NAFTA and the Militarization of Canada

I am writing to air my concern that NAFTA will bring about a militaristic aspect to our Canadian Society that will mirror the present US society’s militarism.

As you may know, the US does not directly subsidize its non-military industries. But through the Pentagon, in the name of “defence/national security” massive spending by the US government supports a huge military-industrial complex. This is not considered by Americans as a subsidy to business, but a crucial aspect of US security.

Hence, we have the situation that since the US does. not allow itself to subsidize ordinary industries, then it is the US position that Canada and Mexico (and the other countries of the Americas that will be induced to join NAFTA) should not subsidize their Ordinary industries. Bear in mind that to the US business community, subsidies include our health schemes, our unemployment insurance, old age pensions, etc.

Now, whereas FTA provides for discussions in the period 1983 1996 to define subsidies, NAFTA does not, but instead allows for only two subSidies — one is to the oil industry (actually the term used is “the energy industry”), and the second is to the military industry. This has profound consequences.

The history of our defence industry and its subservience to the US is long. However, the , year 1987 presented a watershed. Recall that in 1987 negotiations for FTA commenced. In that year, theMulroney government released a “Canadian Defence White Paper”. It called for the militarization of the Canadian economy (my emphasis), with a commitment of our country to a massive acceleration – of defence spending, with government assistance to private military production.

Since that year, according to estimates by Stats Can, Mel Hurtig, Council of Canadians, and others, the military production industry has grown at an astonishing six percent per year, and the situation is continuing. As you know, the 4.5 billion expenditure on unneeded helicopters is under way. Worse still, the president of the company that is building them has said (see articles in the Toronto Star, week of February 15/93) that when NAFTA’ comes into effect, his Company will be moved from Canada to Mexico. To add to this these helicopters, designed to hunt Russian submarines, are too big to land on the frigates now used by the Canadian Navy, so that new frigates Will have to be built and paid for. Rescue and Safety people have quite candidly Stated that the downwash from the helicopters will be too strong for them to be useful in rescue work. All this supports the statement attributed to Jack Cook, a defence critic, in Maude Barlow’s book “Parcel of Rogues” (1990): “The Free Trade Agreement is the: means by which the White Paper is implemented”.

The FTA and NAFTA both give the US secure access to Canadian energy.

How is this done? As mentioned earlier, there are only two types of subsidies allowed by NAFTA – energy for one and private production of defence materials. Article 2003 exempts military production industries from the government subsidies, that can otherwise be disallowed as unfair trading practice. Further, Article 90.4 shows how we have lost control over our energy. For instance, all it takes is a US declaration of an oil emergency because of defence considerations, and we must then supply, at prices no higher than the then prevailing price in Canada, the same pro-rata share of Canadian oil production that was sold to the US in the “most recent 36-month period”. This does not apply to the Mexicans who categorically resist US pressure to do the same as Canada.

The meaning and implications are all too clear:

Canada has lost control of a precious natural resource, namely oil. It affects our sovereignty – in times of emergency, if a government in Canada wished to help an ailing industry by subsidizing oil prices, this would no longer be feasible.

Either Canada would not have enough oil left to do this after supplying the US because of NAFTA, and/or the price the US would then pay would make it uneconomic to do so. Public policy considerations in this matter are lost, all in the name of defense. Note too that this means that the Canadian taxpayer in supporting subsidies for exploration by the oil industry is subsidizing the US.

We have witnessed and are witnessing a growing military production industry in Canada. Arms sales to the mid-East and Third World countries together with sales of parts for advanced military systems to the US constitute a moral outrage. Of course, the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) calls for reduced social programs so that more can be spent on defence contracts, which is exactly what is happening. The attack on our social programs, either directly or through the phasing out of federal transfer payments for regional programs, are all consequences of the BCNI-Tory agenda.

Another aspect of this intended rise of militarism in Canada was discussed at a recent news conference (Feb 19, 1993) organized by Science for Peace at Queen’s Park. David Parnas, the national president of SfP, pointed out that a consequence of NAFTA will be that no country, except the US, wil be able to design and manufacture a product on its own. This in turn will interfere with our ability to set our own safety standards and impair our defence capability. [See p. 7 of this issue of the Bulletin.]

By emphasizing efficiency and profit, the Tory government has managed to shift Canada from a caring society into one that is becoming more and more militaristic and neo-Reaganite in character. Ironically, the US is changing, having rejected neo-Reaganism and the multinational agenda. If NAFTA does come about, we risk this loss of our Canadian zone and will fail, in the same way the US has failed, to properly feed, house, clothe, educate, and to provide proper medical care to all of Canadian society and to provide employment for our people. We must stop NAFTA – it is the only logical conclusion.