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Don’t forget about rural Canadians when crafting environmental plans

News

Welcome to The Hub’s Federal Election 2021 Policy Pulse, where we’ll be tracking all the policy announcements from the major parties, with instant analysis from our crew of experts.

With the election scheduled for Sept. 20, we’ll be monitoring 36 days worth of policy ideas, so watch out each morning for the day’s live blog where we’ll be tracking every announcement as it happens.

4:30 p.m. — Don’t forget about rural Canadians when crafting environmental plans

Climate change and how to deal with it are top of mind for many Canadians as we emerge from our “infernal summer” and weigh the federal party platforms in the current election campaign.

While each party outlines its promises in tackling the issue, environmental policies should not be crafted thinking only of citizens living in urban areas; they need to consider the unique realities faced by rural residents.

In a publication launched Thursday, Olivier Rancourt, Krystle Wittevrongel, and Miguel Ouellette of the Montreal Economic Institute highlight three areas of environmental public policy in Canada that have the effect of amplifying the inequalities that exist between rural and urban areas. First, carbon pricing and the increased cost of fuel will not reduce demand for motorized vehicles in rural and agricultural regions as much as in urban areas. This increases out-of-pocket expenses for consumers in rural areas who have fewer transportation options. Second, the moratorium on developing natural gas in the province of Quebec is felt primarily in rural areas where this resource is located. And third, the overregulation that complicates the repurposing of oil and gas projects in Alberta has contributed to economic disparities in that province.

Rural Canadians earn incomes that are typically 16 percent lower than their urban counterparts, have higher unemployment rates, and see slower income growth than urban areas. Therefore, regardless of where the parties land on various environmental policies, such measures should consider the needs of rural Canadians, and they should have a clear environmental purpose that justifies the costs.

3:00 p.m. — Clever evasion or backtrack? Either way, O’Toole may be able to avoid the gun control hot potato

The Hub contributor Joanna Baron tackles the gun control issues that have bubbled up recently:

Erin O’Toole has proudly touted — and his party’s platform indicates — that his government would repeal the Liberals’ 2020 ban on more than 1,500 types of weapons.

During last night’s TVA debate, however, O’Toole said that his party would maintain a ban on assault rifles. Some took this to be a backtrack, but a gun-owners lobby group claimed it was merely a clever evasion, since assault rifles have been banned since ’77 (as opposed to “assault-style” rifles).

O’Toole may be able to avoid this hot potato altogether: the ban is subject to multiple constitutional challenges which claim that it exceeded the authority of the federal cabinet, was enacted by order-in-council without legislative transparency and wrongly banned rifles which have long been used for hunting and sporting purposes.

Rather than clarify his position, O’Toole went on to tout his party’s proposals to tackle gang violence, including amending the Criminal Code to make it difficult for those charged in connection with gang violence to obtain bail, and easier for prosecutors to prove a gang connection. The Tories’ platform also promises to impose mandatory minimum sentences on gun smugglers and repeat offenders convicted of gun crimes.

1:30 p.m. — If the PBO can’t cost the party platforms in time for a snap election, there are other options to consider

The Hub’s editor-at-large Sean Speer offers some alternatives to the PBO on costing party platforms:

As the third week of the federal election campaign comes to a close, we’re still waiting for the fiscal plans from two of the major political parties.

The source of the delay stems from a commitment that the Liberal Party made in the 2015 campaign to mandate the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), an office established by the previous Conservative government to support parliamentarians in understanding and analysing economic and fiscal issues, to provide independent cost estimates of the various political parties’ promises and platforms in the context of election campaigns. The platform commitment was subsequently effectuated in 2017 through an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act.

This new role for the PBO process ran reasonably well in the 2019 federal campaign. It was a fixed election date which gave the political parties and the PBO ample time to produce and submit their full suite of policies and carry out the cost estimates respectively.

But in this year’s snap election there’s been a significant delay in the PBO’s ability to produce the cost estimates for the various parties due in large part to resource constraints. It’s believed, for instance, that the Conservative Party submitted its full-suite of policies to the PBO for costing on August 16 but more than two weeks later the estimates still aren’t available. This seems like a pretty serious flaw in a world in which minority parliaments and unpredictable election cycles are increasingly the norm.

The consequence is that we are now beyond the halfway point of the campaign, and we still don’t have a sense of the overall costs of the Conservative and NDP platforms and what they would mean for Ottawa’s deficit and debt in the coming years.

