Editorial: Self-sufficiency a worthy aim

A union official this week called for all levels of government to embrace “Buy Canadian” policies in order to protect Canadian jobs.

Stephen Hunt, Western Canada director for the United Steelworkers, in a statement released on Business Wire said government policies – not the COVID-19 pandemic – led to thousands of steelworkers being laid off in 2020.

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“Government procurement policies for major construction projects like the new Pattullo Bridge in Surrey, the Kitimat LNG project, replacement lines for SaskEnergy and the Northern Alberta TC Energy project do not prioritize the use of Canadian steel,” Hunt said.

His statement also underscored the hypocrisy of governments that spout green rhetoric while importing offshore steel and pre-fabricated parts for major projects:

“We produce steel using iron ore and metallurgical coal mined in Canada or by recycling scrap to use in electric arc furnaces. The foreign steel our governments are importing has a significantly higher environmental impact than steel made here at home. By using steel made in Canada we can save 12 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.”

The disconnect goes far beyond steel and the industry’s 23,000 direct and 100,000 indirect jobs.

Last year a poll by the Broadbent Institute found that most Canadians want governments to do what is necessary to rebuild the economy – but they also believe it’s essential that Canada becomes more self-sufficient.

Border closures, travel bans and threatened supply chains brought home the vulnerability and exposure that comes with reliance on global trade for our most basic products and materials.

Canadians want more self-sufficiency, but our political leaders follow a different set of marching orders and dream of a Canada whose role is to fill niches in the global economy.

Meanwhile, Canada remains dependent on trade with partners like China, which displays open contempt for our weakness, while millions of Canadians in their prime remain dependent on government handouts.

Self-sufficiency would mean jobs and self-respect. It would also mean we could no longer export our pollution and labour costs to factory-outlet countries with low environmental standards and slave wages. It means we’d have to deal with our own garbage and count our own carbon.

It’s a worthy aim and as individuals we can work towards it by adopting a militantly “Buy Canadian” attitude. We can’t afford to wait for our politicians to see the light on this one.

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