Many of the promises -- increased productivity, more jobs, more money in our pockets -- have simply not come true. This is ironic because, as free trade agreements become toxic all over the world, Canada, a country bound by a long-standing trade deal, has not had a comprehensive debate on the proposed CETA (trans-Atlantic) or TPP (trans-Pacific) agreements.
Canada used to excel at industrial strategy, but now we are satisfied with trade, and any type of trade will do. That hands-off mentality, which is at the heart of global trade deals like the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), goes some way to explaining why Canada's trade deficits are growing, faster with free-trade partners than other countries, and the job intensity of our exports is declining.
This will be the first generation of Canadians in our history to be worse off than their parents. That blunt fact is the new reality of our country, where seven per cent of workers are officially jobless (and much more if hidden unemployment is included) and youth unemployment stands at over 13 per cent. And that reality is a direct result of the policies and actions of this Conservative government and the Mulroney government that came before it. Friday's headlines point to the 26,000 auto parts jobs at risk as Harper drives ahead to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.
Globalization has brought significant benefits to the global economy, including developed countries' economies. However, it has led to decrease in the manufacturing base and employment in Canada and the US. If policies that require local content are introduced, it could boost employment in the manufacturing sector.
A small town of 16,000 people in southwestern Ontario, Tillsonburg's history is famously celebrated in Stomping Tom Connor's distinctive drawl when he sung about making seven dollars a day in the tobacco fields. But in 2009 the Green Energy Act spurred on the development of renewable energy with guaranteed rates for renewable energy producers.
A weaker Canadian dollar poses a threat to imported inputs to Canada's production machine, and to future Canadian investments abroad. But the soaring U.S. dollar isn't the only currency in play. Movements in other currencies are less dramatic. Perhaps this is an opportunity to scan the globe both for inputs to our production process and for direct investment undertakings in less-traditional markets.
How is Canada faring in our industrial diversification? Progress on trade diversification over the past 15 years is likely one of the most remarkable developments in Canadian economic history. A strong dependence on traditional markets was only enhanced by the Canada-US FTA, which saw exports to the US soar to over 85 per cent of the total. But a big shift began in the New Millennium.
With the holidays just around the corner, this got me thinking about the issue of "frustration-free" packaging. Not only is complex wrapping simply no fun for the kids receiving gifts packaged in such a manner, the fact is it's a much larger issue for the most rapidly growing segment of our population -- older adults.
Today's products come to you courtesy of a whole string of contractors and subcontractors, each with different employment and safety standards. Moving down the supply chain, you often find children forced to work in brutal, dangerous conditions for very little pay. Hours are so long that many have no chance to continue in school, relegating them to lifetimes of low-paid labour.
Plenty of people will shamelessly demand government spend lots of extra money to "buy local," even if the cost is millions or billions of dollars more. This is daft. The notion that jobs in Canada come at the cost of employment in Japan, India, China or Germany, or vice-versa, is profoundly mistaken. Jobs can be created in one's own country and abroad at the same time.
The price of a piece of clothing is not at all indicative of the working conditions of its manufacturer. On top of that, implying (or outright saying) that there is something morally wrong with paying ten dollars for a t-shirt is incredibly classist. The truth is that when brand names charge higher prices for their items, that extra cash usually goes to two places: into the pockets of CEOs and other higher-ups, and into the company's advertising budget.