Apologies if this comic seems a bit more absurd than usual. For those who miss the reference, I’m paying homage to the surprisingly insightful Dinosaur Comics of Ryan North, a fellow I met last week at the big New England Webcomics jamboree. (You can see my portrait of him, and several other webcomickers here, by the way).
Here’s a fun fact about myself: I have a younger sister who lives and works in Dubai. My parents want to go visit her, but it’s become a bit of a bureaucratic hassle as of late, because the government of the United Arab Emirates has recently imposed a visa requirements on all Canadian tourists. The move is a brazenly vindictive response to the Harper government’s decision last month to not allow the Dubai-based Emirates airline corporation to set up shop in Canada, on the basis that doing so would take business away from Air Canada, Canada’s notoriously troubled national airline.
And perhaps we’ll soon see some vindictive gestures from Australia, too. This week marked the formal conclusion of Australian mining corporation BHP’s efforts to buy out the Regina-based Saskatchewan Potash corp., a company that presently controls the mining and distribution of one of Saskatchewan’s most lucrative national resources. The government of Saskatchewan didn’t want one of their favorite business partners to be controlled by foreigners, so the Harper administration stepped in to veto the takeover, and send BHP home.
Canadian commerce law grants sweeping powers to the federal government to prevent foreign firms from taking root in Canada. In most cases, all that needs to be proven is some vague evidence that the foreign company’s presence would not be in Canada’s “national interest” — a concept often defined exceedingly liberally and chauvinistically. In most cases, the decision is a brazenly political one; usually some short-term drive to protect jobs and votes, and not the long-term financial interests of the country at large. Though one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, Canadian industry is still fairly small and uncompetitive by G8 standards, and thus must be heavily coddled by the state in order to survive even domestically.
This whole philosophy of economic nationalism tends to fall in and out of favor among the Canadian ruling class from decade to decade, but its’ generally considered a cause far more fashionable among parties of the left than the right — which is what makes Stephen Harper’s newfound embrace of it so surprising. If anything, it seems to be just one more entry in the long story of the decline of Stephen Harper, the conservative man of principle, into Stephen Harper, the man of expedience.