Harper the Pragmatic

Say what you will but Stephen Harper has become the ultimate pragmatist.   You see it in his dealings with Quebec, and Ontario, and on the stimulus and now with the potash acquisition.  The ‘conservative’ is supposed to be a free trader – a proponent of the free flow of capital.  They are out begging foreign companies to invest in the oil sands, for example.

But because Brad Wall whipped up some good old fashioned populist furor, Harps had to hold his nose and veto the BHP acquisition.

The potash isn’t going anywhere.   PotashCorp was already run by executives from Chicago (although I see they are supposedly moving back to Saskatchewan now and I guess they are re-adding Saskatchewan to their name too). 

Canadian companies have more money invested outside of Canada than foreign companies have invested here. 

This is pure politics 101.

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8 Responses to Harper the Pragmatic

  1. mikel says:

    Even at the risk of censure I can’t resist-Oh David, you are SO naive!:) You’ve said before that politics is not your bag, but its always fun when you go for the gusto.
    Of course EVERYTHING from the PM’s office is ‘pure politics’, but are you really naive enough to think that all this populist rhetoric has the PM all fired up with canadian nostalgia?
    Remember when Paul Martin went to Japan to visit Toyota’s headquarters? People really shouldn’t need much encouragement to notice that the PM is in large part simply a dealmaker.
    In this case, for short term memory people, the Inco deal was said to be too important too Canada to be allowed to pass. Of course what that really meant was that Vale had to dig into their pocketbooks more.
    In this even the CBC notes that the company was expecting to pay 10% more for the company. In short, this is a BARGAINING TOOL. Something, granted, in New Brunswick and in Ontario the provinces aren’t too familiar with, being more prone to “what else can we give you?”
    Even the PM said this was not a ‘closed door’. Everybody was saying that the execs simply thought what they were being offered was too low. I’m not a gambling man, but who here wants to put money on the table that somebody besides Sask Potash is going to have their letterhead on the stationary in a years time?
    As for politics, the reality is that federally, what are Saskatchewans going to do? Vote liberal? Not too likely.

  2. richard says:

    ” PotashCorp was already run by executives from Chicago (although I see they are supposedly moving back to Saskatchewan now and I guess they are re-adding Saskatchewan to their name too).”

    That by itself is a positive outcome. Keeping white-collar jobs in Sask (and moving the execs back) is a benefit. Sask should have never sold Potash Corp to the private sector; why sell the golden goose?

    Harper was reacting to the political reality in Sask; Sask is not AB – too many voters there will jump to the NDP or even the Libs, if anger towards Harper builds enough.

  3. mikel says:

    You don’t know much about Saskatchewan if you think that. The only liberal who has won there has been Ralph Goodale-for obvious reasons. Saskatchewans have a wider margin between conservatives and liberals than Albertans do. And only in two ridings have the NDP gotten more than half the votes of the conservatives, and one of those is west Saskatoon,where all those ag scientists live.

    And Ralph Goodale said it best, that with what information is currently out there, “this one doesn’t pass the smell test”. Go read the accounts of what the federal government actually SAID. There’s a reason that there was NO question and answer period after the very short announcement which specifically said there was room for negotiation-and a 30 day window.

    The ‘politics’ enters into it with the liberals, because as one commenter said, the last thing Harper wants is Ignatieff with a “consequence free toehold on an issue”. Namely, running in an election as the saviour of canadian businesses as opposed to Harpers selling them off. Ironic since the liberals never scuttled ANY foreign takeover deal.

    So the politics certainly isn’t to appease Saskatchewans, who vote tory by more than a 2:1 margin. I doubt Harper would have said that Sask Potash was “an american company” if he were that worried.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “They are out begging foreign companies to invest in the oil sands, for example.”
    They who??? Harper??? Not a chance. The most he has done is keep his head low. And that is a good thing for Albertans.

  5. mikel says:

    OK, I’ll eat some crow here and apologize to Mr. Campbell, since his take isn’t so different from many others, including Jack Layton. After reading way too much about this, the OTHER political angle that was missing was….Danny WIlliams. As several commentors have stated, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party are pretty popular in Saskatchewan. I honestly don’t know WHY this would be such a big deal with Wall, all they ever have to do is change the royalty regime if something other than market conditions became obvious (they OWN the potash, so its not like anybody can take it without paying whatever Sask wants).
    However, what would be a real kick in the teeth for Harper is if Wall were to turn into another Danny Williams. It wouldn’t be the liberals or NDP though, it would be a provincial Saskatchewan Party going federal. Thats a nightmare for all kinds of reasons for a PM, not which is that any number of provinces would set up a provincial federal party and that would make a real mess (or would it?)

