Reaching Atlantica

I was able to attend much of the Reaching Atlantica conference this week in Saint John. I am encouraged by the traction this theoretical economic zone is getting. I had a whole blog prepared on Maude Barlow and ‘Resisting Atlantica’ but it’s so stupid I have decided to truncate my comments to these:

Maude says in her speech that ‘we saw what happened the last time we tried further economic integration with the US and we don’t want that to happen again’.

So she is either ignorant, naive or down right hateful of the region of her birth. The last serious attempt at ‘economic integration’ with the US was the Auto Pact. Ontario has become one of the strongest regional economies in the world – and most economists credit that Pact as the top contributing factor. Talk about integration – auto parts manufacturers in Ontario ship parts to auto plants in Michigan for delivery into the assembly process in 15 minute increments.

In fact, many serious economic historians (including D. Savoie) now believe that forced economic integration with central Canada led to Atlantic Canada’s economic collapse and its current position as the poorest region in North America (as measured by income levels, persons under the poverty line, etc.).

What was amazing is that now some northern New England experts believe that the economic problems in northern Maine, Vermont, etc. were also part of a’forced economic integration southward with the rest of the US. The former May of Bangor spoke and made a compelling case based on historical economic data.

So, Atlantica is about re-establishing historical trade and investment patterns. After 125 years of trying economic integration with the rest of Canada, I think we should give it a try. No one is talking about political integration. Politics has been the problem. Politics should either be supportive or get out of the way.

Almost right on time, Statistics Canada published a study last week that Atlantic Canada was the region in Canada that least benefited from NAFTA. They stated that the lack of trade between the US and Atl. Canada was the reason behind this. Not enough ‘integration’ i.e. Bangor companies selling to NB companies and vice versa.

The Maude Barlow thing would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. It’s a bit like Maude and her gang picking on poor people for attempting to get out of poverty. Atlantic Canada is the poorest region in North America. Even with massive Federal subsidies we have a higher percentage of people below the poverty line than West Virginia and Alabama.

What’s really going on is Atlantic Canada has become the latest pawn in Maude’s war against the U.S. And given the fragile political situation in the region right now (minorities, almost minorities, etc.), her little antics might just have the effect she wishes.

And when the region’s economy continues to decline and population continues to leave, she can take heart that her agenda is being served.

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0 Responses to Reaching Atlantica

  1. scott says:

    David,

    Off the subject of the lost civilization known as Atlantisa for a moment, Is Jupia consultant your venture? Because it sounds like it could be a money maker. The reason I ask is I noticed you had it in your links section. What is it all about?

  2. Anonymous says:

    That sounds pretty petty yourself. People who disagree with you are just ‘using the region’, etc., etc.

    If Atlantica were so wonderful, there would be no reason to even give attention to critics.

    But again, it’s not Maude’s fault if AIMS is swinging a mirage in front of those who see NB’s problems and think it’s a pop machine in the middle of the Sahara.

    Again, just look at FACTS.

    Maude was not talking about the Auto Pact. How anybody can think the Auto Pact is ‘free trade’ is beyond nonsense. The Auto Pact killed canadian production in favour of building american cars-what the heck is ‘free’ about that? If it were free trade we would have seen federal money pumped into Bricklyn, instead, not only couldn’t they get a dime, they weren’t even allowed to sell in Canada. Does that sound like free trade to anybody?

    Again, 90% of New Brunswick’s trade goes to the US. Somebody want to explain to me how that is ‘forced economic integration with the west’? If 90% of everything made in the province is shipped to the US, where is the ‘east west trade’? A measly 10% of trade goes to the rest of Canada, so in fact, it can more readily be argued that the LACK of ‘east west trade’ is the problem (in fact its pretty evident).

    Finally, again, if people would bother to READ what is being suggested, they would KNOW that ‘Atlantica’ will do nothing for New Brunswickers, that’s why they don’t even talk about them. The border between NB and Maine has increased by over 50% in the last five years, so how come this year saw 2000 lost jobs in the transportation and warehousing industry?

    AIMS, unlike the commentators, at least is honest. They want the feds to build a super port, so the private sector doesn’t have to risk it, and build super rails and highways through southern New Brunswick to Maine. How exactly does that help Northern New Brunswickers? Or PEIers? Now that the trans canada is almost twinned they want us to forget about it focus on highways in the south. Gee, where were they ten years ago?

    So again, GO READ THE STUDIES and stop picking on people like Barlow who have actually taken the time to see what Atlantica actually is. It’s NOT what you think it is, and there isn’t a single study at their website that says this will create more or better jobs. That’s because it WON”T.