For some, including Hub contributor Ken Boessenkool, this reflects the flaw of giving the PBO this responsibility in the first place. Boessenkool has consistently argued that platform development and the accompanying fiscal costing ought to be the sole responsibility of political parties and involving the PBO doesn’t just produce these practical issues but has deeper, structural problems in which parties are brought within the purview of government and the legislature.

He may have a point but that doesn’t necessarily negate the underlying impetus for the Liberals’ initial idea to try to bring greater evidence and rigour to party platform development.

Given the increasing expectations that policy platforms serve as well-developed governing agendas for incoming governments, how can we ensure that the political parties have adequate capacities and resources to carry out rigorous policy development and ultimately produce policy platforms that can sustain a sensible governing agenda?

Different jurisdictions have sought to answer this question by using various means and methods to support policy development capacity within (or attached to) the political parties. Some, such as the United Kingdom, publicly fund policy and research capacity within political parties. (Former Prime Minister David Cameron, for instance, started his political career as a researcher in the Conservative Research Department which is part of the overall Conservative Party’s organization.) Others, such as Germany, publicly fund think tanks with clear affiliations to political parties. (In the German case, for instance, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation is a political party foundation associated with but independent of the center-right Christian Democratic Union.)

The basic insight of these different models is that there is a public interest in ensuring that political parties have the capacity and resources for policy development that can not only inform party platforms in the lead up to elections but also enable regular and ongoing policy thinking and analysis. There is, according to this view, a role for public funding to establish and support these policy-related capacities within (or attached to) political parties.

This is of course a debatable point. One can imagine that the notion of what economists call “positive externalities” as a justification for more public funding to political parties would encounter opposition in Canada. Maybe Boessenkool himself would object.

But if the lesson out of this failed experiment with the PBO isn’t that the underlying idea was fundamentally flawed but the solution – both from a conceptual and practical point-of-view – was wrong, maybe it’s worth considering whether Canada should move in the direction of some of these other countries.

11:45 a.m. — TVA debate shows a three-way race in Quebec

Antonia Maioni, a professor at McGill University, analyzes the TVA debate in Montreal last night:

About last night: the general consensus among the chattering commentator class was that there was no clear “winner” in last night’s French-language leaders’ debate. That may well be if we want to follow the sports analogy, but election debate are not all about KOs and own goals.  

Election debates, and in particular those that come in the wake of a summer campaign played out mainly on social media, are important because they allow some focus to emerge from the wallpaper of electoral signage and campaign noise. We get to hear what political leaders are actually promising voters and how they defend and differentiate these ideas from their rivals. It also allows voters to take the measure of the man (in last night’s case, it was an all-male cast) who would be prime minister.    

First things first, this was the first electoral debate in a long time where all four participants could actually engage with each other in French. Not only did this make for good television, for a change, it also allowed francophone voters to acknowledge that English-Canadian politicians can speak their language both literally and figuratively. 

And this was Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s biggest challenge: to introduce himself to the voting public as a credible alternative and to defend himself from attempts to define him as a scary conservative. On that note, he succeeded. Maybe it’s his military credentials, but his stoic calm played well against the wound-up Justin Trudeau, who often hogged the mic in a way that wasn’t pretty, and the smoother but also tightly wound Yves-Francois Blanchet, who baited O’Toole all evening. This reflected the increasingly obvious concern that the Conservatives may be eating into both Liberal and BQ support in Quebec.

The rookie Conservative leader had a few tense moments, including exchanges about daycare and health care. But he was not singled out for grilling on the environment, a top of mind policy issue for Quebecers; he acquitted himself well on the language issue — with a shout-out to Brian Mulroney; and, surprisingly for some observers, came out as the best defender of “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in the armed forces. Still, he stayed on message a bit too much, to the point where the mention of his party’s “plan,” at least two dozen times by my count, could have turned into a very intoxicating drinking game. Another robocall repetition was the repeated reference to partnerships with his BFF Premier François Legault, in supporting Quebec’s autonomy and jurisdiction.  

It’s not to say that Trudeau didn’t have a good debate, but it’s a format that brings out both the best and the worst in him. It’s no secret by now that Liberal support may be softening in Quebec, and it showed. He was put on the defensive from the first moment on air, with everyone, including Pierre Bruneau, the venerable moderator, on calling this election, to which the prime minister just didn’t have a good answer. Does it matter? Two weeks into a campaign, that question should be dead, but here it is, still alive and kicking.

