is a leader who will be able to lead Canada away from it’s addiction to ‘low hanging fruit’ type trade deals and the knee-jerk reaction to sell out at the slightest provocation (real or imagined).

Electorally, the NDP has already supplanted Alberta Conservatives (it’s a miracle!) and the British Columbia Liberal/Conservatives (hello there Christy Clarke and Stock Day) in rapid succession and the sky certainly hasn’t fallen, so perhaps it’s time for Canada to grow up.

Canada needs to grow up and stand as a country together that honours the value of social justice, its Indigenous roots, its elders, the disenfranchised, the working class, education, and true universal healthcare, (including childcare and dental care).

So let’s leave those old parties in the dust of the 19th and 20th centuries with the expectation that these new challenges will be met with socially conscious leadership, advancing this coming of age (finally), reconciling our shared

history, embracing a new way of defining our country for the good of all, not just a few - and not just for today but for our grandchildren as well.

Next week: Patricia Anne Elford