Opinion Column

The Duel

Polite appeasement of Trump has failed

By Garth Mullins, The Duel

(fotogal/Getty Images)

(fotogal/Getty Images)

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This week's question: Which party leader should B.C. trust to face down Trump?

Christy Clark and Donald Trump are both evangelists of the same religion: free-market fundamentalism. Cutting government services and leaving society in the hands of corporations are gospel. Clark is at home with billionaire developers. And Trump would probably relish the B.C. Liberals’ slogan, “Strong B.C.”

B.C. Liberal flacks would have us believe NDP leader John Horgan is too hotheaded to deal with Trump. But polite appeasement and befriending the bully haven’t worked. We even invited Ivanka to a Broadway musical. Perhaps it’s time to stand up to the guy.

Trump rounded out his first 100 days in office with an import tariff on softwood lumber. He says Canadian forest companies get an unfair, subsidized deal on timber.

Late Secwepemc activist and leader Arthur Manuel saw a different form of subsidy at work. He said the fact that First Nations aren’t compensated for most timber removed from their traditional territories acts as a subsidy to the forest industry. That wealth has filled forest company ledgers and government coffers.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

World Trade Organization and NAFTA panels accepted Manuel’s amicus curiae briefs on these subsidies.

There’s no doubt Trump’s tariff will put folks out of work. My granddad was a logger on Vancouver Island. These jobs have been important to our family. Solutions in the form of a new softwood agreement or trade tribunal decision could be years away.

Standing up to Trump means building a local, diversified economy in B.C. that isn’t so vulnerable to trade wars or hardwired to the boom and bust of commodity prices. It means more value-added secondary and tertiary production, not just rip and ship.

Premier Clark has bet everything on exporting commodities; deepening what political economist Mel Watkins called the staples trap. B.C. Liberals keep us stuck on this export-driven treadmill, which impedes economic diversification. With Trump literally and figuratively building border walls, why gamble our future on raw resource exports and real estate speculation?

Horgan was a pulp mill worker. He can deal with the Trump administration on softwood. I applaud Horgan’s rejection of Trump’s “angry, sexist, prejudiced and divisive politics.”

Meanwhile, B.C. Liberals take donations from some of America’s largest lumber producers who have lobbied for the softwood tariff and shuttered B.C. mills.

Monday is International Workers’ Day. It’s a day to recall that working people have confronted leaders who always side with the bosses, like Trump and Clark.

Garth Mullins is a broadcaster, activist, writer, musician and trade unionist. He’s at www.garthmullins.com or @garthmullins.