The moderator also got in on the action in pummeling Trudeau on language issues, which is not a good look for a politician from Quebec.  By the end of the evening, we saw Trudeau resort to Liberal strawmen tactics — the non-vaccinated “20 percent,” two-tier health care, and of course, Stephen Harper — and his own weakness for shooting from the hip, in suggesting that without a majority government, “we’ll be back here in 18 months.” 

There’s not much to say, ironically for a French-language debate, about Yves-François Blanchet, except to say that he was true to himself, and vigourously defended his party’s defense of Quebec interests in the House of Commons. That’s pretty much the alpha and omega of the BQ, and by this point, it’s no surprise to anyone, in Quebec or elsewhere. But the one thing Blanchet did do, which is telling, is that he was able to put any doubts to rest that a protest vote could once again move from the BQ to the NDP. His exchanges with Jagmeet Singh were among the most abrasive, and his put-down of the NDP’s platform as “magical thinking” was the most quotable of the evening. 

Overall, this first debate can be seen to reflect the trends already in motion of this election campaign: it’s a three-way race in Quebec, without the NDP. The launch of the Liberal policy platform will not likely reverse the softening trend line in their support elsewhere. And the Conservative leader has so far been successful in defending his image from his rivals.

Now it remains to be seen how the leaders can muster something interesting in the second debate in French and, crucially, how they prepare for their make or break performance on the national stage in the English language debate.   

9:45 a.m. — Conservatives announce ‘gang exit strategy’ plan to partner with employers

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was in Montreal this morning to highlight a plan to partner with local employers to employ a “gang exit strategy,” to give criminals a way out of the “cycle of violence.”

O’Toole also announced his plan to crack down on gun smuggling by adding aggravating factors for sentencing based on the amount and value of the guns.

The Conservative platform also contains plans to amend the Criminal Code to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for unauthorized firearm possession if the person was the subject of a prohibition order or had been previously convicted of an offence involving a firearm.

8:30 a.m. — The parties must resist the temptation to regulate the entire internet

Peter Menzies, a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and former CRTC vice chair, proposes an alternative approach to updating communications legislation:

The Liberal platform on communications policy focuses on culture issues. Before the election the party introduced Bills C-10 and C-36 which proposed sweeping new federal regulatory powers over online content. C-10 made it through the House despite a great deal of controversy, but ultimately neither Bill was passed before the election.

Updating communications legislation for the 21st Century is certainly overdue and should be a priority for all parties. I would propose a new approach, recognizing that old models for regulating communications, and broadcasting in particular, are simply not applicable to the Internet.

Attempts to control what Canadians are allowed to say, and what content they would be presented with online would stifle innovation, infringe on freedom of speech, and be a bureaucratic nightmare.

Fundamentally, the next government needs to resist an approach that would require regulation of the entire internet. Measures designed to create a level playing field must also avoid stifling innovation. While it is appropriate to ensure streaming companies invest in Canada and both languages and support its cultural ambitions, this can be achieved without the sweeping bureaucracy, USMCA complexities and Charter issues presented in Bill C-10.

Finally, the primary purpose of new legislation should be the importance of ensuring all Canadians have reliable internet access. In the 21st century, to go without the internet is the equivalent of not having a telephone or indoor plumbing. It is essential public infrastructure, and should be the next government’s first priority.

7:00 a.m. — Where the leaders are today

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will make an announcement in Mississauga at 11 a.m.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will make an announcement in Montreal at 9:30 a.m.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will reveal an “NDP Quebec platform” in Montreal at 9:15 a.m.

Does building more market-rate housing make the whole market more affordable?

News

Welcome to The Hub’s Federal Election 2021 Policy Pulse, where we’ll be tracking all the policy announcements from the major parties, with instant analysis from our crew of experts.

With the election scheduled for Sept. 20, we’ll be monitoring 36 days worth of policy ideas, so watch out each morning for the day’s live blog where we’ll be tracking every announcement as it happens.

4:30 p.m. — Does building more market-rate housing make the whole market more affordable?

The Hub’s content editor L. Graeme Smith looks at a new report on the effect of market-rate housing construction:

Housing has been a hot topic in the first half of the campaign, with the NDP promising to build half a million affordable housing units over the next ten years and the Conservative’s pledging to build a million homes in the next three years. 

