Opinion- Bruce McAllister: Protectionism is never a good thing — even when it’s happening in Alberta

U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest salvo of tweets and emerging protectionist policies are causing a stir among his trading partners and allies here in Canada.


July 26, 2018 (EnergySpotlight)

Tariffs make us wonder how Trump understands our deep friendship, one that is mutually beneficial to both countries, and is important for the stability of many global economies.

President Harry Truman gave a good explanation for healthy Canadian-American relationships, when, in 1947, he spoke to Parliament, saying, “Canadian-American relations for many years did not develop spontaneously. The example of accord provided by our two countries did not come about merely through the happy circumstance of geography. It is compounded of one part proximity and nine parts good will and common sense.”

But our nine parts good will and common sense with our neighbours is evaporating under the cloud of protectionism, and not just between Canada and Trump, but much more uncomfortably closer to home.

B.C. Premier John Horgan and his NDP have demonstrated an increasingly myopic view of co-operation, exchange, development and trade. Horgan’s self-righteous protectionism is damaging. He wants fuel, but no pipelines. He welcomes tankers along his coast, as long as they don’t carry Alberta’s resources out to market. It is having a tightening effect on their friends here in Alberta.

Depending on your view, you might not blame Trump for looking for better trade deals. Yet, as former prime minister Stephen Harper said in a recent interview, “I don’t understand the obsession with trade relations with Canada … this seems to me this is the wrong target.”

Protectionist policies between neighbours with as rich a history of peace and co-operation as the United States and Canada is the wrong direction. In-house protectionism between provinces, is even more unthinkable. But protectionist policies that cloud the relationships between local municipalities are downright absurd.

Under the watch of the Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board, common sense is being squeezed out of long-standing relationships. Rocky View and Foothills County, Chestermere and Okotoks and other communities may be smaller, but they feel every move and jostle of this NDP-created bureaucratic and policy machine.

When Calgary city hall annexes land, builds roads, or waves around billions of taxpayer dollars and investment, no neighbour can avoid feeling the impact. And they do.

Leaders of smaller communities know the power of this new layer of regional bureaucracy to squelch, veto and tie up development, but not before taking up opportunities for itself. Calgary’s protectionism often comes packaged in the form of this regional planning committee that stands in the way of development in neighbouring municipalities.

It is blatant control of one jurisdiction over another, and all to ensure Calgary gets the best deal in the end. It’s municipal protectionism packaged and sold as a regional master plan. Worst of all, it’s bad for consumers everywhere, including Calgary, because it limits choice and competition.

Consider that elected officials in one municipality have functional governance, control and veto power over the happenings in another neighbouring municipality. Albertans should raise a few eyebrows at the very thought of it.

If a group in Rocky View County, under the authority and approval of their council, decide to build an amenity or business, Calgary bureaucrats, unelected by Rocky View citizens, can nix the whole project.

Imagine if it was the other way around and Rocky View County had control over projects in Calgary. We would have none of it.

This is not the entrepreneurial foundation upon which this province was built. Alberta and the Calgary region did not become a world-class place to set up business and raise families because of more government oversight thwarting growth and investment.

We thrive when we trust our trading partners and friends. The Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board and its strong-arm protectionism is having an eroding effect and it is about time we rebuilt our region on a firm foundation of good will and common sense.

Bruce McAllister is executive director of the landowner advocacy group Rocky View 2020

Bruce McAllister is also President Right Angle Communications & Consulting.

 

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