    New Brunswick, as we have daily reminders right here, is a throughway for ALL PEI and NS trade, as well as most NFLD trade. Anything from Halifax’s rapidly expanding port goes through here. That trade has increased massively, so how come all the economic indicators go down?

    This whole Atlantica issue reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the stranger comes to town to sell them a monorail. He does a dog and pony show and everybody is lapping it up.

    As constantly said here, the only economies that are doing better, as the link to Pittsburgh shows, as ontario shows, are those industries protected by government. The more you open up your markets, the LESS benefit you get.

    So perhaps in these blogs people can argue the facts instead of throwing mud at others for having different ideas.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If Ontario is one of the strongest regional economies in the world, how come they are the first provincial government of the millenium to increase taxes?

    How come they are currently running a deficit and their power market is in a state of chaos? How come if the feds and the province didn’t continuously pour billions into the auto sector, the province would be facing a massive recession-even depression.

    How come the Chamber of Commerce is predicting that in ten years they will be a ‘have not province’ if trends continue?

  4. Anonymous says:

    OK, I misread, I’m sorry about that. You weren’t saying the Auto Pact was free trade, but economic integration.

    So let’s look at that:
    The AP removed tariffs on cars, trucks, buses, tires, and automotive parts between the two countries, greatly benefiting the large American car makers. In exchange the big three car makers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) agreed that automobile production in Canada would not fall below 1964 levels and that for every five new cars sold in Canada three new ones would be made there.

    EFFECTS
    =Canada began to produce far fewer different models of cars. In 1964, only seven percent of vehicles made in Canada were sent south of the border, but by 1968, this was sixty percent.
    =By the same date, forty percent of cars purchased in Canada were now made in the United States.
    =Overall the agreement was of great benefit to Canadian workers and consumers. The more efficient market lowered prices and the increased production created thousands of jobs and wages as the auto industry rose. = The trade deficit has turned into a trade surplus worth billions of dollars annually to Canada.

    =It left the Canadian automobile industry firmly in the hands of American corporations.
    =Unlike, for instance, Sweden with Volvo Cars and Saab Automobile, Canada has no domestic car makers, despite a long history of Canadian car companies.
    =The agreement also led to the creation of almost exclusively blue collar jobs. Administration and research and development remained in the United States.
    =The agreement also prevents Canada from pursuing free trade in automobiles with other nations, such as Japan.
    =The growth has also been very regionally skewed, with southern Ontario overwhelmingly being the main centre of production.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So from the above (I didn’t want to put it all in one long comment), we can see that the auto pact was primarily a production treaty. It said companies had to manufacture X amount in Canada in order to sell in Canada.

    That’s not what AIMS is talking about at all, in fact they don’t mention a thing about production. This is ALL about trade, and not only that, its more about being a trade shipping route.

    As we’ve said countless times, if you want to sell in the states, go to it, in fact most economists I’ve read state quite clearly that with interprovincial trade barriers its generally easier to trade with the US than with other provinces.

    That means that AIMS is completely wrong in their analysis. New Brunswick’s trading partner has ALWAYS been the US, even before free trade. That makes it a symptom of the problem, certainly not the answer to the problem. If you cut your leg with an axe you don’t look at it and say “gee, maybe if I hit it harder and more often with the axe that will correct the problem”

    If you did say that you’d be pretty crazy. If we were talking about an ‘auto pact’ for the northeastern region, you might be on to something there, but that’s the exact opposite of what they are talking about.

  6. David Campbell says:

    While you have flashes of brilliance, anonymous, on this you look just plain misinformed. I could write a 30 page blog but I’ll just say that you and I have unreconcilable differences on this and I stand fully behind everything I said about Barlow. She should go back to her Norad and Water export fights and leave us alone.

    By the way, why do you keep bringing up AIMS? AIMS’ vision of the world and mine are not aligned but I can still agree on the concept of north-south trade and investment.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I would have thought the whole idea of something like Atlantica would be to spur debate, instead, virtually all the proponents of it refuse to even discuss it. So we don’t need thirty pages, hell, just pick one issue.

    For north south trade, again and again, youve already got it. 90% of trade goes to the US. Are we not happy until its 100%?

    But that is awfully undemocratic to be saying the critics should keep their mouths shut. I am very much in favour for anything that increases New Brunswickers lot, in fact, I would LOVE to hear something about it in ‘Atlantica’, but I still haven’t yet. Of course I wasn’t at the conference-nobody invited me and I haven’t got that kind of cash for conferences, but I haven’t even heard anything about it except the gripes at opponents. If all proponents can say is why opponents should shut up, then clearly alarm bells should be going off in NB’ers heads.