As Chris Spoke has observed, there is a difference between affordable housing and housing affordability. The NDP plan clearly focuses on the former, with all of its attendant costs, while the Conservatives have focused simply on building more housing overall.

Research highlights the merit of just building as much new housing as possible, regardless of the type. 

The Journal of Urban Economics recently released a report, The Effect of New Market-Rate Housing Construction on the Low-Income Housing Market, that found building more market-rate or luxury housing has the downstream effect of freeing up affordable housing for those that need it. When more expensive housing is introduced into the market, richer people move into these costlier homes, vacating the cheaper options. 

Author Evan Mast quantifies the effect:

“Constructing a new market-rate building that houses 100 people ultimately leads 45 to 70 people to move out of below-median income neighborhoods, with most of the effect occurring within three years. These results suggest that the migration ripple effects of new housing will affect a wide spectrum of neighborhoods and loosen the low-income housing market.”

You want to increase affordable housing options? Focusing on more housing in general appears to be a defensible tact to take.

2:30 p.m. — The Liberals are doubling down on digital policy

The Hub’s content editor L. Graeme Smith examines the digital policy section of the Liberal platform:

The Liberals (still) want to regulate the internet. 

Bill C-10, introduced in parliament by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault back in November 2020, set out a series of reforms to the Broadcasting Act in the name of speaking to the rise of online and digital content producers and providers. 

The crux of the issue is that the Broadcasting Act and its Canadian content rules were conceived in an era of 13 television channels and no longer reflect how Canadians produce, create, and consume content. The bill in effect sought to bring the Broadcasting Act into the age of Netflix and Youtube.

It proposed doing so by subjecting web-based content providers to the same regulations as traditional broadcasters. In effect, this would mean requiring them to offer certain amounts of Canadian content on their sites and financially contribute to the production of Canadian cultural industries.

It also meant to classify user-generated content posted to social media sites as broadcast content and would have required the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to regulate it much the same as it regulates radio and TV content now.

Critics of the bill worried that this was a substantial intrusion into the free speech rights of Canadians. Others were skeptical that Canadian contents were even required at all in the digital age. 

In addition to C-10, the government similarly tabled Bill C-36 which sought to combat online hate and was widely criticized for equating words with violence and having the potential to deter healthy discourse. 

Neither bill was passed into law prior to the election. 

The Liberal party is unchastened, though, as they have doubled down on their digital policy without reconsideration. Their party platform, released yesterday, has much the same promises around new cultural spending initiatives and internet regulations, including pledges to: 

  • Within the first 100 days, reintroduce legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act to ensure foreign web giants contribute to the creation and promotion of Canadian stories and music
  • Introduce legislation within its first 100 days to combat serious forms of harmful online content
  • Strengthen the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate

For more discussion on the intricacies of these proposals, you can check out plenty of content here at The Hub, including: 

  • Sean Speer on why regulating the internet for Canadian content producers is unnecessary
  • Vass Bednar on the risks of Bill C-10
  • Stuart Thomson on the unpopularity of Bill C-10
  • Joanna Baron on the futility of Bill C-36
  • A C.D. Howe discussion on the fundamental flaws of Bill C-10
  • A breakdown of Cardus’ The Long Way episode on Bill C-10 
  • A  breakdown of a Law Bytes conversation with a former CRTC Chair denouncing Bill C-10

1:00 p.m. — The Liberals and Conservatives are both promising an agency to bet on ‘wild card’ technologies

The Hub’s editor-at-large Sean Speer examines similar proposals from the Liberals and Conservatives:

Now that the Liberal Party has released its platform, we have the full policy platforms from the major parties to compare and analyse. (The Conservatives and NDP have yet to release the costing of their individual policy promises or their overall plans.)

One of the most interesting policy developments is that both the Conservatives and Liberals have committed to establish a new federal agency modeled on the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the U.S.

The Conservative platform states:

If elected, Canada’s Conservatives will invest $5 billion over the next five years to fund programs aimed at making major advances in:

  • Use of hydrogen
  • Small Modular Reactors, including funding the work being done in Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick on nuclear energy technology and the work being done in Alberta on applying SMR technology to reduce GHG emissions in the resource sector
  • Private sector innovation in the space sector
  • Electric vehicle development and manufacturing, including electric trucks, micro-mobility, batteries, and parts manufacturers
  • Pharmaceutical research and production

This investment will be managed by a new Canada Advanced Research Agency headquartered in Calgary, where it will take advantage of Alberta’s highly educated workforce and help diversify the Alberta economy.

