Sunday, July 09, 2006

Slaying David

David Emerson is in the news again, over the mounting concerns about his softwood lumber deal. Luckily, Emerson is willing to take full responsibility for his file:

Ottawa; Trade Minister David Emerson, faced with mounting criticism of the new softwood lumber deal with the United States, says if the agreement falls apart it won't be his fault ... and he wouldn't resign over it.

Mr. Emerson shrugged off the notion that he might have to quit his job if the
deal falls through, dismissing the suggestion with a laugh and curt "I don't
think so."

OK...but even if he won't accept blame for the deal's failure, Emerson is going to do his darndest to make sure this deal he signed goes through:

But he added that "this is not something that I intend to bang people over the head about or try to sell it in an aggressive way."

If the Canadian softwood industry wants to scuttle the deal by refusing to sign on, that's up to them, he said.

That does seem weird, but luckily Emerson gives a perfectly valid explanation for his indifference towards the biggest file in his Cabinet portfolio and perhaps the entire Harper government:

But he insisted that neither his personal political future nor the reputation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government are on the line.

"I don't consider it, frankly, to be a political issue at all; it's an economic issue," said Mr. Emerson.

Yes, it would be a shame to consider a major international treaty worth billions of dollars a political issue.

Although, if David doesn't consider the economy or foreign relations to be political issues, this does beg the question of what on earth Emerson would classify as a political. Apart from, you know, floor crossing.


  • Oh boo hoo, he crossed the floor months ago.

    The softwood deal is a good deal, it's the ONLY deal we're going to get. It's probably the SAME deal the Liberals would have gotten.

    This fuss is SO pathetically political it makes me sick. If the Liberals had done this deal, I would have championed it them too.

    I worked at the U.S. Consulate General in Nova Scotia this year, and sat in on meetings between lumber board officials and U.S. trade reps. I know how hard people worked on this file.

    If we snub our noses at this file now, you better be prepared for years and years of litigation. Bush won't touch this again.. and the next president is going to have too much on their plate to bother with this issue. So, we take a fair deal now, or we sulk and screw ourselves over for ANOTHER decade.

    I agree with emerson we SHOULDN'T be politicizing this issue now. I watched Dosanjh on Question Period this morning and I wanted to throw my shoe at the tv.

    Get over the Emerson switch.

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 9:12 PM  

  • Furthermore, now that I'm fired up and ranting on this, I know that not only did David Wilkins put his neck on the line and call Bush to say "enough of this, let's resolve this issue" but I know that Emerson worked his butt off getting this done.

    I think the fact that so much work was put into this file by the Liberals and now the Conservatives, we need to show a little more respect for the negotiating process. Stephen Harper might have signed the deal, but if you think he would have gotten any of this without the work of the former Liberal government, you'd be kidding yourself.

    Both the Liberals and the Cons should be championing this deal because they both did their part to get it.

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 9:15 PM  

  • Though you are partisan, I believe you're above this form of partisan ranting CalGrit. You always seem to be an open and honest individual with liberal leaning opinions, rightfully making you a Grit. But falling to this form of partisan BS does nothing but hurt your credibility.

    I suggest you try to get a clip of CTV's Question Period where the interview took place - you'll find that article you quoted was significantly taken out of context.

    By Blogger Hickory Hill, at 10:41 PM  

  • Paul Martin sure knows how to recruit a quality "star" candidate.

    By Blogger Manitoba Liberal, at 12:10 AM  

  • The softwood deal is not a good deal. Period. Not only does it have a very short duration, the slightest decreases in lumber prices (and commodity prices are anything but stable) will result in all sorts of quotas and caps on exports. The deal flies in the face of NAFTA, not least because every single NAFTA tribunal was ruled against the American argument. Either we stick to the NAFTA dispute mechanism (meaning continued litigation) or we can remain without such a bad deal.

    This is a capitulation, and turncloak Emerson cares not a wink. Industry is against the deal. The governments of BC and Ontario are against it. If Harper is so set on his majority, he'll need those rural BC seats. He won't keep them with this deal.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 12:22 AM  

  • It was a lousy "deal" from the start - a deal that was struck for the sole purpose of being able to claim that a deal had finally been reached when in fact there was no real deal.

    By Blogger Werner Patels, at 12:36 AM  

  • In fairness, I didn't catch QP today - I'm just going on the article.

    But if this is such a good deal, maybe Emerson should be trying to defend it and promote it. He should also take some responsibility if the deal does fall through.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:01 AM  

  • Seems to me that the alternatives are generally let the Americans keep all the money, and continue to fight a court battle that seems to be on the long road to nowhere, or get most of it back and instill a measure of stability on the issue. I supose one can say we shouldn't settle for anything less than "free" trade. On the other hand pragmatically its rather difficult to see what options we really have if the US continues to ignore nafta pannels other than start a trade war we would lose.

    Great deal, no, as good a deal as we're ever going to get..yea most likely.

    By Blogger Chris, at 2:26 AM  

  • You're a bigger man than this, Bart.

