In this week's headlines we learn that U.S. President Donald Trump is proceeding to present a budget according to his "America First" policy. On the menu, cuts to research for organizations which protect water quality, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), research on health and anything which could help fight climate change. As Matt Hourihan, the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says, this is catastrophic for science and technology companies.
Instead of working hand in hand with other nations, Mr. Trump prefers to flex his muscles with a vastly expanded military budget. This egotistical policy is very short sighted. It is incapable of seeing further than the next quarter's financial report. To compound the problem, it is also a bad-neigbour policy which proclaims that "might is right."
The press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel demonstrates his lack of diplomacy with the leader of an allied country as well as his unwillingness to use a team-effort approach in international relations. With the American president's proclamation that he wants to abandon the cleanup of the Great Lakes, even Quebec's timid minister of the environment, Mr. Heurtel, dares express his concern. The forced renegotiation of NAFTA is also based on a protectionism worthy of the 1930s. And as for bad-neighbour policies, I haven't even mentioned the shameful wall with Mexico...
Cutting investments in research and development shows a singular lack of long-term vision for the future. Older people will remember that Canada's aviation industry lived through an analogous situation at the end of the 1950s. The new Conservative prime minister, Mr. John Diefenbaker, did not like certain managers in the aeronautical industry; he saw in them a nest of Liberal adversaries. Despite the fact that the prototypes of the new supersonic airplane, the Avro Arrow with its Iroquois engine, were technically decades in advance of their competitors, Mr. Diefenbaker ordered the destruction of all prototypes and even its plans. The 14,525 engineers, designers and technicians found themselves out of work. The USA attracted them and Canadian brains became the core of our neighbour's new NASA space program.
This Trump folly is like a bad flu - it will pass with time.
The CBC mini-series, Canada's Broken Dream, referred to a Canadian aeronautical legend. Despite the formal orders of prime minister Diefenbaker, one airplane would have escaped the blow torch. It left the runway and "disappeared!" And that same legend has it that the SR-71, the fabled Blackbird and the pride of American aviation for three decades, was in fact a slightly altered Avro Arrow... President Kennedy had an exciting project; to go to the moon. A newly formed NASA attracted the recently out of work Canadian engineers as well as German researchers such as Wernher von Braun. We should remember that the space research program also permitted the development and subsequent commercialization of numerous articles which are now part of our daily life, like Velcro and electronic calculators.
As an aeronautical leader during the cold war, Canada could have sold thousands of supersonic airplanes to its allies. Because of the Prime Minister's lack of vision and his partisan obstinacy, we lost a great business opportunity to say nothing of the fact that the RCAF had to make do with inferior airplanes built in other countries. It has taken years of hard work for the Canadian aeronautical industry to again become a world class aviation hub, thanks to a new vision.
Likewise, Mr. Trump and his climate negationists, stuck in their archaic thinking, are determined to protect the fossil fuel industries and the wealth of the one per cent, the super-rich individuals who Theodore Roosevelt called the "malefactors of great wealth." They confuse their personal interests for the next quarter with the long term interests of their country. A recent article suggests that, like Canada in the late '50s, the USA may lose trillions in lost business opportunities if it does not implement the Paris Accord.
One may deplore this policy of a neighbouring country, but there is not much we can do except make diplomatic overtures in an attempt to reduce the collateral damage that these noxious policies will have on us, like the pollution of the Great Lakes and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This Trump folly is like a bad flu -- it will pass with time. Already the immune system of the American democracy has begun to react in order to neutralize this nasty virus. In the meantime, let's try to focus on taking advantage of a business opportunity; we can attract out of work American researchers and get a jump start on green energies... and become an industry leader before the stricken American economy recovers from this series of bad decisions.
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