I’ve never met the man, so it came as a shock when reading a half-page interview with him in today’s Globe and Mail to see how many of my ideas he’s borrowed. Like the idea that “free trade” screwed the working class, for example. Then again, maybe he came to the same conclusions from his post as chief economist at CIBC as we shop-floor folks arrived at via lived experience.
All those shops I spent time in during the 70′s and 80′s are long gone; Dayton Steel, Budd Automotive, General Electric, Dresser, Kearney-National, Frankel Steel, all gone to warmer climes with lower wages. When the big push was on to rewrite the Canada-US free trade deal to include Mexico, corporate media was saturated with feel-good nonsense about the unbeatable combination of Yankee know-how, Canadian resources, and cheap Mexican labour creating an epic triple-win.
The men and women on the shop floor didn’t buy the bullshit. You’d have to be a raving racist to assume that only the shit jobs would be going to Mexico, as if our stupid brown brothers south of the Rio Grande were not capable of building anything we could build here. We knew ALL manufacturing jobs were at risk. We were right.
Rubin mentions Magna as an example. Before NAFTA was signed, Magna had one plant in Mexico employing a few hundred people. Today this “Canadian” success story has over two dozen plants and 30,000 employees in Mexico. That’s 30,000 less jobs in Canada, but it’s good for Canada from the point of view of Magna shareholders, and that’s the point of view reflected in national media.
It’s been a long and anguished downward spiral for Canadian workers ever since. The big employment news today is that Amazon is opening two more warehouses in Ontario. Big whoop! When they opened one in Ajax a few years ago PM Trudeau was on hand to thank the company for bringing “600 good jobs that will strengthen the middle class.”
$14.50/hr. was a good middle-class wage in 1986. In 2016, not so much.
I’ll give Rubin the last word; “…in most of the post-war period, having a job was an exit from poverty. Now it’s a gateway into poverty.”
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