The Liberal platform states:

[A re-elected Liberal government will] Establish a Canada Advanced Research Projects Agency (CARPA) as a public-private bridge for research that helps develop and maintain Canadian-led technology and capabilities in high-impact areas.

Modelled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) in the United States, which has helped pioneer the development of several iconic technologies, including GPS mapping, the agency would be established with an initial endowment of $2 billion.

This common promise has generated some attention from the news media and policy experts. Given the limited details in the two platforms, there are naturally questions about a Canada Advanced Research Projects Agency (CARPA)’s mandate, structure, and purpose.

The basic idea of DARPA is to finance and support high-risk, high-reward projects free from political interference or academic and bureaucratic capture. The agency’s success has been in large part a consequence of being highly disciplined in distinguishing between potential scientific and technological breakthroughs and incremental progress. The former are prospective DARPA projects. The latter are the purview of other federal agencies and programs.

A successful innovation ecosystem requires a combination of incremental and transformational innovation. Take climate change for instance. A February 2021 report by the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices estimated that “safe bet” technologies can contribute at least two-thirds of the emission reductions needed to reach Canada’s 2030 targets and at least one-third of reductions required to achieve the 2050 target of net-zero emissions. The rest of the progress will need to come from “wild card” technologies that are currently undeveloped or may not yet even exist.

Yet Canada’s science, technology, and innovation policy framework undervests in such high-risk, high-rewards inventions and instead tends to prioritize safe, incremental progress due to a combination of political economy factors including the gatekeeper role that leading scholars and scientists play in research funding and publication decisions.

If we are to create the conditions for “wild card” progress in areas such as direct air capture, carbon captured and storage, and other forms of industrial decarbonization, government policy will need to tilt more in the direction of catalysing such scientific and technological breakthroughs. A new CARPA can in theory play this role.

In practice, there will be various policy and governance issues that will need to be resolved in establishing a new, DARPA-like agency in Canada. A failure to properly address them risks producing the underwhelming outcomes that some critics have warned.

Replicating DARPA’s autonomy, independence, and discipline may be challenging based on past experiences including the small “p” politics reflected in the geographical and sectoral distribution of the superclusters. It’s also uncertain whether our system of politics and government can permit the sort of institutional energy and dynamism that has contributed to DARPA’s overall success.

The incoming government will need to think carefully about the full invention-innovation continuum so that promising inventions supported by CARPA aren’t stranded or merely sold off pre-commercialization to global firms. There are also outstanding questions about whether DARPA’s connection to the Department of Defense’s massive procurement budget is a contingent variable that cannot be replicated in Canada or elsewhere.

But it would be wrong to dismiss the Conservative and Liberal proposals for a new CARPA out-of-hand. The country and the world face enormous challenges — including climate change, the risk of future global pandemics, and the invariable health consequences of aging demographics — that require major scientific and technological breakthroughs to address them.

Catalysing such inventions in Canada can not only help us meet national interest goals (such as achieving net-zero emissions) but can ultimately produce commercial innovations for export to global markets.

It’s exciting therefore to see the major parties throw some “wild cards” into the campaign. The real work of translating the bet of a new research agency into a source of such breakthroughs will begin in earnest following the election.

11:30 a.m. — Why tonight’s Quebec debate is so important

The Hub’s editor-in-chief Stuart Thomson looks at the importance of tonight’s TVA debate:

Most days, the campaign schedules of the party leaders are full of events as they host major policy announcements in the morning and attend rallies with supporters in the evening.

Today? There’s an eerie silence.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will answer a few questions from the media, but mostly he’ll be serving poutine in Montreal and preparing for tonight’s French-language debate on TVA. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau have no events scheduled and will be devoting their entire day to preparing for the debate.

In a campaign with only 36 days, it’s a huge decision to shun the usual campaign events for an all-day cram session and it speaks to the importance of the debate.

But why does it matter so much? Here’s three reasons the campaign are putting all their energy into this television event.

Quebec has lots of seats

Due to the complicated formula that divides the country up into ridings, Quebec has more seats proportionally than any other large province, making it a big prize for any party that makes inroads.

Although Quebec’s proportion of seats has gone down over the years, it’s still higher than that of Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.

