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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Welcome to Atlantica

If you live in Atlantica please raise your hand. No? Wait a second, not so fast. If you live in Atlantic Canada or the Eastern U.S. in a few years you may be, whether you know it or not.

According to the proponents of Atlantica:

“Maritimers and Newfoundlanders were intrepid traders who had built their own trade links around the region and the world, reaching out to the Boston states, the Caribbean and Europe. But the new nation (Canada), with its policy of favoring Central Canada through high tariff barriers, in the words of one historian, had the effect of pushing the Maritimes 1,000 miles further out to sea and away from its natural markets.”

“…Consider Sir John A. Macdonald's National Policy, which imposed tariffs that undermined the integrity of existing trade between the region and the United States. Consider the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which supported central Canadian ambitions at the expense of major Maritime ports.”

"Prior to Canadian Confederation, the eastern seaboard of our continent was a powerful, cohesive economic zone, selling its wares to America, the Caribbean, Britain, Europe, Africa and Asia. Goods and services moved in a straight line, up and down the eastern seaboard for departure to points west and east. It was simply the logic of geography."

“… The cumulative effects of more than a century of policies favoring the population centers of Quebec and Ontario has been crumbling infrastructure and provincial governments and electorates corrupted by hush money in the form of large transfer payments…”

Touted by its proponents as the solution to Atlantic Canada’s economic woes, Atlantica is a concept that is being pushed by big business and is recieving serious consideration by some government officials. On the surface the idea of fostering closer economic partnerships between Atlantic Canada, Eastern Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Upstate New York sounds great. You would be hard pressed to find anyone in Atlantic Canada who did not agree that as Central Canada has continued to prosper Atlantic Canada has suffered greatly. What is troubling is the groups talk of policy alignments between nations. They also give a great deal of attention to some parts of Atlantic Canada while others are barely mentioned.

Adding to the level of concern are the people involved in creating the plan. The concept of an Atlantic trading zone, or Atlantica, is being promoted by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and supported by representatives from major corporations like the Bank of Montreal, Bangor Hydro and Irving. The plan would make the Eastern seaboard a much more “business friendly” environment in which to live. The question is, what does “business friendly” really mean and since only business interests have played a part in the planning, (no trade unions, civil rights groups or members of the general public have been involved) that question is a valid one.

Most people in Atlantic Canada would love to improve the region’s trade relations and see industrial growth, but without any input from the public this group is already lobbing government officials in an effort to move their personal vision for the future forward.

According to the plan’s promoters:

“Atlantica – the International Northeast Economic Region” is defined by many things, chief among them geography, economic trends and trade patterns, common problems and experiences, and politics. The sum of these factors is a region bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north and west by Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and on the south by Highway I-90 to Buffalo and the southern borders of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire."

The first thing that is clear in the preceding map is that there appears to be no interest in Labrador and for that matter there may be very little interest in Newfoundland either. Even though the province is mentioned in passing by the group, their plans say nothing of resource based industries such as fishing, logging and mining which are a staple of the Province, although they do mention energy. Instead, the plan talks of a vision where the area would become a “transport intensive economy”. It speaks of building new highways from New Brunswick, through New England and into Ontario/Montreal as well as modernizing the port of Halifax to accommodate larger cargo vessels. In other words Atlantica would bypass Newfoundland and Labrador in favor of making Halifax the hub of sea trade routes and as a result push the province even further away from Canada than it already is.

The “Atlantica” group will be holding a conference June 8-10 in Saint John, New Brunswick entitled, "Reaching Atlantica: Business With out Boundaries”. The conference has two primary objectives, moving the Atlantica plan forward to implementation and lobbying for representation at the annual New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference.

Concerns have been raised about the group’s aspirations to expand NAFTA by removing Non-Tariff Barriers to trade and their talk of “harmonizing” Government regulations between Canada, the US and Mexico. The concern is that “Non Tariff Barriers” might well include public institutions, government regulations, trade unions, minimum wage laws or anything else that is seen as an impediment to business interests, regardless of the social impacts. It has already been reported that some proponents of the plan have openly discussed scrapping the minimum wage, privatizing health care, decertifying unions and restricting access to employment insurance programs.

The second objective of the conference, a seat at the meeting of Premiers and Governors, has also raised concerns with representatives of the Canadian Labour Congress, one of whom is quoted as saying:

“Ordinary people aren't at the Atlantica table, it's big business and government, essentially the √©lite. Ordinary people won't have a voice. It's ironic they want to open the border for goods and services while people are going to have to get new ID cards to get across. It shows where their priorities are.”

For years many people in Atlantic Canada have recognized the potential of working with each other and their American neighbors. Ideas for Atlantic trade improvements and even finding creative ways for the Atlantic Provinces to “vote in bloc” in order to attain a stronger voice in Ottawa, have been discussed. These ideas are not new. What is new is the level of organization and closed door support the Atlantica movement seems to have gained among the exclusive players involved. The concern is that the proponents, when they are eventually noticed by the general public, might try to play on these more common ideas in order to further their corporate view of the world.

Aligning policies between countries and scrapping labor practices may be good for big business is that a future the working people of Atlantic Canada will want to face? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why corporations would love to setup shop in this utopia of sweat shops and free enteprise but who would want to live in that corporate paradise?

