It’s no secret that Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is the mouth piece of US imperialism in Canada. This was particularly evident when the Tories opened their anti-Kyoto campaign in the name of their oil and gas industry friends.

It was interesting to see Klein so openly represent not only the interests of the oil and gas industry, who obviously don’t want to see Kyoto implemented, but also the interests of US capitalism in Canada and their policy on Kyoto. Alberta supplies a lot of energy to the US, and is dependent on this trade. Not to mention the fact that many of the oil and gas companies and rig outfits in Alberta have head offices in the US. Klein even went to America to shore up support for his position in Canada and to guarantee that Alberta/American energy trade relations would not be harmed. On this same basis Klein helped several Alberta oil and safety companies get the ear of Washington when they were left off the short list of contracts for the ‘rebuilding’ of Iraq.

During the war in Iraq, it was Klein’s support of the US war effort that became the pole of attraction for the interests of US imperialism in Canada. When US ambassador Paul Cellucci launched his calculated campaign of criticism against the Liberal government, it was Klein he thanked and defended as he threatened everything from border slow-downs to tariffs for the lack of Canadian military support for the war (he then pointed out, contrary to the wishes of the government, that Canada was indeed helping militarily, more in fact than most members of the Coalition of the Willing!). It was no surprise then, that during a visit to Calgary, where he presented the US administrations vision of future Canadian/American trade relations, Mr. Cellucci paid a personal visit to Mr. Klein to thank him for his support during the war.

US Interests

Cellucci’s role in Canada is obvious. He has warned big business in Canada of the consequences of non-compliance with the interests of US imperialism. It is more than likely that they will comply – the US is Canada’s largest trading partner. It was shortly after Cellucci thanked Klein for his support that Paul Martin announced his position of support for the war during the build up to the Liberal leadership campaign. Martin obviously has
the backing of big business in the party, and was quick to shore up their support and guarantee that Canada, under Martin as PM, would definitely comply with US demands. Upwards of 85% of Canada’s trade is directly with the US. Alberta itself is very important to US interests. The US now officially recognizes the oils sands as proven reserves. This means that Canadian oil reserves have jumped from 5 to 180 million barrels – second only to Saudi Arabia.

Washington also has its eyes on the huge natural gas reserves in Alaska and the North West Territories as vital to its future energy needs. During his visit to Calgary, Cellucci told the Chamber of Commerce that “It’s pretty clear to us that we’re going to need gas from both areas”, adding that the US favoured receiving faster permits. He also added that “We want to be less dependent on Venezuela, where they turned the spigot off a few months ago; We want to be less dependent on the Middle East…We know that we have the resources here in North America to fuel the economies of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico…And we need a regulatory climate that encourages investment not only of the source, but of the transmission of this energy as well.” (Canadian Press, May 9, 2003).

The Question of Sovereignty

It is evident that the interests of US imperialism, and their Canadian counter-parts will be in contradiction with the interests of workers and the poor in Canada and the US, and elsewhere. Many on the left have responded to Mr. Cellucci and US imperialism with calls for ‘Canadian sovereignty’. This position will lead us nowhere. Many of these ‘lefts’ simply end up defending an economic nationalist or protectionist policy – they propose the defense of Canadian companies against US companies, including boycotts, and tariffs etc. This makes no sense. The interests of the working class are irreconcilable with the interests of the bosses. Canadian companies and corporations are no better and no less imperialist in nature than their American counter-parts. To call for the defence of Canadian sovereignty, and protectionism, is to submit the interests of the working class to the interests of the bosses and corporations.

Beyond that, the two economies are too interdependent for any talk of self-sufficiency as some of the more left of the economic nationalists assert. Although there may be some squabbles around soft wood lumber, or agricultural exports, Canadian big business has an interest in maintaining close relations with the US: the Canadian economy is too dependent on America for any talk of self-sustainability (not to mention that many companies operating in Canada are in fact American). The soft wood lumber dispute is a good example. As explained in the pages of L’Humanite during the dispute “Protectionism doesn’t work. Today’s global economy is so interdependent that it is impossible to isolate one industry, in one country… Softwood lumber makes up a large chunk of Canada’s heavy industry, but 10% of American exports to Canada are machinery for heavy industry. Canada’s lumber industry spends nearly two billion dollars a year on machinery from the US. The results are obvious. The Canadian demand for products like forklifts and large conveyor belts will fall dramatically. The same holds true in every other industry. Of the thousands and thousands of lumber workers be left idle in Canada, who will be able to buy a new house, or a new computer, or a new car? By attacking the industries of foreign countries, the American ruling class only injures the market for their own products!”

What is needed is a clear, internationalist class position. The interests of both Canadian and American workers are the same. Whether one works for an American or Canadian company does not change the fact that you are exploited. The problem comes not from which country the company operates in or where one works, but from the capitalist system itself. Workers are paid to make a product, which is then sold for more then the cost of labour and materials combined. This is profit. But it is the worker who must buy these products. The worker, however, can only spend as much as he is paid (which is not equal to the products made), which means that inevitably at some stage, there will be more products than people can afford to buy. The bosses are then forced to close factories and lay off workers, further hurting the market and profit levels. On a national level, the bosses may move to protectionism, to protect their market from foreign products, and protect their interests and profits over the interests of
capitalists from other countries. In this way, the economic nationalists on the left put the interests of their national capitalists over the interests of workers in other countries. But this in turn also adds to the crisis by further undermining trade and profits which leads to further austerity measures against the working class.

The only way to solve the problem is to get rid of the capitalist mode of production itself. American and Canadian workers’ interests are the same. They have no interest or need to exploit one another. It is working people who suffer in the end from the mindless destruction of social wealth caused by the boom/bust cycle of capitalism. It is a betrayal of the working class to support protectionism, and thereby submitting the interests of the workers to those of the national ruling class, which can only have disastrous results for workers. We need a return to the policies of socialist internationalism. The only solution for Canadian, American, Mexican, and all North American workers is to unify in their struggle against exploitation, imperialism and militarism. The only solution to the anarchy of capitalism is the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, including the U.S. owned industrial giants, integrated through a democratic socialist plan of production, based upon workers’ control and self-management of industry. We don’t need NAFTA and the WTO but a Socialist Federation of the Americas as part of a world socialist federation as the only means to combat capitalism and protectionism.

Rob Lyon