Maritime strategy of the Quebec Liberals: Serving the interests of the United States of North American monopolies

For your information: two articles on the Maritime Strategy of Quebec – the latest plan of the ruling circles to build infrastructure and establish Gateways and Trade Corridors across Canada to facilitate the transportation of energy resources and manufactured goods to North America, Europe and Asia.

The Couillard government promotes its Maritime Strategy.

By LOUIS LANG

The statements of the Couillard Liberals promise economic growth and thousands of jobs all over Quebec. In fact, it would seem that what is being proposed is a new version of the Security Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The SPP, in which the Paul Martin government was involved, was a plan integrating the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican economies into the United States of North American Monopolies. This was to form a trade and military bloc in the inter-imperialist striving over control of world markets, spheres of influence, cheap labour and resources and zones for the export of capital. The Maritime Strategy being put forward by the Quebec Couillard government as a “pivotal project“ to develop the economy of Quebec is not a plan to build an independent national economy for the benefit of the people of Quebec but rather it is to put the resources and transportation infrastructure of Quebec in the service of North American monopolies.

In 2007, during the SPP negotiations the Harper government in addressing the issue of the National Framework of Gateways and Trades Corridors stated:

“The emergence of global chains as pre-eminent business models is a key factor in global economic change. Prosperity and Canadian living standards cannot be maintained unless Canada becomes a logistical hub for the international trade of goods between North America, Asia and Europe.”

The same kind of assertions are being made now by the Harper government, except now it is in the context of the need for “modernization of transportation networks to respond to new global needs,” like the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), the free trade agreement with Europe, NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Couillard’s Maritime Strategy is designed to fit the plans of the ruling circles to build infrastructure and establish Gateways and Trade Corridors across Canada to facilitate the transportation of energy resources and manufactured goods to North America, Europe and Asia.

2005 NAFTA/SPP plans for super corridor, including pipieline for water, oil, natural gas, rail and trucks, from port in Cardenas, Mexico, through Kansas City, north to Winnepeg and Montreal. Still under consideration.

In promoting their Maritime Strategy the Couillard Liberals say:

“The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Economic Community — coupled with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — will allow Québec to make itself one of the main logistical hubs of import-export activities between the two continents.”

They also talk about the expansion of the Panama Canal and possible future use of the north-west passage as opportunities for east coast ports of Quebec to position themselves for superior trade routes to Asia. These are all presented as crucial to “restart the Quebec economy.”

Federal Government planning huge investments in “public infrastructure”

In a speech on August 18, 2014, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that the federal government was investing $70 billion in public infrastructure projects, which included $53 billion for the New Building Canada Plan – a fund for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. This money is also intended for further investments in the Asia Pacific Gateway Corridor Initiative, which has been in place since 2006; the Gateways and Border Crossing Fund; and the Atlantic Gateway Trade Corridor.

At a time when monopoly corporations are closing plants and cutting production in Quebec and Canada with no consideration for public interest, the plan to invest billions of dollars in what the government calls “public infrastructure,” is not a modernization program which strengthens the economy. It is dishonest for Harper and Couillard to talk about an economic recovery based on transport and storage hubs, new railway lines and ports, etc., when there are no plans for new production and no plans to develop our own productive forces. Talk about renewing the economy and raising the standard of living of the people is meaningless without a plan to increase the level of production and grow the productive forces.

The Maritime Strategy of the Couillard government is an integral part of the ruling circles to put the land, labour and resources of Quebec at the disposal of the United States of North American Monopolies. It will give rise to further disasters as a result of the destruction of the natural and human environment, which are the means through which superprofits are to be made.

Source: TML Weekly, September 6, 2014 – No. 31

* * *

Maritime Strategy to turn Quebec into giant hub for the comings and goings of free traders

A major aspect of the Liberal government’s plans for Quebec is its Maritime Strategy. The Maritime Strategy and the resuscitated Northern Plan constitute the Liberals’ main program for Quebec’s economic recovery. The Liberals first presented their Maritime Strategy on February 21 in Rimouski, a few weeks before the general election that elected a Liberal majority government that is now pushing its austerity agenda full throttle.

The aim of the Maritime Strategy is to transform Quebec into a logistical hub for trade between the Americas and Europe, and eventually with Asia. This involves developing the full potential of the St. Lawrence Seaway for transatlantic trade and the intermodal transportation connected with it. The strategy is said to require the modernization of Quebec’s deep water ports, including those on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence, so that goods can be shipped through Quebec rather than U.S. east coast ports. Montérégie West would become one such logistics centre, as the Liberal government intends to develop a trade route along Highway 30, with intermodal transportation installations linking trucks and trains to the port of Montreal. The hope is that manufacturing companies will settle along this corridor because of this logistical advantage.

