Tag Archives: European Union

Brexit’s dart to the heart

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Nothing unwittingly captures the folly of Britain’s decision, last week, to leave the European Union than do comments from the world’s reigning absurdist, the presumptive Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States Donald Trump,

Having only just arrived to reopen his golf course in Scotland, the billionaire heir to impossible wealth tweeted, “Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!”

In an off-the-cuff interview with reporters, he elaborated: “I think it’s a great thing that’s happened. It’s an amazing vote, very historic. People are angry all over the world. They’re angry over borders, they’re angry over people coming into the country and taking over and nobody even knows who they are. They’re angry about many, many things in the UK, the US and many other places. This will not be the last.”

The curious problem with these remarks is, of course, the fact that Scotland voted 62 per cent to remain within the European Union and is now seriously considering a new referendum to separate from Britain to do just that. So is Ireland.

So, then, who does The Donald actually think took which country back, as he says, with “no games?”

Was it Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who told the BBC last weekend that she intends to spearhead a renewed effort for her nation’s independence from Westminster?

Was it Gerry Adams of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein, who has, in vigorous protest to the Brexit vote, floated the idea of unifying his country with Eire as a bulwark against an increasingly belligerent England?

As usual, Mr. Trump is doing his level (if unconsciously ludicrous) best to increase Canada’s immigration rates – specifically, to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, where the color of one’s skin still tends to be as white as driven snow. After all, his special brand of xenophobia and populist outrage plays beautifully in places like “Little England” and “Outer Atlantica”.

But before we lick our chops at the prospect of somehow amalgamating London’s progressive urbanites with Boston’s disaffected Democrats within our own porous borders, we’d better be clear about a few incontrovertible facts of life in the global, 21st Century world we inhabit.

The first is: People in democracies make terrible mistakes when they are inchoately angry. They lash out like drunken bums on bingers, only to awake at dawn to ask, “My God, what have I done?”

The second is: The planet fairly brims with enterprising, calculating opportunists who are more than happy to drive wedges between people of otherwise good and temperate nature. The sharks among us swim for this conflict, because by fomenting it, they profit from it.

The third is: No one is ever truly satisfied with the decisions they make or the leaders they choose. All anyone can ever hope for is the wisdom and freedom to forgive, change and reconcile. This is the prevailing power of reasonable governments in stable societies.

The Brexit vote will affect every economy in the world, either directly or indirectly, including Atlantic Canada’s.

Here, we do ourselves a favour by ensuring that our borders are as open as our doors, our business is open-handed, our attitude towards immigrants is openhearted, and our concept of democracy is open-minded.

If we manage that feat, then we will reject the purchase of our minds that the absurdists and calculating suitors to our basest instincts among us insist.

Then, perhaps, tomorrow, people will tell villains like Donald Trump, “You’re fired.”

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How to fight the good fight, especially when it’s wrong

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Those picket-line-protesters who may worry that their shoe leather will wear out before the shale gas industry’s resolve does should cheer up after reviewing a World Trade Organization (WTO) decision this week – a decision some are calling a victory for the hard-scrabbling, morally superior little guy.

Of course, it is hardly that.

The WTO has simply upheld the European Union’s (EU) 2009 ban on imported seal products (meat, pelts, oil, etc.), which affects Canada most among the world’s pinniped-hunting nations (a small club that includes Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Namibia).

In its ruling, the organization allowed that while the prohibition probably violates at least the spirit of impartiality in global trade, it nonetheless “fulfills the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent.” What’s more, it added, “no alternative measure was demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution to the fulfillment of the objective.”

In other words, consumers’ decidedly non-commercial interests can and do trump those, however legitimate, of producers, either small or large.

That’s good news to all the assorted rebels with various causes among us, though, naturally, none of this is sitting well with the federal government or Canadian sealers who are screaming about the dirty they’ve been done at the hands of a powerful, disingenuous protest lobby.

In a statement from Ed Fast, Minister for International Trade, Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, and Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the trio declared, “On February 11, 2011, our government requested the establishment of a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel to challenge the European Union’s unfair ban on seal products in order to stand up for Canadian sealers and to vigorously defend the interests of Canada’s Inuit and Indigenous communities.

“The WTO panel confirmed Canada’s long-standing position that the EU ban is discriminatory and treats Canadian seal products unfairly. However, the panel also took the view that such a ban can be justified due to some of the public’s concerns regarding seal harvesting. Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation, and the Panel’s findings should be of concern to all WTO members.”

The government, of course, promises it will press on with an appeal. But, realistically, this battle is over. The Harper government is not likely to threaten the stability of its freshly minted European trade agreement over an industry that generates few economic benefits for citizens who live south of the 60th parallel – i.e., most Canadians.

All of which provides several object lessons for less mature social agitations, the first of which is that the “facts” at one’s disposal need not actually be true.

The trick to winning hearts and minds in the seal debate was always steadfastly ensuring that the message of carnage and cruelty on the ice floes was front and centre and before the public. Even after the industry effectively cleaned up its act (to the degree that any mass predation can be absolved of moral ambiguity), the message never changed, a fact which truly bugged even some ardent environmental pioneers.

“We have to be logical,” Jacques Cousteau reportedly once said. “We have to aim our activity first to the endangered species. Those who are moved by the plight of the harp seal could also be moved by the plight of the pig – the way they are slaughtered is horrible.”

The second lesson is that celebrities can vastly enhance a movement’s credibility.

In 2006, Paul McCartney and his then-wife Heather Mills, took Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams – who was linked to the show via a scratchy phone connection – to task over the annual cull. They called him by his first name and beseeched him, several times, to stop the killing. They were wrong on every account, every statement of fact. But, it didn’t matter. Subsequent polling showed that, in the eyes of the average viewer, they’d won the debate.

Was this sensible? Was this reasonable?

Who cares?

All’s fair in love, war and on the picket lines.

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