After reading Mel Hurtig’s latest book, I feel like I have a much better understanding of where Canada stands in relation to the rest of the world and where we really need to smarten up in order to protect our sovereignty. For those who don’t know, Mel Hurtig actually founded the Council of Canadians, which is chaired by world-renowned water activist Maude Barlow.
The author uses a multitude of stats to show various trends that our highly concentrated media will generally not talk about or present in a misleading way. The book lacks a bit in terms of context but it’s an excellent read for those who already have a basic understanding of Canada’s political and social issues. It’s obvious that a great deal of work has gone into gathering the facts and stats that feature so prominently in the book and for that alone it’s a great resource. I hope you find my summary of this 350+ page book informative.
What follows are some of the highlights that really stuck out for me that I feel people should be aware of.
– Only Italy has the extreme level of media concentration that we have here in Canada. In 2004, 3 companies controlled 63.3% of all newspapers. Out of 102 English and French dailies, only 6 are truly independent
– from 1985 to 2007, 10,807 Canadian companies were taken over by non-resident controlled corporations. The total value of all foreign direct investment monitored by Investment Canada was $834.86 billion. Of that, 97.7% was for takeovers. Only 2.3% was for the hoped for new business investment
-Famous Canadian companies that have been taken over include Sleeman, LaSenza, Four Seasons, ATI, Gateway Casinos, Hudson’s Bay Co., Intrawest, and many more
– 62% of these investments/takeovers were by American firms. Britain came in second place at 9%
– Investment Canada has never once turned down a foreign takeover since it’s inception in 1985. Not once! Blocking takeovers is common practice in other countries to ensure that resources don’t get managed irresponsibly simply for the benefit of international investors.
– 36 different sectors of the Canadian economy are now heavily or majority foreign-controlled or owned. In the US not one single industry is foreign owned or controlled and only 2 have foreign ownership of assets in the 30% range.
– Of the top 50 foreign-controlled companies in Canada, 44 are 100% foreign-owned. They include the likes of Citigroup, McDonalds, Cargill, Safeway, GM, Ford, Sony, IBM, and Honda.
– Canada is swiftly using up it’s natural gas reserves; in 2009 production has started to decline by as much as 15%
– Royalties in Alberta’s oil sands have for many years been among the lowest in the world. Despite all the problems with oil sands production (greenhouse gases, water use, natural gas requirements) we’re planning massive increases in the number of new plants and production
– Despite their enormous profits, oil companies are still subsidized and we provide billions in tax breaks every year
– 2/3 of our oil is being exported to the US; 40% of gas in Ontario is imported; 90% in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, mostly from unstable countries.
– Canada has no energy policy. We are one of only 2 of the 26 members of the IEA not to have a Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
– Canada still has no east-west electrical grid
– Sensible energy policy would have Alberta oil and natural gas flowing to Central and Eastern Canada instead of being exported out of the country
– In Canada there is no national housing strategy. We are alone among industrialized nations in not having one. Only 5% of our housing stock is social housing, one of the lowest levels in the world.
– 46 billionaires in Canada have a net worth higher than the 14 million poorest Canadians.
– Canada is strangely absent from peacekeeping missions these days. After having 1,150 soldiers involved in missions in 1991, we now have around 120. Our military now focuses on riding the coattails of the US and their misguided military adventures.
– (Employment Insurance ) EI surpluses have been used to pay down the debt while access to EI has decreased for the average person. In 1980, 86% of people were able to access benefits while today it’s around 40% and in some areas as low as 20%. 68% have paid into the system and only 40% getting access to benefits seems a bit lopsided.
– Corporate profits are on the rise while wages are going down. (% of GDP before taxes) In 1992 corporate profits were 4.2% and in 2006 rose to 13.9%, an all-time high. Wages have on the other hand dropped from 55.4% to 50.7% for the same period.
– Brain drain as it relates to immigration and emigration is a myth. 52% of immigrants are university educated vs. 21% of Canadian born. We are taking in more university grads than we are losing to other countries. Despite increasing immigration, we are still facing a deficit in terms of those of working age vs. those retiring and aging. Anti-immigrant sentiment therefore comes from fear and ignorance as a lot of older folks wonder and fret over how they will be taken care of.
– The 50 highest paid executives in 2005 all received at least $9 million; with the highest paid at $74 million; the average Canadian worker makes $38,000 a year.
– From 1990-2000 – High income earners (the top 10%) increased their wages by 14.3%, Mid-wage earners increased their earnings by 0.3% and the Low-income earners’ wages actually decreased by 0.7%
– We stand 39th on the list of countries when it comes to distribution of income. Consolingly, the USA is down at 71st place.
– Despite record corporate profits, investments in productivity and machinery have declined. Canada stands at 25th place in the percentage of research and development performed by industry out of the OECD group of 30 countries. Big business in Canada prefers to keep it’s money in the bank or in off-shore tax havens rather than improve our performance.
– Canada has more of it’s manufacturing industry under foreign control than any other OECD country at 50.3%. In the US the figure is 12%.
– Overtaxation is a myth in Canada. Canada is 21st out of 30 OECD countries in terms of total tax revenue as a % of GDP.
– Tax rates on corporations in Canada have been dropping for a decade going from 35.4% in 2000 to 25.6% in 2005 and projected to be 15% in 2012. Corporate tax cuts are a failed experiment in trickle down economics.
– cutting the GST 1% will cost us $34 billion over five years which is just over half of the projected deficit announced by the Harper government.
– the use of tax havens has increased from $11 billion to $88 billion for the period of 1990-2003 costing average Canadians even more money.
– In 2001 Canada was ranked 3rd in terms of business competitiveness. After a round of major corporate tax cuts, by 2007 we were down in 13th place.
– between 1980 and 2004 public university funding has increased 25% in the US and decreased 20% here in Canada. All this despite record numbers of enrollments.
– the UN Human Development Report for 2002-2005 shows that Canada is in 57th place when it comes to public expenditure on education as a % of GDP. When measured as a % of all government spending we are at 90th place.
– cultural imports such as books, TV, movies are steadily increasing
– Canadian magazines still dominate the domestic market but heavy US ownership of distributors means that magazine rack space gets split 85/15 in favour of American publications
– BBC gets twice as much government support as our CBC gets
– In 1988, the year before the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) came into effect, the household savings rate in Canada was 12.3% of disposable income; by 2005 it was -0.2%
– Harper and the Conservatives (with votes from Liberals too) surrendered $1 billion dollars to the Americans to end the softwood lumber agreement despite numerous rulings that showed that we were in the right
– for every 1$ in foreign aid, rich countries on average spend $10 on military budgets
– In 1981 the first food bank opened in Canada. It was thought to be a temporary measure. Today there food banks in every province for a grand total of 649 nationwide.
– Canada ranks 93rd out of 174 countries in terms of voter turnout. Could it be that people have lost faith in politicians that seem to be doing more for corporations than for they , the people?