Ignatieff’s threat to Obama also threatens us

Michael Ignatieff is full of righteous indignation about US protectionist sentiment in the Congress. His response to what is unquestionably a serious issue for Canada, is to issue a threat.

That always works well. People love to be threatened, and it never carries the risk that they will get their backs up and utter some expletive deleted to the bully, right?

Ignatieff’s threat is to cut off the flow of energy from Canada to the US.  Here’s what he said: “We’re the United States’ largest energy supplier, not just oil, but also hydro; and they’ve got to understand that, if they want energy security, they shouldn’t start putting up barriers to our goods and services, and that quid pro quo has to be clearly understand by the incoming administration.”

The arrogance of that rhetoric aside, the threat is clear. If you won’t buy our steel, we won’t sell you oil, gas or hydro power.

It is disappointing, though not surprising, that the Liberal leader does not seem to realize the impact of that threat on his fellow Canadians.

The vast majority of natural resources in Canada belong to the provinces, thanks to Section 109 of the Constitution, the Constitution Act of 1930, and other amendments. Ignatieff, if he were the Prime Minister, would control only those resources in the three northern territories, and those that reside under federal Crown land (such as Aboriginal lands).

Ignatieff might recall controversy in the late 1970s when the federal government attempted to exert control over the oil and gas industry, plunging Alberta into economic chaos. The Constitution Act of 1982 reaffirmed provincial control over the development, conservation, management and regulation of natural resources. The federal Parliament was given control over the export of those resources.

During the 2008 federal election, Prime Minister Harper muttered something about prohibiting the export of oil from Alberta to jurisdictions that do not share Canada’s environmental standards. The reactionwas vigorous and easily predictable. Albertans responded with anger, outrage and a feeling of betrayal. And Harper is a Conservative. Try the same trick as a Liberal, and the response will be ten times greater due to the legacy of mistrust.

Mr. Ignatieff undoubtedly feels his macho threat to Obama is good politics. He seems unaware of the shot he just fired across the bow of Canadians in producing provinces.

Apart from the jurisdiction – legal or moral – to block provinces from exporting products that they unquestionably own, his threat is much bigger. Take away the US export market, and you take away the jobs of thousands upon thousands of Canadians who produce the energy products. No buyer? No job.

So to protect the jobs of steel workers in Ontario, Ignatieff is prepared to bargain away the jobs of workers in producing provinces. That’s quite the message, Mr. Ignatieff.

One is reminded of a previous Liberal Prime Minister who famously asked western Canadians, “Why should I sell your wheat?”. Well, because producing and exporting wheat ensures jobs and prosperity in a part of the country that, last time I checked, is part of the country. So too does producing and exporting energy. When you threaten to trade off jobs in one part of the country for jobs in another part of the country, Mr. Ignatieff, you are threatening the unity of the country.

Do not do it.


1 Comment

  1. Sonya

    Excellent commentary Susan. It’s about time you started bloggin.

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