The Atlantica plan has led Chris Arsenault, of Here Magazine, to state in a recent article:

"Italian dictator Benito Mussolini once remarked, 'Fascism should more accurately be called corporatism as it is the merger of state and corporate power.' If Atlantica becomes a reality, we may see Mussolini's dream waking up in our own backyard."

I can appreciate Mr. Arsenault’s sentiments. Perhaps someone needs to remind the proponents of Atlantica of what eventually happened to Benito Mussolini.


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of Atlantica but not under the circumstances you mention in your story.

The concept of Atlantic Canada and even the Eastern U.S. working together to build a "virtual trading partnership" sounds great and might really give the area a boost.

The thing is that we can't leave any major decisions like legislation changes to the politicos or business interests alone.

I see more of a "Preferred" trading partner status that is promoted in the area rather than anything too formal.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of Atlantic Canada working together on common goals and voting in a block up on the Hill. Too bad the MPs are more concerned with keeping their parties happy than doing whats best for the voters.

NL-ExPatriate said...

I see you've taken the Centrist Canadian spin on Atlantica.

As for your map yes ther are maps that don't include Labrador but there are also maps that include Labrador.
Kinda like canadian maps only theirs leave out Newfoundland and include Labrador with a different border with Quebec but do they slap Quebecs hand nooooooo.

The thing to remember here is that if the Maritimes do better by proximity NL is guaranteed to do better also.

NL's big promise in my mind with reference to Atlantica rests with the opening of the North West Passage. With the advent of PanaMax ships that can't navigate the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the opening of the NWP NL is well positioned to become a major Transfer shipment site to access all of North America both East and West coasts by water and by land if Canada ever decides to let NL into confedereation by coming on side with a Fixed link.

Anonymous said...

Nobody else wants Newfoundland and it's bagagge....why would "Atlantica".

Lady_Celes said...

Coalition organizes against 'Atlantica'
Last updated May 23 2006 02:34 PM ADT
CBC News
A Fredericton-based coalition is organizing a demonstration against a proposal to increase trade between Eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S.

In early June, the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce and the Saint John Board of Trade will host a conference in Saint John called "Reaching Atlantica – Business Without Boundaries."

FROM OCT. 10, 2000: American author has vision of 'Atlantica'
The idea behind the conference — proposed by business leaders and economists — is that the Atlantic provinces, southern Quebec and the northeastern U.S. should operate as a united trade zone.

The Citizens Against Atlantica is organizing a public demonstration to coincide with the conference.

The group says the model is structured to benefit corporate interests, regardless of the impact on workers, unions, small business and the environment.

David Coon, an environmentalist and member of Citizens Against Atlantica, said the goals of Atlantica advocates jeopardize the province's sovereignty.

"Regulations and standards essentially reflect our community standards," he said. "If you do what Atlantica is proposing, and that is to basically mute the border or erase the border, to eliminate different regulations, then you're eliminating the power of Canadians to set community standards that reflect the public interest."

Patriot said...

I agree with NL-EX that a prosperous Atlantic Canada is good for NL and I like that part, but when it comes to changing labor standards and aligning too closely with the policies of other countries that gets pretty scary.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Scary how much more scary can it get we were auctioned of at best to Canada by Britain for war debt forgiveness at worse we were cheated and lied to and never actually joined Confederation because ballot boxes from the predominantly con confederation were either lost or burned to ensure the expected result.

One elderly statesman who was involved in the negotiations and ballot proclaimed on his death bed how the fix was in no matter what the outcome of the vote. His only consolation for his evil deedds on his death bed was that the real vote turn out was so close so he didn't feel to bad aabout swaying the vote by only 1 or 2 percentage points in favor of confederation.

We have 2% say in our own affairs when it comes to the federal arena and that includes our main raison D'etre the continental shelf and the associated food source that it contains adjacent to our shores.

We have no equal; say in any way shape or form in this phony democracy which is designed as a colonial/federalist democracy where Ontario is the mother land and all taxes with the majority being kept in Ontario by way of federal Supplies, services and jobs. In the mean time the colonies are given hush money which wouldn't amount to one manned military base and told they are a burden on the country.

Ok if were such a burden let us go seeing as your not willing to support or include NL in confederation.
NL has never had one Supreme court judge but Quebec has a guaranteed 3 foir an institution that is supposed to be blind why the need to have Quebecs interests protected by stacking the court?

Some semblance of equality has been tred before but each time the cards were stacked in favor of the masses awhile the colonies are to accept their place as feeders for the beast that is ontario while Quebec gets even more hush money.

I would much rather be an American than a Canadian with the way they are treating my home country and fellow NL'ians

NL-ExPatriate said...

Maybe they should call it Atlantis the lost continent.

Since confederation that is what Atlantic Canada has become a pimple on the backside of Canada. We at least that is how canada treats Atlantic Canada.

Did you know there isn't one 4 lane divided highway connecting Atlantis with our largest trading partner to the south. While they the Americans have the I95 running right up to our door step. Canada hasn't seen fit to put anything better than a cow path to meet up with the I95.

But the West that has roads and RR gets 400 million for the Pacific Gateway?

Anonymous said...

Oh boo-hoo. Go your own way then. Canada is tired of supporting you all anyway.

Anonymous said...

Will Atlantica citizen's have a special status.Like those that
they parked on reserves. What they did to the first nations, they will do again. Pieces of mirror reflecting an image of prosperity. Illusions of no minimum wage being profitable.. Do all the scholars and business men working on this project work for free.