by Kevin Cox
The black ski masks that a few thugs wore in a pathetic attempt to gain attention by firing paint bombs and rocks at police and smashing a few windows were a perfect symbol for the blindness of those protesting the Atlantica conference.
The much-publicized violence that led to 20 arrests was a sideshow to the main event and was staged by self-professed anarchists who seem to roam the country looking for a good fracas and hide behind masks in their fight against capitalism.
But the main protest, which was peaceful and earnest, was equally futile. There was a time-worn denunciation of US imperialism and Canada’s subservient role in Empire USA that sounded like something out of a 1960s protest against the Viet Nam war.
But more alarming was the also outdated outcry against globalization and freer trade. The same young people who denounced international corporations will ultimately have to depend on global trade to make a living once they doff their picket signs and bandannas.
The evidence of the global marketplace is everywhere. Jobs no longer belong to a country – they belong to the place where the job can be done at the lowest cost and where resources are plentiful.
The word outsourcing will likely disappear from our vocabulary as the world becomes increasingly flat and resources and information travel seamlessly around the globe. No matter how high you hold your placard globalization is a reality and denouncing it is akin to denouncing gravity.
Defying it will mean falling flat on your face.
You won’t see many people in India, China, Sooth Korea or even Brazil decrying globalization. They’re too busy working for offshoots of North American companies and improving their standard of living.
Closer to home you won’t see many of the 105 people working at Acadian Gold’s mine in Gays River decrying global trade that will see their zinc and lead heading for Europe and Asia.
The workers on the Emera Brunswick Pipeline aren’t going to be carrying placards against freer energy trade with the US that will create hundreds of construction jobs on the line to carry gas into the US.
Gammon Resources would probably still be looking for its first ounce of gold if it stayed in Nova Scotia. Instead Fred George went to Mexico and has two mines pushing out gold and silver.
Almost every significant company in this part of the world has to learn to work in international markets to survive. Where would Clearwater be if it only sold its lobsters in Nova Scotia or if it had not established a marketing arm in southeast Asia? How many people would Secunda Marine employ if it depended solely on the Nova Scotia offshore to provide work?
Global trade is a reality and, contrary to the protestors’ placards, Canada has not been selling out. The sad part is that we haven’t been selling enough.
In her recent book Why Mexicans Don’t Drink Molson, Andrea Mandel-Campbell points out that protectionist government policies and corporate complacency have left most industries in this country far behind their international competitors.
She argues that there isn’t a single recognizable Canadian brand in the world and that lack of international marketing has doomed industries such as steel making.
Mandel-Campbell quotes Lorna Wright, associate professor of business at York University as saying: “the world is getting more inter-connected. If you’re not careful, if you cut yourself out of the chain, you’re dead”.
The Atlantica conference was about forging some of those chains and creating more connections. It featured corporate leaders who move and build and market and have an idea what the future will bring. It’s sad that message was even temporarily obscured by those who moan and wail and lash out blindly.
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