    So I’d agree with Mr. Campbell except for one important caveat-that everything depends on how happy any deal can make Mr. Wall. I still suspect that a sale would go through, if the right conditions prevail. Just one other interesting tidbit is that Calgary’s Agrium is attempting a takeover of Australia’s wheat board, so by rejecting this out of hand, Harper will make SOME westerners angry if Australia can’t get in on the bid, and these are westerners with MONEY as well as votes.

  6. richard says:

    “You don’t know much about Saskatchewan if you think that”

    Obviously your poor education also missed Sask history. Tommy Douglas ring a bell? The NDP has historically done very well in Sask; the Libs had as many as 5 MPs from Sask as recently as the early 90s. Lib and NDP popular votes in Sask trend higher in most elections than in AB. Harper knows that; that’s why he killed the deal. Several of his MPs are vulnerable – and they made sure Harper knew it.

    “(they OWN the potash, so its not like anybody can take it without paying whatever Sask wants).”

    Potash will sell at the world market price. The cartel that Potash Corp controls helps to set that price. Sask want control of that cartel to be as local as possible in order to make sure it extracts maximum profit. Plus, Wall is reacting to the popular wave in Sask against the deal, much like Alward did wrt to NB Power. If Wall was smart he’d be demanding that Potash Corp get their execs back in Sask and that Potash invest in Sask R&D.

  7. mikel says:

    Come on, you’re showing your age if you are saying “as recently as the early 90’s”. That was TWO DECADES ago. Your education may have missed that when Tommy Douglas was Premier of Saskatchewan there WAS no ‘NDP’. That was much later. The NDP today is a far cry from Douglas’ socialist utopia. I did give Mr. Campbell the benefit of the doubt, however, claiming that “this is why” Harper did something is the height of megalomania. Did Harper call you up and explain his reasoning? Of course not, in politics we have no idea why these things happen.
    Likewise you can’t say WHY Mr. Wall is acting the way he did. As Danny WIlliams has shown, we simply never know whether a politician is LEADING a popular wave, or FOLLOWING it. We simply don’t know, and its a poor scientist who claims they DO in fact know (since there is no evidence of it, and those making the decision certainly didn’t say it).
    Federally, NONE of Harpers conservatives are ‘vulnerable’, go look at the election outcomes. Only in one or two ridings do the liberals or NDP even come close. That MAY change, if Mr. Wall starts acting like Mr. WIlliams and starts a crusade against the federal tories, but thats quite unlikely, but we’ll see. And its doubtful he’d throw his hat in with the liberals or NDP, like I said, its more likely that a growing Saskatchewan Party would want to branch into the federal arena-they have grassroots support so it really wouldn’t be that hard.

    There’s a pretty big mistake in the logic that says both “the market determines potash prices” AND “the cartel helps set those prices”. You can’t have BOTH. In BOTH cases though, a province can easily set a regulated price and charge royatlies based on that price-just like they do for oil. It’s THEIR potash, they can get as much or as little benefit out of it as they want. I will agree that its not as EASY to do that, but the option is there.

  8. richard says:

    ” You can’t have BOTH.”

    The cartel is part of the market. Cartels are present in many markets and affect prices. A cartel is not necessarily ‘all production'; it only has to be enough to affect price. More evidence of your limited education.

    “That was TWO DECADES ago”

    So? The point is there are enough voters in Sask and MB (where opinion was also strongly against the deal) that are quite ready to vote NDP or Lib; they have done so in the past and can do so in the future. As recently as 2006, over 1/2 of the Con MPS has less than a majority of votes. Vote switching to reflect more traditional levels of support could cost Harper a few MPS and thus any hope of a majority. A number of those ridings were NDP not too many years ago – they could easily be so again. But perhaps you are a subscriber to Harper’s view of a permanent con majority. Or perhaps too young to remember Brian Mulroney.

    “Your education may have missed that when Tommy Douglas was Premier of Saskatchewan there WAS no ‘NDP’.”

    Douglas was leader of the federal NDP. Did I say otherwise?

    The rest of your post is incomprehensible butt-covering.

    You need another serving of crow.

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