    By Blogger Lois, at 10:09 AM  

  • Great deal, no, as good a deal as we're ever going to get..yea most likely.

    The lumber industry is lining up against this deal because it was struck for pure political reason. We were winning the litigations. The guilty party was refusing to comply with those rulings. Not having the illusive $4billion is not going to break our bank, so to speak. Harper's using Chamberlain's,"Peace in our time" quote was apt. Canadian softwoods "appeasement" finest hour.

    By Blogger Lord Omar, at 10:15 AM  

  • The Liberals were willing to settle for $3.5 billion.

    By Blogger Calicos, at 11:09 AM  

  • calicos,

    Great link. I love how people just think this is a Conservative mess when clearly both the Liberals and the current Conservatives have worked this out.

    Also, some Canadians seem to think that we were on the brink of some litigious miracle where everyone would bow before Canada and say "oh geez sorry folks".

    We were always going to have to negotiate this settlement. This dispute has gone on for almost 40 years now.. and it will continue to go on as long as Canada offers up crown land for cheap to the lumber industry.

    In this issue, I find people viewing themselves as "trade experts" simply because they don't like the United States. This is a business deal... plain and simple.

    But perhaps others are right, and it'd be much more beneficial to keep this in court for another decade, lose another 5 billion and keep lumber workers unemployed.

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 11:17 AM  

  • It's not a "fair deal" - it may be the only deal that is likely to happen with the current lot in D.C., but that doesn't make it "good".

    (and yes, I'd cheerfully roast the Liberals over a deal that was similarly problematic)

    I - for one - am quite fed up with the United States dictating how other countries should conduct internal business, while they themselves turn around and thumb their noses at the very conventions and treaties they wish to hold the rest of us to.

    It's high time that Canada woke up, smelled the coffee, and started building its trade relations elsewhere. When the US wishes to abide by the agreements it makes, then we can talk.

    By Blogger Grog, at 12:00 PM  

  • Grog... it's "Pax North America" whether you want it differently or not. If the US succeeds,Canada succeeds, if they shit the bed, we shit the bed.

    Better get used to it, because whether we want it or not, the US is our neighbor, our largest single trading partner, and the largest single market we have instant access too.

    We can spend millions opening new markets, and create trade deals with whoever we want, but nothing we do will equate to the existing and potential dollars driven from the US, and soon Mexico.

    Get over your hatred of US Policy, it's self defeating.

    Everyone goes on about how it's a bad deal or it's a good deal. Big Brother didn't have to do a deal... perhaps you should consider that aspect.

    By Blogger Joe Calgary, at 12:10 PM  

  • Joe Calgary -

    I disagree. There are markets that are rising rapidly (and the US isn't one of them) that Canada should be a major player in.

    The US is the "path of least resistance", but that isn't necessarily in Canada's best interests in the long term.

    Since the US has demonstrated - repeatedly - a willingness to "crap on the bed" as you put it, I think it's time for us to find another bed.

    It's not "hatred" on my part - it's a recognition that an abusive relationship tends to remain abusive. We have the option to create alternatives, and we should.

    Kowtowing to Washington's whims has never been in Canada's best interests.

    When the US decides to abide by its own agreements, then I'll think about re-evaluating my position.

    By Blogger Grog, at 12:53 PM  

  • Grog,
    You're absolutely right. We should end our trading relationship with the U.S. and move to other "larger markets" that you know so much about.

    But wait, isn't that what Trudeau tried to do? Didn't he try to expand a "third option" to trade with Europe and Asia? Except that during Trudeaus time in power our trading relationship with the U.S. tripled while noone in Europe and Asia could up their trade enough with us to make a difference.

    Until it becomes EXTREMELY cheap to transport merchanise and goods, it's unlikely Canada is going to be able to replace our more than 1.6 billion dollar A DAY trading with the U.S., we'll be linked with them.

    Also, is that such a bad thing? Last time I checked, Canada has continuously prospered under NAFTA and our trading relationship with the U.S... isn't it Canada that had a 13.5 billion dollar surplus this year?

    By the way, softwood lumber, that oh so troublesome dilemma that is ruining our relationship and causing Canadians to say that the U.S. is thumbing their nose at us..... it accounts for less than 2% of our trade. TWO PERCENT!

    Honestly, people need to get past their hatred of the U.S. and start acting like this is a business partnership that is BENEFICIAL to us!

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 1:15 PM  

  • This is the best deal available . . . liberal whiners should just stow-it!!!
    For the best part of a decade two liberal governments were incapable of even talking in a civil toned to our neighbor to the south. The US, the freest country on the planet. We sat here in our liberal/socialist utopia calling names like school children . . . now finally a responsible, civilized serious government cuts a deal and the brain-deal lefties come out in droves to criticize it. Where have you all been hiding for the better part of the last decade?????

    By Blogger EX-NDIP, at 1:39 PM  

  • Congratulations, ex-ndip, for writing an entire paragraph devoid of any substantive argument!