Scope

The Maritime Strategy encompasses all of Quebec, not just its coastal regions. It is part of the annexation of Quebec and Canada into the United States of North American Monopolies, with Quebec catering to all those that trade within the context of liberalized North American and European markets.

Map of Montérégie West — click to enlarge.

“Favourable Conditions”

According to the Liberals, the present conditions favour the Maritime Strategy:

“The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Economic Community (CETA) — with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — create the conditions for Quebec to make itself one of the main logistic hubs of import-export activity between the two continents, the Liberals say. This is based on:

“- The enlargement of the Panama Canal locks, to be completed in mid-2015, will greatly modify the flow of trade, to the benefit of east coast ports. Quebec has several deep-water ports that can accommodate the largest ships and additional traffic.

“- In the long term, the Northwest Passage will link the Atlantic to the Pacific via a route through the Arctic islands of Canada’s North. This will shorten the trip from Asia to Europe by 7,000 km.

“- Cruise ship tourism is increasing throughout the world. Quebec has already greatly benefitted, thanks to the previous Liberal government’s strategy for the sustainable development and promotion of international cruises on the Saint-Lawrence River. This development will continue.

“- Progress in marine biotechnologies — involving industrial biotechnologies, agriculture, the environment, health and biomedicine — can also provide unique opportunities for Quebec to develop new industrial, commercial and environmental sectors.”[1]

Northwest Passage

Funding

The Maritime Strategy depends on a massive influx of funds from the federal government. Quebec has eight deep-water ports – Montreal, Quebec, Trois-Rivières, Bécancour, Sorel, Baie-Comeau, Port-Cartier and Sept-Îles – all of them are under federal jurisdiction except Port-Cartier.

According to a Liberal Party document, the Maritime Strategy will require an investment of public funds to the tune of $4 billion. The Quebec government is offering to put up $1.5 billion. It is also offering to negotiate on behalf of port administrations to get their hands on federal funds to upgrade port facilities.

The Liberal government wants a bigger share of investments coming from the federal government’s Building Canada Fund, which was set up to finance infrastructure projects. What will the Liberals give in return? The way the Couillard government is playing its cards suggests it will set aside any differences with Ottawa to get what it wants on this front.

Will the Harper government invest in what the Couillard government is calling the revitalization of the Quebec-Ontario Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor or the modernization of ports? That remains to be seen. Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver did not mention the Maritime Strategy directly when he spoke at the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce on April 23. However, he did say that seeing how Quebec had rejected what he termed “sovereignty” (i.e., separation from Canada), it could now become an economic power within Canada on the basis of its natural resources. He specifically mentioned the exploitation of its oil and gas.

Trade Gateways and Corridors

The Quebec-Ontario Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor is based on a 2007 memorandum of understanding signed by the Harper government and the governments of Ontario and Quebec. It depends on the unity of purpose of Quebec’s Liberal government and that of Ontario, as well as their deal-making with the federal government.

The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Trade Corridor, the Atlantic Gateway and the Continental Gateway as well as the Quebec-Ontario Corridor have been developed by the Harper government since the mid-2000s, in connection with the United States. These gateways and corridors are the complex infrastructure pathways for the international transportation of goods and passengers which Harper claims are key components to make Canada competitive in international trade.

According to the federal government website http://www.continentalgateway.gc.ca, the Continental Gateway is “a key component of Canada’s multimodal transportation system.” Its “central location … facilitates international trade and the domestic inputs towards foreign trade with the United States and other key trading partners” and “includes strategic ports, airports, intermodal facilities and border crossings as well as essential road, rail and marine infrastructure that ensures this transportation system’s connection to, and seamless integration with, Canada’s other gateways: Asia-Pacific and Atlantic.”[2]

These transportation corridors have been created as a result of free trade agreements and 9/11 under the thesis that Canada’s prosperity is dependent on its competitiveness in global trade and on continental security as defined by the U.S. In the Canadian Military Journal, Summer 2010 issue, maritime security expert Peter Avis writes:

“The Gateway and Corridor approach brings together traditionally disparate players into a common partnership with a vision linking trade, transportation, and security. It also leverages assets and information. Governments are both setting the rules and investing in infrastructure and technology, while the private sector works in partnership, making significant investments themselves. The need for improved security in the post-911 era is evident. The altering of Canadian mindsets about security in both public and private communities challenges future Canadian governments — for it will take years of effort to bring about full-scale acceptance of the notion of security as an integral part of life in Canada… Because Canada is known as a trading nation, the strategic notion of secure trade and transportation Gateway and Corridor systems linking Canadian interests to suppliers and markets in the world economy is a major foundation pillar for such a modern Canadian National Security Strategy.”

