OP/ED: Leggett calls out MP again, this time on 'Buy American'

Rob Leggett
By Rob Leggett
March 3rd, 2010

I must admit, I wasn’t at all surprised to read that MP Alex Atamanenko didn’t consent to the agreement that Canada and the US came to concerning the American “Buy American” provisions (MP decries “Buy American” deal – Castlegar Source).

After all, the NDP solution to the issue was to try and institute a foolish Buy Canadian Act instead of working cooperatively to come to a reasonable solution.

If history has shown us anything, it’s that protectionism during a global economic crisis is not a wise road to travel, and the NDP wanted to escalate an already precarious situation by creating their version of protectionism. Which could have had the potential to lead us down the same road as the 1930’s Great Depression, since most economists agree that protectionism was one of the factors that contributed to it.

Putting aside the NDP’s absurd bill, I am still left wondering where Atamanenko gets his facts. First, he stated that of the $275-billion US stimulus fund, only up to $5 billion was available to bid on, yet according to Recovery.gov, the US government’s official website to Recovery Act spending, of the $275 billion allocated to contracts, only $200 billion was awarded as of February 2010.

I am also confused as to why Atamanenko believes that provincial and municipal contracts will be offered up to the European Union, since this agreement is between the US and Canada and does not affect trade with Europe.

However, if I ignore Atamanenko’s seemingly misleading information, I believe that this deal is a benefit to Canadian companies.

It will provide companies in both countries with permanent access to projects at the sub-federal level, which means they can bid and work on public works projects at the provincial, state, and municipal levels. The only relevant concern  in this instance would be if  Canadian companies are not competent  to compete with US bidders for contracts on either side of the border.

The two sides also agreed to continue important negotiations on a broader deal governing procurement and there is a “fast track” provision that would resolve disputes should similar Buy American provisions be applied to future legislation.

This deal is structured to allow the White House to use executive powers to treat sectors of the Canadian economy as American, by claiming that supply chains are so integrated they can not be separated. This has been done because President Obama can not rely on Congress to pass legislations exempting Canada from Buy American provisions.

With companies now able to bid on contracts once out of their reach, a provision to protect Canadian business from future protectionist provisions, and a continuation in negotiations, in my opinion MP Atamanenko should have viewed this agreement as a win for Canadian business, but instead he chose to criticize it and promote an immature tit-for-tat bill that could have potentially driven us into a second Great Depression.

And he wants to take the Conservatives to task?

Categories: Op/Ed