Monday, December 19, 2016

What A Pretty Face Conceals

When one thinks deeply about neoliberalism, one conjures up the face of greed, rapacity and monetary narcissism. Not at all a pretty face. But here in Canada, Thomas Walkom writes, neoliberalism is concealed by a human, some would say pretty, face, that of Justin Trudeau.
The essence of neo-liberalism is globalization. Neo-liberals strive for a world in which capital, goods and even labour move effortlessly from country to country. The aim is to let the free market do its magic and maximize wealth.
Once the centrepiece of the Conservative Party, the legacy of the reviled Stephen Harper is now being carried by our 'new' prime minister. Youth and attractiveness seem to go a long way on a number of fronts, including the temporary foreign worker program that grew to outrageous proportions under the previous regime:
... the Trudeau Liberals are smooth. Last week, they eliminated a rule that prevented temporary foreign workers from staying in Canada for more than four years.

To make the move politically palatable, the Liberal government said it would also require employers to advertise among disadvantaged groups such as indigenous people and the disabled before turning to foreigners.

But the bottom line is that the new rule allows employers to use cheap foreign labour indefinitely.
And Trudeau seems to understand something that Harper refused to: the need for 'social licence':
In Canada, that means wooing indigenous peoples and well-organized environmental groups.... And to win social licence for oil and gas pipelines, he worked on two fronts.

One was climate change. The government established its bona fides here by negotiating a path-breaking agreement with eight out of 10 provinces (plus three territories) to impose a price on carbon.

On its own, the carbon-price agreement is not enough to let Canada meet its climate targets. But in the end, it may be enough to convince enough Canadians that the pipelines from Alberta to the Pacific coast Trudeau wants should go ahead.
Simultaneously, the government has been successfully wooing indigenous leaders — with promises of more money, a more respectful relationship and an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
And while people are oohing and aahing over this new style, globalization plans continue apace:
The free trade and investment deal between Canada and the European Union is closer to fruition. A similar deal with China is on the agenda, as is some kind of free-trade relationship with Japan.
Although Walkom doesn't mention it, my guess is that Trudeau's plans for an infrastructure bank is of the same neoliberal ilk. One may legitimately ask why, when the cost of borrowing is at record lows the Liberals will kick in $35-billion and hope to attract private sector dollars at a ratio of $4 to $5 in private funding for every $1 of federal money. Obviously, if we partner with private sector interests, their rates of return will have to be much more than, for example, a Canada Savings Bond would yield. Will that mean tolls/user fees for roads, bridges, etc.? Whose interests are thus served?

But a pretty face and a pleasing manner can conceal only so much. Perhaps the government's masked slipped a bit recently, and a truer visage emerged, as Walkom notes:
As for the hallmark of neo-liberal economies — the precarious workplace of low wages and multiple jobs — the advice from Finance Minister Bill Morneau is hardly encouraging.

In effect he has said: Get used to it.


  1. Good, it's past time someone called out the Dauphin. The problem, however, isn't with Trudeau but the Liberal Party itself. Any notion of liberalism has been long swept clean of the LPC. Look at the array of rivals who contested the last leadership. They were conservative to the bone.

    Harper set out to move Canada's political centre well to the Right. Both the Liberals and the NDP chose to follow in trail. The CPC went hard right. The LPC went right. The NDP abandoned the Left for centrism.

    Ignatieff sowed the seeds of rot in the LPC and Trudeau merely carried along the transformation.

    If we're to confront the challenges facing us it will take a leader of vision, a man like Trudeau but not Trudeau's least of his three sons.

    Justin is no orator which makes it easier to spot his limitations in thought and imagination. It's plain to see that he's devoid of vision and is content to work from the relatively simple neoliberal playbook.

    Those who read and watched the Guardian's video interview with Trudeau could see it all. There he was decrying globalism while revealing he had no idea, none, of the neoliberal cause he was still serving. He didn't grasp that CETA is globalism writ large albeit somewhat gelded thanks to the Walloons. He still blindly pursues GDP growth without any sign that he understands the consequences it is having on our world.

    Yet, to the Liberal faithful and Canadians generally, this warm smile is enough. Kinsella rejoices in it. Canada be damned. Perhaps it shall be.

    1. I will admit that I like Trudeau in some ways, especially when I compare him to his predecessor, Mound. However, it would be folly to turn a blind eye to his orientation and his limitations. Giving him a pass
      because he seems nice and seems sincere is a mistake far too many Canadians are making.

      It brings to mind a quote from my favourite Shakespearian play, Hamlet, when the king, Claudius, describes how he can't take strong action against his nemesis, young Hamlet:

      "He’s loved of the distracted multitude,
      Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes."

  2. More of the same, Lorne. But smoother spin.

    1. Indeed, we have seen this movie several times, Owen.