In a 2007 statement entitled, “The National Framework of Gateways and Trade Corridors,” the Harper government states:

“The emergence of global supply chains as the preeminent business model is a key factor in global economic changes. Prosperity and Canadian living standards cannot be maintained unless Canada becomes a logistical hub for the international trade of goods between North America, Asia and Europe…. Commonly referred to as ‘integrative trade,’ this new international business model uses lower trade barriers to distribute production around the world through out-sourcing and off-shoring to maximize efficiency and reduce costs of each component — taking advantage of global supply chains.”

Within this, Canada is presented as an annexed territory within the United States of North American Monopolies:

“The integrated North American economy provides the ‘platform’ for Canada’s successful global engagement. Canada and the U.S. share the largest bilateral flow of goods, services, people and capital of any two countries in the world.”[3]

In other words, Canada has the potential to be competitive in international trade because it is integrated into the North American market. The document states:

“Between 2001 and 2006, the world economy has grown more than during any other five-year period since World War II. As one of the most trade-reliant nations in the G-8, Canada has been benefiting from this global growth. By the end of 2007, exports and imports of merchandise had both hit record highs, reaching $465 billion and $417 billion, respectively….

“These changes in how businesses operate have significant implications for transportation. Intensifying competition within the global marketplace among supply chains, major cities and major integrated regional trading blocs has increased the pressure to achieve greater scale and efficiency in the infrastructure systems that support major trade flows, and that move international passengers.

“With businesses increasingly relying on seamless, secure and efficient multi-modal transportation systems as keys to their success, transportation is being recognized as more crucial than ever to Canada’s competitiveness.”[4]

According to this, Canada’s prosperity and standard of living depend on whether Canada can become a logistical hub between North America , Europe and Asia. International economic growth is developed on the basis of global supply areas, with big cities as centres of international trade and trade blocs.

The government document quotes the Conference Board of Canada: “Private industry and all levels of government need to be relentless in pursuing the modernization and coordination of trade, transportation and border infrastructure, including security, as a national priority.”[5]

The gateways and trade corridors are the transportation infrastructure as well as the pathways for goods and international passengers to various markets and therefore developing this new infrastructure is sine qua non. And since this new infrastructure crosses borders (between Canada and the U.S. and between provinces) changes to public policies to make them accord with those of the U.S. are also absolutely necessary. The security of persons and infrastructure — not only protection from terrorist threats but from the consequences of natural catastrophes — is to be subordinated to the control of the U.S. – Canada’s competitiveness on the world market depends on it. It requires the greatest collaboration between not only governments but governments and private enterprise.

With the Harper government’s gateways and trade corridors, Quebec and Ontario are to become logistical hubs for transatlantic trade on the basis of an economy even more annexed to the United States of North American Monopolies. The document provides the Windsor-Detroit Trade Corridor example which, in the name of addressing “the challenges of cross-border volume of trade,” describes a massive pay-the-rich scheme to build a new international bridge and access road to Highway 401, at a time of cuts to public services. In her first Throne Speech in early 2013, the newly-selected Liberal Premier of Ontario, Wynne, in the name of strengthening “the earning potential of all men and women of this province… and [to] enable everyone to have a good job and a secure paycheque,” said her government would “facilitate the smooth transfer of goods through important hubs like Windsor, across the Detroit River International Crossing.Æ

The example of Vaudreuil-Dorion: A city in two trade corridors

With its Maritime Strategy, the Quebec Liberal government intends to ensure that goods pass through Quebec’s ports, not those of British Columbia. The website of Vaudreuil-Dorion, a suburb of Montreal, southwest of the island, states:

“What is a trade corridor?

“Commercial exchanges in Canada are done through different modes of transportation as well as different infrastructure including first and foremost airports, ports, railways, freeways as well as ‘inland ports’ also known as ‘intermodal zones.’ This is what CP is planning to build in Les Cèdres: an inland port linked, not to the port of Montreal, but to the port of Vancouver because the trade flow has been reversed. We have become a country of importers. No longer are we an export country with the exception of raw materials. To meet import needs, we need product assembly centres which will see to their redistribution. These are the logistical hubs.

“These products will flow via different corridors where there is an important concentration of means of transportation such as freeways, airports, pipelines, electric cables, the main railway routes, high-speed trains, etc.

“Vaudreuil-Dorion is home to two of these corridors where 85% of all of Quebec’s trade flow transits in the following directions: the Montreal-Toronto Trade Corridor and the Montreal-Chicago Trade Corridor (via the Thousand Island Bridge and the Windsor-Detroit Bridge in Ontario).”

Logistics hubs to take advantage of the “oil windfall”

The present organization of the Canadian economy to serve U.S. imperialist and monopoly interests through exploitation and export of oil from the Alberta oil sands (as well as oil fractured in the U.S.) has created great demand in Canada for the transport and export of crude oil. Quebec is vying to become a logistical hub for moving this oil. The big oil monopolies are finding it hard to increase their oil exports from western Canada (via the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan Pipeline) or south to the U.S. (via the Keystone XL Pipeline) because of inter-monopoly competition and people’s opposition to these projects. Quebec ports could be the solution to this problem.

