Giving thanks (sort of) - Canadian politics, from a west-coast vantage point

The weather has given me cause for thanks during the six-week interregnum between Canadian and American Thanksgivings.

Tony Wilson
Boughton Law

As I write this, Vancouver is enjoying a sunny and warm October that some are calling "Augtober."

Now that the U.S. Senate Judiciary hearings on the appointment of Brett “Kavenaughty” to the U.S. Supreme Court are over, we can turn off our televisions and return to enjoying these smokeless, sunny autumn days.

The weather has given me cause for thanks during the six-week interregnum between Canadian and American Thanksgivings.

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I'm thankful that Canada and the U.S. were finally able to agree on a new NAFTA treaty. I refuse to call it the "USMCA" and will simply call it "NAFTA 2." The deal isn't perfect, but I'm convinced it was the best deal possible given threats from U.S. President Donald Trump to impose a 25-per-cent duty on the importation of all automobiles manufactured in Canada, potentially destroying the Canadian automobile manufacturing industry. This may well have triggered a similar response in Canada to U.S.-manufactured cars.

I do find it interesting that the leader of the Opposition has been playing armchair quarterback about NAFTA 2, telling Canadians how he would have signed a "better deal," without explaining what that "better deal" would have been and how he would have negotiated it, given the intransigence of the Americans. The fact that Trump publicly despises Canada's chief NAFTA negotiator, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, makes her nothing short of a superstar.

As for dairy, Canada had to open up some of its market to American cheese, milk and poultry imports. That was inevitable. However, it's been suggested that Canada's packaging and labelling laws be changed to acknowledge this concession and that all cheese, milk and poultry coming from the U.S. show the stars and stripes in all its glory with the words "Made in the USA" prominently displayed in an oversized patriotic font, together with "Make America Grate Again" on all cheese products.

I'm also thankful that the federal government has finally legalized marijuana. I hope that Canada's provincial governments can make as much money from marijuana sales as they do from liquor sales.

Legalization was quite anticlimactic, despite all the media hype that "prohibition is over." It strikes me that those who indulged in marijuana use prior to legalization will keep indulging and those (like me) who like a good New Zealand pinot noir will choose that option instead.

Nothing much will change except marijuana distribution will get out of the hands of organized crime, which is a good thing.

I'm also thankful that the housing market has started to cool down in Vancouver, although I'm disappointed the B.C. government still insists that a speculation tax will do anything to stop speculation. Instead, it's a tax that effectively prevents Canadian citizens living in the outlying suburbs of Vancouver or Victoria from owning a pied-à-terre in those cities without having to rent it out or pay the tax. It strikes me that if you're going to call a tax a "speculation tax," you might actually go after speculators, not Canadian citizens, who, for whatever reason, have a second home.

On the other hand, most British Columbians have accepted the foreign buyers tax that puts an extra 15-per-cent price tag on sales of residential real estate to purchasers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or hold work permits.

There are still some who complain about the foreign buyers tax. They say it's a racist "head tax" unfairly targeting buyers from Mainland China, notwithstanding the fact that it applies equally to American, Russian and Australian nationals and others who have not made a commitment to Canada through citizenship or permanent residency and who do not pay income tax in Canada.

When I have to explain that the tax applies equally to everyone and that Singapore and Hong Kong have a similar tax (and New Zealand has banned foreign ownership outright), my argument is ignored in some quarters and I'm met with the complaint: "The tax is racist and targets buyers from Mainland China"

Ironically, the people who complain the most about the foreign buyers tax are realtors. Funny, that.

Finally, the Federal Court of Appeal has slowed down the approval of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion (formerly owned by Kinder Morgan but now owned by you and me). With no irony whatsoever, the federal and B.C. governments have fast-tracked the approval of a $40-billion pipeline and liquid natural gas terminal to be built in Kitimat.

 

I'm thankful we have a politician in Canada like Alberta's Rachel Notley who saw just a little bit of “WTF” in the "warp speed approval" for the LNG project.

 

She said: "When you look at the fact that the government of B.C. and the people who oppose the [Trans-Mountain] pipeline are ‘okily dokily’ with 350 tankers coming out of Kitimat with rougher waters that is more difficult to get to, that somehow we have a completely different standard when we’re looking at the TMX pipeline coming out of a much calmer port . . . I think Albertans can be forgiven for being extremely frustrated with the way the federation is working right now.”

 

I guess that's why B.C. is called La La Land.

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