Quebec denounced the 2011 Fair Representation Act, which tweaked the rules for dividing up the country’s ridings, because the province believed it didn’t go far enough in preserving “the characteristics inherent to their collective status.” But the Act still kept the province’s seat count roughly proportional with the size of its population in Canada.

The other large provinces, Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, hold 63 percent of the population but have only 58 percent of the seats.

When the 2011 changes came into effect, Quebec had 23 percent of the population and 23 percent of the seats in the House of Commons. But that means the average Quebec riding had 5,562 fewer people than the national average when the new ridings were created.

Lots of ridings are up for grabs

It’s not enough for a province to have lots of seats to be electorally important. They also have to be winnable.

In Alberta, only a handful of seats are competitive, with the Conservatives running up huge victories in rural and suburban ridings. That’s led to relatively little campaigning in the province, with O’Toole and Singh visiting Edmonton once, and Trudeau not campaigning in Alberta at all.

Compare that to the eight visits the party leaders have collectively made to Quebec in just the first half of the campaign (and not including their current trips to Montreal for the debate).

In 2011, the NDP became the official opposition due to a surprisingly strong showing in Quebec and a Bloc Quebecois collapse. In 2015, the Liberals dominated the province with 40 seats and, in 2019, a resurgent Bloc Quebecois split the lion’s share of seats in the province with the governing Liberals.

Now, a Leger poll released today shows Liberal support tumbling and the Conservatives and NDP profiting.

This kind of volatility means strategists in every campaign will be dreaming of a strong debate performance that juices their party’s chances in the province.

The debates change the minds of Quebecers

History speaks loudly about the importance of the French-language debates and, unlike the English-language debates, we’ve seen some major poll movements in Quebec after these events. According to poll-watcher Philippe J. Fournier, the 2019 TVA debate torpedoed Andrew Scheer’s chances in Quebec and sparked a huge surge for Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet.

After an opening segment of the debate that centered almost entirely on Scheer’s position on abortion, the Conservatives lost five percentage points in Quebec polls and Blanchet’s Bloc gained 10 percentage points.

Polling analyst Eric Grenier also points out that Jack Layton’s 2011 surge in Quebec started after a strong debate and good performance on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle. Thomas Mulcair’s collapse in Quebec in 2015 also quickly followed middling performances in the two French-language debates.

9:00 a.m. — CANZUK proponents urge quality over quantity

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will spend his day preparing for the Quebec debate on TVA tonight, but he posted a video on Twitter touting his plan for a CANZUK trade agreement with Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The Hub contributor Brent H. Cameron examined this proposal earlier in the campaign, urging Canadians to focus on quality of trade, rather than quantity:

Arguments against CANZUK almost invariably take a quantitative approach to trade — a focus on the volume of trade, and the number of prospective new consumers for Canadian goods and services. This is how we rationalize any trade deal, by narrowly concerning ourselves with how much we can buy and sell.

Yet, if this was all there was to it, presumably globalization would be more popular than it is. Why is something that is supposed to be so inherently good for our economy face such opposition?

The perceived failure of globalization has not been one of maximizing the quantity of trading arrangements, but in ignoring their relative quality.

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in 2017 the United States did nearly as much bilateral trade with China as with Canada — $659.4 billion compared to $662.7 billion.

Conventional wisdom holds that these relationships are equal. Yet, with Canada, the U.S. earned a surplus of $11.9 billion — the equivalent of $0.02 on the dollar. With China? A loss of $336.2 billion, or $0.51 on the dollar. Nearly the same amounts of two-way trade but a much different result.

The issue of comparing apples to oranges might hold if it were not for the fact that the U.S. numbers that same year for India — also in Asia, also a low-wage producer and with a billion people — produced a deficit to the U.S. equivalent to $0.35 per dollar.

So, what about CANZUK? Well, in 2015, Canada enjoyed an $11.9 billion surplus on $662.7 billion of combined bilateral trade with the other three countries, or 2 cents on the dollar — exactly the U.S. advantage over us two years later.

Compatibility makes America’s trade with Canada and India fairer than with China. It also makes Canada’s trade with the other CANZUK countries as close to full balance as one can get with such volumes.

7:00 a.m. — Where the leaders are today

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will be preparing for the TVA debate in Montreal.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will be preparing for the TVA debate in Montreal.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will speak to the media at 11 a.m. in Montreal.