Maxed Out 

Of milestones and millstones

By G.D. Maxwell

Call it a fascination with round numbers, if you will. I don’t claim to understand it and, let’s face it, other than a few deciduous leaves acid-tripping into technicolour and my declaring a moratorium on Anatomy of Change, there’s really no difference between this week and last week. Except that this week is a small celebration of my fascination with round numbers.

Or at least it would be if I were feeling more celebratory.

But it’s getting harder and harder to be my joyous, upbeat, Debil-may-care self. With Katrina creating new Gulf coast waterfront property far inland from where waterfront property used to be, even the spirits of a party town like N’Awlins have been dampened and washed away, leaving those of us with no greater connection to the place than the lingering memories of Café du Monde’s hot beignets or Louis Armstrong’s jazz wondering whether it’s a good idea to rebuild the subterranean city or use its demise as the first in a number of future exercises of how we manage the sinking of great coastal cities in the age of global warming.

It’s hard to celebrate in the face of such destruction.

It’s hard to celebrate Canada’s softwood lumber victory at the highest appeals tribunal of NAFTA in the face of the U.S. government’s blatant refusal to recognize the validity of the ruling, the inequity of its own rogue-nation, anti-freetrade, unilateral imposition of punitive duties and its continuing acquiescence to the unreasonable demands of a few governors and industry lobby groups to keep the tariff in place, NAFTA be damned. What’s the biggest little country in North America to do when its Good Friend and neighbour turns out to be a sulking, petulant bully?

Rational voices are calling for the True North to strike back, slap countervailing duties on, for example, California wine. Or curtail oil and gas exports to our ever energy thirsty southern friends.

Those are, in the parlance of social scientists, bad ideas. As appealing as the enduring David and Goliath myth may be, getting into a pissing match of a trade war with our Good Friends in the U.S. is a bit like poking a stick at a snarling pit bull – fun for a while but destined to end badly.

I believe Canada would be far better off to simply acknowledge the U.S.’ deeply held belief that we’re trade bullies when it comes to softwood lumber, trade bullies who unfairly subsidize our industry, all evidence to the contrary. Rather than start a trade war we can’t win, I believe we should acquiesce to our Good Friends’ point of view on softwood lumber… and simply stop sending them any.

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