The Oil Connection

Before its demise, the PQ government initiated what it called the oil connection, agreeing to reverse the flow in Enbridge’s Line 9. This opened the door to TransCanada’s pipeline project (Energy East) to transport crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada and to transport some by ship. An integral part of the TransCanada project is to build an oil port in Gros-Cacouna in the region of Rivière-du-Loup. The PQ government also decided to invest in oil exploration on Anticosti Island along with the oil companies.

TransCanada’s pipeline project to bring oil to the East Coast. Map shows existing pipelines (blue), pipelines under construction (green) and possible further extension of the line (dotted green).

How the government says the Maritime Strategy will stimulate economic growth

The Quebec government says, “This first real Maritime Strategy in our history will make use of all the potential of the Saint-Lawrence River and its estuary. It will stimulate economic development in all coastal regions, from Gaspé and Îles-de-la-Madeleine to Montréal, including Sept-Îles and Rivière-du-Loup.

“- The Maritime Strategy will mean the birth of new economic growth drivers and provide a new boost to several industries,

“- Provide new momentum to maritime transportation by investing in our port installations, developing intermodal transport and increasing the competitiveness of Quebec shipyards, all with the objectives of economic development and greenhouse gas reduction related to the transportation of passengers and goods.

“- Pursue maritime tourism development, e.g., by promoting international cruises on the Saint-Lawrence.

“- Ensure the durability of the fishing and aquaculture industry.

“- Make Quebec part of the blue economy by investing in marine technology research and development.

“- Respond to looming shortages in skilled labour by deploying and promoting training programs.”[6]

Government action to realize the Maritime Strategy

Important demands raised by Quebec construction workers in the 2013 strike to defend their working conditions and the well-being of local economies in the regions went unmet after they were legislated back to work. These will surely continue to be an issue if the Quebec Liberals go ahead with their Maritime Strategy. In order to seize the opportunities presented by the Maritime Strategy, the Quebec government says it must support industry, in particular port managers, by focusing on specific construction projects:

“- Update infrastructure to respond to increasing demand:

“- Support port managers in their efforts to obtain federal government support of their infrastructure projects.

“- Ensure that Quebec gets its fair share of the Building Canada Plan 2013, which earmarks $10 billion in investment in federal public infrastructure, including ports.

“- Create a user-pay system jointly with the federal government to invest in infrastructure for upgrading to adapt to expansion and changes in the industry.

“- Restart efforts related to the Quebec-Ontario Trade Corridor as well as the Continental Gateway so as to make the initiative as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor.

“- Reboot the Northern Plan, which will contribute to port activity in the North of Quebec and in Quebec as a whole. It will also ensure the establishment of infrastructure complementary to port facilities to respond appropriately to the increasing demand that will come from development in the North.

“- Ensure that road and railway infrastructure (intermodal connections) are coordinated with the various port development projects to develop an efficient logistical chain to reduce transportation costs for Quebec exporters and importers.” [7]

How the question poses itself for the working class

The direction the Liberal government has set for the Quebec economy will not only further integrate Quebec and Canada into the United States of North American monopolies but further fuel the trade wars and competition between trade blocs. This will not bring about stability. Instead of taking up the work to build a sovereign economy which meets the people’s needs and which carries out trade for mutual benefit, thus strengthening political sovereignty, this will further embroil Quebec in the inter-imperialist contradictions between the U.S. and the European Union. From a political and ideological perspective, this is to erase from workers’ consciousness any notion of a project to build a sovereign Quebec or Canada, based on a self-reliant economy that defends the rights of all. It underscores the fact that the Canadian working class must itself champion nation-building in a manner which puts all the assets of the nation and the bounty of Mother Earth at the disposal of the people to affirm the rights which belong to all by virtue of being human, and does so sustainably.

Notes

1. Maritime Strategy — Parti libéral du Québec, p. 4.

2. http://www.continentalgateway.ca/index2.html

3. Canada’s Gateways: National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and Trade Corridors, Government of Canada (2007), p. 6.

4. Ibid, p. 4.

5. Conference Board of Canada, Mission possible : a phenomenal performance of the Canadian economy on the world scene, 2007, p. 65.

6. Maritime Strategy — Parti libéral du Québec, p. 5.

7. Maritime Strategy — Parti libéral du Québec, p. 11.

(Sources: Government of Quebec, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body, Compass — A Report from the Council of Great Lakes Governors)

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One response to “Maritime strategy of the Quebec Liberals: Serving the interests of the United States of North American monopolies

  1. Pingback: Billions in state funds for transportation corridors to serve US-dominated empire-building | Tony Seed's Weblog

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