It’s time for Ottawa to get tough on NAFTA renegotiations

While it may appear otherwise most of the time, this newspaper – and hopefully others, does not take any amount of joy or pride in attacking a particular entity such as a government or group of people be they foreign or domestic.

While it may appear otherwise most of the time, this newspaper – and hopefully others, does not take any amount of joy or pride in attacking a particular entity such as a government or group of people be they foreign or domestic.

In fact, in a perfect world, country or even province, there would most likely not even be a need for an editorial page. But as we all know, few things in this world are perfect, if any.

Take for example the report released last week from the Parkland Institute (PI), based at the University of Alberta, regarding the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement – better known as NAFTA.

In light of the upcoming presidential election this fall in the United States, the PI suggests that it is inevitable that Canada will, under the terms of NAFTA, be forced to feed America’s insatiable appetite for energy even if it comes at our own expense.

In other words, when push comes to shove – and it will, we’ll be forced to shiver in the dark so that, for example, slot machines in Las Vegas casinos can continue to fleece people and rich folks in Los Angeles can continue to play in their heated swimming pools and hot tubs.

“It hasn’t dawned on most Canadians that their governments have signed away their right to have first access to their own energy supplies,” the report says.

And why?

Because NAFTA contains a proportionality clause that prohibits Canada from cutting energy exports to the U.S., which now hover around 60 per cent of our national production.

The PI acknowledges that the clause has been part of the agreement since it was first negotiated back on Jan. 1, 1994.

But as we all know, this is a different world than it was in 1994. Back then, entering NAFTA had a big upside for Canada especially Alberta. Energy opportunities abounded back then but now that were in an era of growing shortages and skyrocketing fuel prices, the PI says we’re now at a huge disadvantage.

“Proportionality means Canada will be the international bad boy of environmental destruction,” the report said. “We will produce all those greenhouse gases for energy, which is mainly shipped elsewhere.”

To compound matters, we currently import half of our oil needs already and because we’ve promised – through NAFTA, the lion’s share of our resources to the Americans we must import energy from highly unreliable sources.

And as the PI points out, cutting the country’s energy consumption won’t lead to cuts in oil and gas production since NAFTA forces Canada to make at least half of its gas available for American export.

“(This) means Canadian oil and natural gas supports the U.S. energy security while leaving Canadians and Albertans wide open to shivering in the dark in the near future,” the report continued.

To make things even worse, not only are we risking our future in a mad dash to generate wealth by selling our energy to the Americans, but we’re also on the hook for cleaning up the environmental catastrophe that we’ve created in order to generate the very same wealth.

Does that make sense to anyone?

By insisting on writing in their own ‘energy out-clause’ back when they entered NAFTA, the Mexicans had the foresight to see how destructive NAFTA could ultimately be. After all, the Americans aren’t going to enter into any agreement that doesn’t put their needs first and foremost.

So why couldn’t we see that too?

Following the presidential elections this November, the United States is insisting that NAFTA be renegotiated – no doubt to increase our energy commitment to them while sacrificing ourselves.

At that point, we’ll see who exactly our federal government is more concerned about – and it goes without saying that most of us already know.

Anything short of Ottawa drastically cutting our exports of energy to the Americans or eliminating them altogether, is tantamount to near treason.

Of course the old arguments and finger pointing will be brought back up that, “well the Conservatives negotiated NAFTA in the first place so it’s their fault”, or, “the Liberals signed it, so it’s their fault”.

Either way, any renegotiating of NAFTA – just like recommitting our troops to another two years of fighting America’s war for them, falls at the feet of the Conservatives and we’re all hoping they’ll finally get their priorities straight.

After all, what’s more important to the federal government – our health and wellbeing or the ability for Las Vegas casinos to stay in business?

We’ll see soon enough.