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Posted: September 2, 2018

Trudeau in deep muck over pipelines and NAFTA

Perceptions by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

First there was a pipeline. Then there wasn’t a pipeline. Then there was. Then there wasn’t.

This is no way to run a country and certainly there can be no one more aware of that than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau promised us “sunny ways” and on that he delivered. He legalized marijuana and now we have pot factories springing up from coast to coast to coast. He gave us a cabinet with as many women as men and obviously that elevated political policy making in Ottawa to new levels of competence and comeliness if nothing else.

He and his family struck a fine pose in sartorial splendor in front of the Taj Mahal and set of a cascade of giggles that circled the globe. Who says that the only fashion accessory known to Canadians is a hockey sweater?

Then there’s NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement on which much of the Canadian economy depends. Trudeau and his trade negotiators sat happily on the sidelines for weeks while the canny Americans and Mexicans cut a deal and graciously said to Johnny Canuck “here, sign the damn thing.”

At the time of this writing, we don’t know all the NAFTA details, but it would be fair to speculate they don’t favour Canada. After all, Herr Trump has called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever” and a “job killer” for American workers.

And even though former Mexican President Vicente Fox said last week that “Trump lies all day” the serial liar south of the border holds all the cards in trade negotiations with Canada considering the difference in size between the two countries. It’s like a featherweight challenging a heavyweight.

There goes the economy.

So where does this leave The Great White North? “Up sh..t creek without a paddle,” as we used to say where I grew up in the West Kootenay. We’re talking geo-politics here and that’s a nasty game. Our fair-weather friends, the Mexicans, deserted us to cut a deal for themselves, and as bad as that is for us, who can blame them?

In many ways, Mexico is still a poverty-stricken Third World country despite all the glittering resorts catering to rich and not so rich Americans and Canadians. Close to a quarter of all cars sold in the US annually are made in whole or in part in Mexico and Mexico recently surged past Canada as North America’s second biggest auto maker. But do you know how much Mexican auto workers make? On average, less than US$8-an-hour in auto assembly plants and less than US$4-an-hour in parts plants under the current NAFTA agreement.

This in a country where the minimum wage is only 88 pesos-a-day or US $2.43-an-hour.

Imagine building $40,000 SUVs for less than $8-an-hour while Canadian and American auto workers build the same vehicles for $35-an-hour. No wonder the Mexicans were eager to re-negotiate NAFTA!

So where does this leave the Canadian auto industry which contributes mightily to the Canadian economy? At this point, no one knows for sure, but the mood is grim, especially in Ontario where most of our vehicles are made. And remember what Herr Trump said of our prime minister and chief pipeline builder at the annual G7 summit in Ottawa in June.

He called Trudeau “weak and dishonest,” causing a diplomatic uproar. It’s going to take more than “sunny ways” to solve this one.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a great admirer of Pierre Elliott Trudeau

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