The CoVid Chronicles 2: "Rainy Day People"
April 7, 2020
I confess I have been a Gord Lightfoot fan since I first heard him perform in 1967, which makes us about the same age. Over the next two decades, he would write many of the durable songs in our easy-listening playlists. One of my favourites is “Rainy Day People”. In typical Lightfoot fashion, it is painstakingly crafted, introspective, melodic and poignant. Its lyric talks about loyal friends who stick by each other, through thick and thin: “rainy day people don’t mind if you shed a tear or two”.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, never one to mince words, in response to a withholding of surgical masks by US manufacturer 3M, said, “it’s at times like this you learn who your real friends are”. At various times over our history, our relationship with our neighbour to the south has ranged from outright hostility to benign neglect. In the 1950s and 60s, Canada was dependent on jobs in US-owned branch plants. When these jobs were shipped offshore, we welcomed a free trade agreement that reduced or eliminated most tariffs, facilitating movement of goods north and south and educated us to “think globally. In spite of mutually agreed trade treaties, we have endured strategic duties on our softwood lumber, steel and other resources along with deep discounts on oil. When negotiating and pleas have failed, our only recourse has been the World Trade Organization, one of those slow-moving political bureaucracies like the United Nations or the World Health Organization. Hardly a forum for swift justice.
In his remarks, Mr. Ford asked why critical supplies like masks, face shields and ventilators can’t be made in Ontario. The quick answer is that, before the CoVid crisis, we could source our everyday requirements from our “friends”. When our erstwhile pals turn off the taps, we are faced with a national security problem. History and practical experience should show us that when things get tight, we are only as secure as our weakest supply chain.
Perhaps one of the lessons we will finally learn is that, as Mr. Ford said, there is nothing we can’t make in Ontario. When we think about national security, we naturally infer external military threats. It can be argued that our imminent security and supply threats are food, transportation, domestic manufacturing, and the ability to get our oil and gas resources to market.
Given the recent manifestation of a previously unthinkable pandemic, there has never been a better time for our business and political leaders to hammer out a national economic strategy to make Canada a completely self-sufficient, self sustaining exporting nation. Some of the measures would include eliminating trade barriers between provinces, settling once and for all outstanding jurisdictional issues with first nations, building Canadian refinery facilities, getting pipeline projects built, establishing a domestic farm workforce and building greenhouse and hydroponic growing operations which would produce fresh vegetables and greens year-round. Perhaps some of our financially challenged industrial cannabis grow-ops can be re-purposed to growing food.
For those of us who believe Canada can do more to secure its economic future, these are the thoughts we should keep in mind when we elect our politicians. Is our economic security a priority or is it ranked somewhere behind gender equality, the climate crisis and chasing a seat on the UN Security Council?
One resource our economy can’t provide is warm winter vacations. Billions of discounted Canadian dollars flee each year to the sun-belt states of our southern neighbour, some of which would not survive without the Canadian snowbird migration. On the other hand, Canada has much to offer tourists. As good hosts, we have the opportunity to earn offsetting tourism income. A Canada that spends at home is a stronger Canada. A Canada that produces consumer goods in-house is even stronger.