|Brian 'Hollow Man' Mulroney|
The Hollow Men favoured globalization and its means, free trade agreements (as opposed to fair trade agreements), as a way to enrich corporations and shareholders, while helping workers in poorer countries to find jobs in the many factories that were relocated there because of loose regulations, anti-trade union laws, and low wages.
The Hollow Men not only allowed the flight to the bottom of the wage pile to take place, they reveled in it. Just as Mulroney crows about ‘his’ free trade achievement, so do many others.
Maude Barlow in The Huffington Post points out a few potholes in this glorious road to success:
When I say potholes I'm referring to those awkward facts about free trade, like that Canada lost 334,000 manufacturing jobs in the first five years after the Canada-U.S. deal was signed -- a decline that continued under NAFTA and continues to this day.
Good paying full-time jobs are more often than not replaced by precarious part-time work, which contributes to Canada's stagnating middle-income wages over the past 20 years.
It's a harsh reality of the free trade era that most of the new wealth created -- and free trade does create wealth -- went straight to the top, to the richest one per cent in Canada and globally.
It's a reality our government may refuse to accept but which is driving a new global movement of occupiers, indignados, workers, students, and others against corporate-led globalization. The Great Free Trade Debate of the late 1980s didn't end in victory for Mulroney and his big business backers. The debate never stopped raging…
We saw it in the 1999 Battle in Seattle protests, which sparked a resistance that eventually stalled multilateral free trade talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO). We saw it years later when public concerns with greater North American security and economic integration helped derail the Security and Prosperity Partnership. It was there again in the prolonged fight against the Canada-Colombia FTA -- a deal that protected Canadian mining companies and banks in a country where Indigenous, labour and environmental rights are much more at risk.
Today we see the free trade debate burning in the background of controversies over China's purchase of Canadian energy resources. It's in the tension between the federal government's hands-off approach to creating jobs and Ontario's Green Energy Act, with its local content requirements on renewable energy projects. It underpins the local food movement's challenge to the large-scale, environmentally and socially harmful agri-trade.
The free trade versus fair trade debate in Canada has been renewed under an invigorated NDP led by Jack Layton and now Thomas Mulcair.
And the Liberal Party of Canada will need to reconsider its slavish support of free trade – and disregard of fair trade – it it is really and truly to help the middle class workers find good paying, secure jobs, rather than the McJobs that we have seen over the past 20 years.