(November 6, 2014) It’s too late now for Obama and the Democrats to impose policies harmful to Canada.
Democrats lost big in the U.S. mid-term elections this week. Republicans won big. And Canada also won big, as in big sigh of relief. Canada is a winner less because of what Republicans will now do than because of what a president in search of a legacy-with-the-left can’t do.
Number One on the Obama Can’t-Do list involves carbon taxes or other global warming measures that could set back Canada’s economy. In a far-sighted move the day after Obama won the presidency six years ago, a prescient Prime Minister Harper tied Canada’s global warming policies to those of the United States. This stratagem — justified by the need to harmonize policies with our largest trading partner — extricated Canada from economically harmful pledges to cut back on our own emissions, unburdening our economy and helping us storm past the 2008 financial crisis better than any other G8 country.
Harper — thought to be a closet climate skeptic — took a calculated risk that paid off in spades. The Obama administration failed to pass global warming legislation while it controlled Congress and by 2010, when the Democrats lost the House of Representatives, it was too late — climate skeptic Republicans wouldn’t saddle America, and by extension, Canada, with global warming legislation. Now it is also too late for Obama to otherwise bind Canada. Though Obama may follow through on threats to act on climate change through regulatory decrees, these would be temporary scattershots from a diminished lame duck that Canada could slough off. Canada has dodged the climate change bullet.
Number Two on the Obama Can’t-Do List is trade protectionism, a favourite among many Democrats including Obama, who first won election on a pledge to reopen NAFTA on environmental and labour grounds. Various “Buy American” trade bills recently introduced in Congress, such as the “Made in the U.S.A. Act” sponsored by Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, are now dead. Pryor is among the Democrats that voters just tossed out of Washington.
Number Three: Canada can also breathe a big sigh of relief that free spending Democrats are now reined in. Obama’s exploding of the national debt — by the time he’s done, it may have doubled to $20-trillion — has destabilized Western economies, making everyone fearful of inflation and curbing the private sector investment needed for economic growth. Republicans not only took the Senate, they so bolstered their majority in the House of Representatives, where spending bills originate, that Democrats have likely lost the ability to spend federal dollars for decades to come — gerrymandered House districts make it difficult for incumbents to lose.
More welcome sighs come in at the state level, where the mid-term elections toppled several governors in traditionally Democratic states. Restraint-minded Republican governors are now in charge in more than 30 states, good augers for pro-growth policies in our largest trading partner.
Canada could benefit from more than relief from Democratic harms. Republicans are likely to pursue policies that would positively help our economy, most notably by passing legislation that would force Obama to accept, or veto, the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that has been under review longer than the Second World War.
Pundits are betting that Obama will finally approve Keystone, both to chalk up an accomplishment for what is now an almost non-existent legacy and to please the unions, the many Democrats and the general public that favour it. To give Obama a fig leaf, the pundits expect Harper to throw in a concession on climate change.
But the pundits could be wrong. Obama has betrayed most of his constituents through broken promises — unions for his failure to deliver jobs and, ironically, because Obamacare is destroying the 40-hour work week; youth for the NSA spying on them; Latinos on his failure to implement immigration reform; peaceniks for his drone attacks and America’s reentry into Iraq. Approving Keystone would add to this string the one cause he has served passably well — environmentalism, whose backers include the Hollywood crowd that mostly remains in his thrall. His legacy with those who count to him could only be kept by chucking Keystone.
But even chucking Keystone could now be too late for Obama. He has become such a liability to his party that few Democratic politicians have a strong allegiance to him and many would fear losing their seats in the next election if they were seen to side with him. If Obama vetoed a bill to proceed with Keystone, the two-thirds majority required to override his veto might materialize.
Lawrence Solomon is the executive director of Energy Probe.