    I'm not sure who these "brain-deal lefties" are, though.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 3:03 PM  

  • Hey Josh . . . show me where I am wrong?????

    read this, its quite interesting . . .

    By Blogger EX-NDIP, at 3:28 PM  

  • Riley: "The softwood deal is a good deal, it's the ONLY deal we're going to get. It's probably the SAME deal the Liberals would have gotten."

    Are you f-ing kidding me? This is a cave, pure and simple, and you can be damned sure that all whiney lumber execs in the US will be counting down to the opt out date.

    And to trivialize what amounts to American brigandage as "not political" is nonsense.

    If it's such a great deal, when all the escape clauses?

    By Blogger WeeDram, at 9:37 PM  

  • I dunno, I'm happy with this deal rather than with no deal, and it's pretty flipping close to the Liberal tentative deal. Just politicking, which people are tired of, including this cat.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 10:15 PM  

  • All the phony outrage about softwood lumber is amusing. Canada could have much easier access to the US by dropping government subsidies. The WTO has ruled our subsidies for the softwood lumber industry are illegal. Atlantic Canadian softwood lumber from private woodlot owners have access to the US market without restriction. Maybe we could make a deal with the US, we get free trade in softwood lumber and they get free trade in dairy and poultry products.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 9:15 AM  

  • "Get over the Emerson switch"? Aside from everything else, riley, why on earth should the Liberals do that? Conservatives both north and south of the US-Canada border are famous for nursing grudges for decades, and few were as thoroughly rebuked as the Liberals were by Emerson.

    (US conservatives are still pissed about FDR, for heaven's sake. They don't have a leg to stand on when saying "move on", and neither do you.)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 12:33 PM  

  • Also, those who are crying "we musn't anger the Americans!" need to be realistic. The United States need that trade too, and they have a lot of border states that depend on that trade that (thanks to the structure of the US senate) have a very loud voice in Congress. The US also has the corporations that depend on the raw materials (and, to a lesser, extent, manufactures) that Canada produces to be profitable, AND their lobbyists in Washington, AND the possibility of skyrocketing inflation due to increased factor costs, which nobody really wants right now.

    More importantly, Canada has water and energy, and those are (or shortly will be) the two most important resources in the world, and one of them has a huge and growing market just across the pacific that didn't exist in the 1980s.

    Most importantly, though, the United States is going to do whats in its interests. Doesn't matter whether Canada plays nice or not, doesn't matter whether Canada signs treaties or not, America will do what's in its interests.

    The key thing for Canadians to remember is that sometimes the United States (especially lately) forgets that sticking to deals is in its best interests, and allowing the United States to run roughshod over NAFTA is not only going to hurt Canada, but the United States' reputation as a free trading state.

    If the US ignores NAFTA, they're not going to be able to prevent anybody else from doing the same with other trade deals, including ones on key American interests like energy trade and copyright/patent protection. Africa isn't going to obey TRIPS if the US is even willing to screw over their old friend, Canada.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 12:46 PM  

  • No, we should *all* get over the Emerson switch. It's old news and boring - so is Stronach and the rest. Let's live in the now.

    Not belonging to a party, I really don't care - especially when it's this many months ago.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 4:45 PM  

  • nuna: On that basis we expect the US to drop its agricultural subsidies, right?

    By Blogger WeeDram, at 10:36 PM  

  • Riley Hennessey snarks:

    You're absolutely right. We should end our trading relationship with the U.S. and move to other "larger markets" that you know so much about.

    Sarcasm aside, if you haven't been watching, the US economy has been hollowed out from the inside for the last ten years. The clouds have been on the horizon for the last couple of years (since BushCo wandered into their little misadventure in Iraq).

    As for other markets - start with the E.U., China and India for a few clues.

    I didn't say it was _easy_, nor did I say that we walk away from our existing trade with the USA - I merely advocate that Canada continuing to kowtow to American self-interest is not in Canada's best interests - short term or long term.

    We are in a much stronger position to negotiate with the more thuggish types south of us if we have alternate markets in play.

    Also, we have to recognize that this not the same world that existed when Pierre Trudeau was in power - much has changed both politically and economically. Canada would be plain foolish not to take advantage of those opportunities.

    By Blogger Grog, at 11:22 PM  

  • Yes, in a perfect world we could stick to our guns and the US would follow the numerous rulings and pay us our money. Honestly, what is the chance of this happening? I'd have to say somewhere between nil and zip.

    So what's the alternative? Take the high road and get none of the money back or do a compromise and get some of it back?

    By Blogger Matthew, at 1:55 PM  

  • "You're absolutely right. We should end our trading relationship with the U.S. and move to other "larger markets" that you know so much about.

    Sarcasm aside, if you haven't been watching, the US economy has been hollowed out from the inside for the last ten years. The clouds have been on the horizon for the last couple of years (since BushCo wandered into their little misadventure in Iraq)."


    By Blogger Sophie, at 11:35 AM  

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