    I mention AIMS because they’ve been talking about Atlantica for over five years. Atlantica.org is THEIR website, and all the studies are done for them. Apart from some magazine called ‘Progress’ that I’ve never heard of, I’ve never heard anybody else even say the word ‘atlantica’. At the very least it was their idea, whether other parties are in on it now is another story, but certainly no other parties have put the lobbying and scholastic work into it that they have.

    Like most vague terms, it CAN mean whatever people want it to mean, however, it is AIMS which is lobbying and who support the corporations pushing this forward, so it’s not like Atlantica is going to take on the shape and form of Pete Jenkins of Rothesay just because he has an idea.

    That, of course, is why it is important to discuss it, to make sure the ideas AREN”T those of AIMS, at least when they are plainly not in the interest of New Brunswickers. However, if even bloggers who support it refuse to talk about it, that’s bad for democracy – and bad economics.

  8. David Campbell says:

    Okay. I’ll make a short attempt to explain what economic integration is and it has almost nothing to do with the traditional definition of ‘exports’. Economic integration is based on the premise that economies are more viable when they have some form of critical mass. In other words, if you had all the banking, professional expertise, educational infrastructure, suppliers, consumers, etc. etc. etc. in your local urban area, you would have the best chance at survival and growth. Of course, no economy has this (not even New York) so where are those sources of expertise and critically influence for Atlantic Canada? Well, pre-Confederation much of our extended local economy was New England, England and even the Carribean (on the market side). In fact, Cod from NL used to be shipped as far as Brazil 200 years ago – before the modern transportation infrastructure. After Confederation government policy and action drove this ‘integration’ east-west. Even England fell off the radar over time.

    And what good has it done us? The Central Canadian infrastructure where the majority of decisions are made that impact Atlantic Canada (everything from sources of capital to how many flights come into Fredericton to how much Equalization we get to….) are made by folks mostly in Toronto and Ontario.

    Now, I have not problem with that as a concept. That’s a small market problem faced by Iowa, Manitoba, etc. etc. etc. The problem I have is that Ottawa spent decades forcing this reality on us – it was never based on real market factors. Without the border, Boston would have easily became our Toronto.

    Would Boston have been better? Who knows and frankly who cares. The point is that the Northern New England area is starting to realize that their forced ‘integration’ to the south disrupted normal patterns as did our east-west force integration.

    Coming full circle – economic integration is not about where Irving ships its refined oil (your definition of integration). It’s about where where do Monctonians turn for suppliers? Where do Frederictonians turn for patent lawyer expertise? Where do companies turn for specialized tradespersons? And on and on.

    The theory, and it’s only a theory, is that if a more natural and organic process of economic development occurs based no natural markets it may be better for Atlantic Canada and Northern New England over time.

    Cripes, even look at the transportation infrastructure. Canada’s has been deliberately (and maybe rationally in a nation building sense) developed east-west (ports, rail, road and air) while Northern New England’s has deliberately been developed south (not even north-south).

    I still think that the concept of an economically strong Atlantic Canada with better ‘integration’ to the US (we will never get to the level of Ontario) is not incompatable with continuing to be fully integrated politically with the rest of Canada.

    At the end of the day, this whole thing may be nonsense. The 21st Century economy may be developing in such a way that it’s a moot effort.

    But I say try, try something. Sitting around on our arses debating theoretical ‘what ifs’ will keep us is the same boat.
    Now,

  9. Anonymous says:

    NOW we’re getting somewhere! That’s the kind of stuff Atlantica should be talking about, but we’ve had to pry it out of you! That’s good stuff, a lot of stuff.

    I’m not even going to reply to it, because I don’t want to rain on your parade and I’m hoping that you and Alec Bruce will pick up those themes in the future and talk about them. Perhaps incorporating what you heard at the conference-maybe even some links of talks for those of us not in attendance. I notice the AIMS site doesn’t have any of the talks up yet and I’m not sure where else-or IF else they’d be posted.

    The question people should be asking, is how do you take that ‘theory’ and make it practise? Quite simply, if YOU and other New Brunswickers don’t, then AIMS WILL, and it may not be (in fact as I’ve suggested based on their studies I can guarantee it WILL NOT be) the same thing you are thinking of.

    Contrary to popular thinking, Irving, the Bank of Montreal, etc., have far different interests than New Brunswickers. THey need to make money, they need to satisfy investors-not New Brunswickers. Let them dictate the policy, and it will be a far different Atlantica than most people think of. Good post!