Friday, April 11, 2008

Darth Harper

You know, I was going to take a break from lamenting Prime Minister Harper's leftward drift.

I really was.

But now comes news the Harper government is threatening to block the private sale of Canadian space company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. to an American firm.

Jim Prentice -- the Super Red Tory Industry Minister -- says such a sale is not in the "net benefit" to Canada.


This is the kind of anti-free market stuff that went on in the bad old Trudeau days, when economic nationalism trumped common sense.

And yeah, I know all arguments the nationalists are using to justify blocking the MDA sale: We have to keep the Canadarm from falling into the wrong arms, the Americans will conquer the Arctic, without MDA space technology we won't be able to complete construction of Harper's Death Star.

Anyone falling for those emotion-laden arguments should read Financial Post editor Terence Corcoran's masterful column today which puts things in perspective.

The bottom line is Harper's actions will hurt Canada's reputation as a place to invest, it will hurt MDA's stockholders and it will likely end up hurting the company's employees.

But on the positve side the Prime Minister is getting praise from Buzz Hargrove, the NDP and the Toronto Star.


Anonymous said...

I have a hard time buying your arguments about hurting Canada's rep as a place to invest in or lamenting any downside for MDA stockholders. Truth of the matter is that the MDA received a @#$% load of money from the pockets of Canadian taxpayers (half a billion dollars) as a Canadian company... not a foreign company. Unless our government gives that kind of money away everyday to foreign companies, your argument about our reputation holds no water.

As for stock owners, if we were looking at this from a truly Capitalist POV, then you could easily say that the Canadian taxpayers (represented by our government) through ways of financial investments represent the majority shareholders of MDA. The "so-called" MDA shareholders are only making money because of what the Canadian government has done for MDA, and that is the reality. For them to cry foul because the Canadian government wants a return on their investment is a rather thankless and hollow gesture.

The Canadian government has been the one financing source that has made MDA what it is today, on the basis that it would be a Canadian company. Now it doesn't want to be a Canadian company. Too bad, so sad. Both MDA and its shareholders didn't mind government interference when it came to money going in. If they didn't want to risk government interference on the money coming out part, they should have thought about who they were getting into bed with.

Hell... that's the first rule of Mafia business practices. And who's to say that, with the exception of legal legitimacy, governments are any different than the mafia.

Anonymous said...

there are zero conservatives in government anywhere in canada.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but look what happened in Terminator 2 when the robotic arm got into the hands of the wrong guys. lol

Does Harper really want another Skynet debacle on his hands?

Brian said...

While Terence Corcoran's article gave a good historical perspective of the MDA satellite "deal" struck with the Liberal government at the time , it omitted the security aspect , which was yet another Liberal screwup with Washington.

Chretien and Martin did a fine job of ensuring poor relations with the US on military and security issues. As a result of 9/11 the US does not allow foreign companies to bid on classified military/security contracts. If the Liberals had not been so anti-US Canada might have received an exemption and been allowed to bid on classified projects , but such was not the case.

So now Harper has a no win situation.

My personal guess is that taxpayer dollars will flow into MDA until such time as the satellite fails , and then it will be "end of story" , and more money wasted.

Anonymous said...

Call me hawkish, but I like the idea of having national ownership of military-grade technology.

Im all for capitalism, but the government should pony up the dough for some serious R&D projects. Then we could offset the anger of foreign invetors with pure fear and awe by fielding some laser weapons in afstan. Who wouldnt want to invest in that?


Brian said...

A further thought. Apparently MDA was "betting the farm" on being able to provide satellite surveillance data to the US , but as a result of 9/11 and Liberal anti-US bias , and a Liberal disdain for the military , and some "made-in-Canada" security screwups , Washington decided Canadians were a poor security risk , so now MDA is without a paying customer.

In retrospect MDA should have gone to bed with France ! It is really ironic , because the Liberals were always hyping trade with France.

My guess is that for a lot less than $485M , DND could have had access to France's SPOT (2.5m) surveillance satellite data , which anyone with the cash can access.

Anonymous said...

Why is this even an issue to Canadians?

Does Canada really have a viable space program?

I could see Canadians being concerned presently about issues like Food Sovereignty, but Space???

I don't get it -- alot of Canadians seem to have their heads in space, right now?

Good thing because the realities are pretty ugly!

Anonymous said...

What is all this crap about Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. Suppose this super-duper satellite spotted an intruder in Canadian waters...what would we do? Send a nasty note to the offending country? Send our mighty army to the north to throw snowballs at the ship?
Like the little kid in the schoolyard who is picked on by the bullies and runs to shelter behind a bigger bully, we shelter under the protection of the big bully to the South.
Half this country thinks the military is a source of cheap labour in times of floods or forest fires. They don't support spending of any kind on our armed forces. So what makes anybody think they would rush to take up arms to defend our 'sovereignty.
The support for cancelling this deal has nothing to do with jobs or foreign buyouts or any of the other excuses the anti-sale complainers come up with. It is just our way of thumbing our noses at the U.S. so we can puff out our chicken chests and think we have made a big statement.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I am generally for having open rules when it comes to foreign ownership, since as much as I hate seeing Canadian companies bought out by foreign ones, I realize that there are just as many Canadian companies that take over foreign ones and we cannot gain access to other markets without allowing them access to ours. However, every rule has an exception to it and in this case I think MDA should have been blocked although I wish it was by Investment Canada as opposed to the government itself.

There are two reasons why it should have been blocked.

1. It received taxpayer's money of $450 million. Any company that gets government subsidies should stay Canadian owned and if bought out the subsidies should be paid back. Now I am against the idea of government subsidies on the whole.

2. Radarsat gives satellite images of the Arctic which under US security laws, Canada would lose access to if it was US owned. The United States does not recognize Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic.

Besides, the United States has treated us horribly and so they essentially reaped what they sowed. If they started treating our country better, maybe Canadians would be a little less anti-American and there wouldn't be so much opposition.

The reality, you ignore Gerry, is most Canadians to some degree or another dislike the United States so anything to do with the United States will be opposed by most Canadians and considering Harper is already seen as too pro-US, this would have given the Liberals the perfect ammunition to bring down the government and likely result in the Tories losing.

I've argued the right would be more successful if Canada put some more distnace between ourselves and the United States as Canadians general dislike of the United States often presents us from looking at things objectively.

In Europe, they have two-tiered health care, some countries have privatized their postal service and all will shortly open it up to competition, electricity is at least partially privatized in most countries (whereas in most provinces it is predominately government owned, Alberta, PEI, and Nova Scotia being the exceptions), they have more lax laws on foreign ownership, corporate taxes are lower, they have less cultural protectionism, and privatization is continuing rather than halted. Europeans in general are more socialistic than Canadians, but because they have an ocean separating them from the United States and asides from the UK and Ireland, speak a different language, there is less need to worry about Americanization. We will always be closer to the US than the Europeans, but trying to distance ourselves from them, will in fact lead to more freedom and less government.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

Powell Lucas - The biggest threat to the Arctic sovereignty is the United States, not some other country and considering the United States acts like a bully and does whatever the heck it wants, I think we have the right to stand up to them. It may be difficult to win, but you are better to try than not. Never mind when it comes to Arctic sovereignty, it is also about getting others to recognize our claim so if other countries agree with our claim this will isolate the United States diplomatically.