The big ping pong game

I just got a chance to read through some of the ‘Stop Atlantica’ stuff. Most of it is rubbish. Plain and simple. They have raised some important issues and then blasted them out of an ideological cannon designed to rile up the base but also annoy just about everyone with some average understanding of the issues at hand.

You know I am not a big fan of Brian Lee Crowley, either (if you have been reading this blog).

It’s like some big, high stakes ping pong game with Atlantic Canada as the little white ball. On the one side, We have Maude Barlow saying “we’ve lost the rest of Canada to the grip of those damn yankees so by the cripes we’re gonna make our stand in Atlantic Canada”. And on the other side, you’ve got Crowley saying we’ll finally put it to those left wing commies.

It’s like this effort – which was actually a Neville Gilfoy conception (or promotion) as a genuine and legitimate concern for the economic and social potential of the poorest region in all of the United States and Canada. A region that was (is) shedding population. A region that has the lowest standard of living in the two countries. The basic thinking was that north/south was a more natural and logical trading pattern. One that had been all but severed. At the same time, the Ontario/U.S. trading pattern had led to enormous economic growth and provided much of the funding for the national government in Canada to do what it does. So, innocently enough, maybe we could – over time -try and replicate some of that success here?

But, no. This has to become some to the death ideologcial battle.

The truth is that reality lies somewhere in the middle. But Barlow and Crowley see themselves as the defenders of all thats good and holy. I just see it as cowardly for not being able to admit that somebody else might have a small chunk of the truth on their side.

The reality is that Barlow and the Stop Atlantica crowd make some good points. But instead of advocating that the Atlantica supporters build in safeguards for the environment or labour standards, etc., she just rails on and on with wildly ridiculous thundering ovations and demands that Atlantica be crushed in its infancy. Playing to her base, I guess. For anyone to think that the proponents of Atlantica actually want to lower wages, lower the standard of living, lower the quality of the environment, etc. is just plain silly. But, on the other hand, these things should be on the table when discussing Atlantica. It makes sense. But now, to even mention ‘environment’ or ‘labour standards’ means you are siding with Maude.

On the other side, Crowley pummels his chest and demands that the government remove itself from all aspects of the the community. Get out, you are hampering growth, he says. Taxation is plunder (a la Bastiat) and Atlantic Canada’s serfdom has come by the road of big government.

The reality is that Crowley makes some good points. We can overdo government. We can create disincentives to work or advancement. Government can lean towards controlling more and more of community life – it in some cases wants to wedge its way in to every social or economic problem and that can lead to bad and even tragic outcomes. So when we are conceiving the grand schemes of government and broad brush solutions, we should consider the implications on free will, on personal motivation, on self-determination. It is arrogance to think that government can solve all the problems of the world. But now, to even mention ‘personal responsibility or ‘work ethic’ means you are siding with Crowley.

The truth of the matter is that I hope the Atlantica movement soldiers on. I hope they keep as their main goal raising the economic standard of living of this region and providing a strong economic base on which our communities can survive and thrive and let us get on with the business community building. We want our kids to have the option to stay here. We want to lesson our dependence on Equalization and ephemeral transfer payments. The objectives of Atlantica should be put through the important 21st century filters of environment and social justice. Proponents should be aware of and celebrate the cultural differences between Canada and the U.S. and be able to agreeably disagree on matters.

But I fear that Atlantica will go the way of the Dodo bird. It is a very difficult thing to get multiple provincial/state governments – let alone national governments – to cooperate. Particularly when its a poor region and everyone has the “what’s in it for me” thermostats set to maximum. Add on a systematic and sustained campaign to turn Atlantica into the last stand for the anti-globalization movement, and I think there isn’t much chance of survival.

So, Maude will likely win and will sit back with a pompous grin on her face as she nestles into her life in the heartland of Canada’s economic strength – a strength in many ways built on its relationship with the Americans. She’ll get paid – and likely paid well – to drive a nail in Atlantica and set back economic renewal in this region for another generation. But I guess maybe that’s someone’s version of success.