The pandemic has highlighted how economically vulnerable Canada and the other 19 member countries of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) are after four decades of globalization.
Collectively, these countries had no capability to produce their own PPE— masks, ventilators, gowns and swabs—when the worldwide pandemic hit.
We were beholden to China, a Communist country and industrial giant built on the backs of preferential WTO (World Trade Organization) rules, stolen proprietary secrets from western companies, human rights abuses and environmental disregard.
Trump spoke about America’s weakened position, trade imbalances, blue-collar job losses and pushed for de-globalization.
Trump, or at least his economic advisors, were right on many fronts, including his decision to target China with tariffs.
He just didn’t know how to deliver.
Erin O’Toole has recently turned his attention to displaced, blue-collar workers, China and globalization.
He’s taking heat from both sides. Right-wing columnists are questioning his loyalty to libertarian ideals of capitalism and free trade, and left-wing columnists are comparing his newfound talking points to Trump’s playbook.
Democratic leaders, conservative and liberal, didn’t figure out until it was too late, that building an economy on consumption (85 per cent of Canada’s GDP) and export of raw materials, rather than creating industrial jobs, was going to play out very poorly for workers.
Blue-collar jobs aren’t gone, they’ve just been transplanted to areas where capitalists and billionaires can maximize their personal wealth with cheap labour.
Today, China and the U.S. are analogous to that old Sunday School song, China has built their economic house on a rock (production), and the U.S. and Canada have built their economic houses in the sand (consumption).
The ideals of laissez faire capitalism, small governments, low corporate taxes and weak regulations—the major drivers behind the disappearing blue-collar jobs in Canada—needs to be addressed.
Not an easy task for O’Toole. It will mean forcing the very powerful—chief executive officers, financiers and billionaires, most of whom favour the Conservative party—to roll back their greed and share more with workers.
It will mean a concerted joint effort among all OECD countries to bring manufacturing jobs home, strengthen regulations, break up powerful monopolies and thwart corporations from hiding corporate profits in tax havens.
O’Toole’s support for blue-collar workers is a massive endeavour, but it’s coming at a time when many economic allies are facing angrier and angrier displaced blue-collar workers.
O’Toole has the character and leadership skills to be a transformative leader within OECD and collaboratively start the long process of curtailing or reversing the most destructive element of globalization— the growing chasm of income inequalities.
O’Toole will also have the task of reeducating many working-class families, who have come to believe passionately in the libertarian Darwinism ideal of survival of the fittest and individualism.
Truth be told, those ideals are best suited for the animal kingdom, not the human race.
O’Toole will also need to educate consumers on why paying more for consumer goods is a good thing for all of us in the long-term.
Globalization has been a lie—it has created a lot more losers than its advocates acknowledge.
The biggest losers are blue-collar workers, millennials, generation Z and seniors unable to take care of themselves.
O’Toole has a hard task ahead should he become prime minister. But the pandemic has provided the perfect opportunity to re-built Canada’s economic foundation and immunize ourselves against the worst of globalization.
That starts with ensuring our supply chain for public health and security priorities are within ally countries or within our own borders, including vaccines, drugs and medical supplies.