For the last seven years there have been few things that I have been able to praise our Prime Minister on. To be entirely honest, I’ve found it difficult to not be personally embarrassed almost every time he opens his mouth to the nation. And then there are his cronies, John Baird chief among them, who managed to bring this humiliation to the world stage. Although I remain fervently entrenched in the anti-Harper camp, I must suspend my critical mind when it comes to the European free trade deal, however. True enough and contrary to its name, free trade will not come without a great cost to the country, but in this case the benefits certainly outweigh the disadvantages. With the uncertain climate south of our border, the time is nigh to hedge our bets and diversify our economic portfolio, even if it does mean trading with a horde a high-nosed elitists who only saw fit to use our land as a dumping ground for the poor and plentiful a few centuries past. I only wish that Harper would learn to be as diplomatic and conciliatory with the factions within his own country as he was to those without. As history has often prescribed, cordiality can bring politicians and businessmen a long way.
Being from rural Alberta, it is difficult not be excited by the new business that will spring up as the carnivores in Europe begin to hunger more for our meats. Mad cow disease and the swine flu have not only bottomed the market where I live, but it has also made recovery painstaking. For those few farmers still trying to make a living off a family ranch or pig barn, the potential annual increase of beef and pork exports of one billion dollars is clear proof that the meat drought is ending. After all, in Alberta’s heartland the choices of the unskilled labourers are to be farmers or rig-hands in the oil industry, and I’d much rather they produce pork to fossil fuels. I think it doesn’t matter what religion you pay credence too, bacon is still cleaner than oil, especially our oil. Also, with the signing of the deal, ninety-five percent of all EU tariffs on agriculture products, such as grains and canola oil, will be immediately lifted. But the benefits are not limited to the prairies. The struggling fishermen of the Maritimes who have been doubly thwarted by the Conservative’s economic policy and lowering prices on lobster will see the twenty percent tariffs levied on their European traded products instantly removed as well. Having visited the East coast myself a few summers ago, it is difficult to imagine any part of Canada that will be better served with an increase in economic development. The city folk will find themselves pleased with the deal as well. Harper’s own “conservative” estimates are that the EU trade deal will create upwards of eighty thousand jobs and bring eighteen billion dollars more into the Canadian economy per year. This will make any investor happy, but if anyone should walk away from this deal with a smile on their face, it is the consumer. In the near future we should be paying billions of dollars less for imported goods from Europe (especially cars which are currently subject to a six percent tariff). So, if you wanted that new BMW all the neighbours will be gawking at, you might finally be able to afford it. This could easily affect property taxes, as European companies will be able to bid on municipal and provincial infrastructure projects, almost certainly bringing down the ridiculous premium of civil engineering in Canada. No doubt this wanted news for Quebec’s public, whose mafia plagued construction companies have stolen more than thirty percent more money from the taxpayers for infrastructure spending than the national average. Even the dairy farmers, who have done nothing but complain over this deal will have a shot at the largest cheese and yogurt market in the world. The average European consumes almost fifty pounds of yogurt a year and the best part is there are five hundred million of these dairy crazed fanatics. The potential selling points for almost any industry are astronomical even if our precious protectionism is lost.
Of course, there are a few industries that will be hurt by this deal. There are, for instance, the dairy farmers who are equally ubiquitous in my neck of the woods that find this deal less than appealing. After all, once the two hundred percent tariffs are lifted from cheese products entering Canada, the price of our cheese will be forced to drop too lest Canadians choose on masse to switch from the orange rubber we call cheese to the proper handcrafted, practically artistic cheese the Europeans send over here as homeland rejects. Anyone that has ever travelled to Holland can attest that the Dutch immigrants to Canada seem to have lost their ancient heritage when it comes to art of cheese. I don’t care if all of Manitoba goes out of work, if I could afford it, I’d eat gouda with every sandwich and brie with every cracker and I’m more than willing to bet that a fair swath of the people in this country would join me. One can only assume that more would jump on the bandwagon if those products weren’t so expensive. I recently heard on CBC radio of a smuggling ring that would illegally bootleg thousands of pounds of cheese over the Michigan-Ontario border and sell them to Italian restaurants far below Canadian market value. The dairy quota system has so overvalued the food-coloured feces we buy in the groceries that in some cases you can make more of a profit smuggling cheese than narcotics. Canadians want better dairy products and all producers, who are willing to move from making that white plastic we put on pizza that even those of more bourgeois tendencies, are becoming disgusted with the high quality cheeses we all can enjoy will inevitably prosper. Just as we saw with the ratification of NAFTA, those lethargic corporations that were unwilling to innovate because they had relied on protectionist monopolies for too long failed and those businesses that changed with the market and gave the consumers better products at cheaper prices, became hugely successful.
In any free trade agreement there are a variety of winners and losers. Yes, on some levels more competition will hurt many industries. We might find that our smaller corporations won’t be able to compete with the behemoths overseas. However, the effects of EU trade deal that will be felt at the family dinner table will be inherently positive. With the cost of living steadily increasing, lowered prices on cars and dairy products is not only a welcome relief, but a ray of hope in a world where rampant consumerism and brand-washing has made us debt rich and money poor. There is not the tiniest sliver of love left in my heart for manufacturers who have forced us to buy poor quality goods at exorbitant prices simply because there were no other options, I for one will laugh as their precious piles of gold liquefy. Now I look forward to the government’s legislation against cable and telephone companies. It’s about time someone stood up for the little guy. And even though everyone knows Harper is doing it so he doesn’t lose his coveted grip on our country, I’ll still count the Prime Minister’s lane change from Bay Street to Main Street as a positive development. I just hope the enthusiasm will continue after the next election…
Photography Courtesy of GEORGES GOBET/AFP/GETTY IMAGES