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Engler: Free trade deal bolstered neoliberal capitalism in Canada and opened it up to further resource extraction

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KAYLA RIVARA, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to To Real News Network. I’m Kayla Rivara in Baltimore. And welcome to this latest edition of The Engler Report.

Now joining us is Yves Engler.

Yves is a Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy. And previously he published the book The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, and Canada and Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority.

Thank you so much for joining us, Yves.


RIVARA: So we’ve been hearing a lot about NAFTA in terms of how it affects the United States and Mexico, but we don’t hear a lot about how it’s affecting the economy of Canada and the people of Canada. Can you describe a little bit about how, since the agreement was made 20 years ago, how it has affected the economy of Canada?

ENGLER: Yeah. Well, it’s certainly made Canada more dependent upon exports to the U.S., a slight increase in dependence on exports to the U.S. It’s reduced the government’s ability to follow industrial policy, like something like the Auto Pact that was established in the mid 1960s, which put some constraints or some controls on how many cars are exported to U.S. and how much it produces in Canada and the like.

It’s–but I think probably most importantly it’s further tied Canada to a model of exporting natural resources. And, in fact, in NAFTA there’s the proportionality clause. NAFTA, with energy, actually basically forces Canada to continue exporting natural resources to the U.S. to–sort of makes–ties Canada into a North American energy market.

But I think at the broadest level what NAFTA’s done is it’s increased the power of the corporate class in this country. Canadian companies have gotten substantially bigger. There’s some analysis of the biggest companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange have gotten–are 23 times bigger than the smallest companies on the stock exchange, up from five or six times bigger 25 years ago when the first free trade agreement was signed with the U.S. So it’s really led to, you know, more consolidated corporations in this country.

And I think for the most part it’s been bad for Canadian workers. It’s undermined Canadian workers’ bargaining power with companies who have more power to shift investment if [inaud.] reduced pensions, reduced wages. And it’s generally been bad from the standpoint of environmental policy, certainly with regards to the rise of Canada as more of an exporter of natural resources, particularly with regards to the tar sands.

RIVARA: And what does this mean for Canada’s trading partners, then? If Canada’s exporting so much, what is happening outside of its borders?

ENGLER: Well, I think that for Canadian corporations and the business class, NAFTA’s been a big success. You know, if you go to–last time I was in New York, in Manhattan, a big chunk of the banks in Manhattan–the bank I saw the most often was TD Bank. Canadian banks have, you know, become bigger and bigger players in the U.S. Other Canadian corporations have become bigger and bigger players in the U.S, in Mexico, and globally. So investors–a company like Bombardier, a Montreal-based airline and rail company, has significant investments in Mexico now. That’s been very good for Bombardier in terms of reducing labor costs.

And I think that it basically–you’re driving down the wages across the board. You’re driving down the community’s ability to have environmental legislation and social policy across the board. You’re giving more power to corporations.

And Canada, in a sort of–interestingly enough, Canada is both a hub of natural resource extraction with regards–you know, from the tar sands to natural gas, to all kinds of different minerals that are taken out of the ground in Canada, but it’s also a hub of international mining companies. And a huge proportion of the world’s mining companies are listed on Canadian stock exchanges. And so I think the Canadian business class is very much wedded to this open international system for extractive industries, and they are committed to maintaining Canada as being open to natural resource exploitation from all multinational corporations, just as they’re committed to making sure that Haiti and Ecuador and Ghana are open to it, because it’s very good for them, and they’ve been–they profited quite well from this model of neoliberal capitalism that NAFTA’s really the sort of template model that’s been moving all around the world and going deeper and deeper with things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that’s currently being negotiated.

RIVARA: Yves Engler, I wanted to thank you so much for joining us.

ENGLER: Thanks for having me.

RIVARA: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Yves Engler is a Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian - Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy, and previously he published The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority