Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Privatizing Canada’s Ports

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The federal Liberals seem to be turning out to be neoliberals – not that much different to the Harper Conservatives Canadians so soundly dismissed. The fact that privatisation has generally failed to deliver on its promises – except for enriching a few exceedingly wealthy men – is always ignored by the ideologues of the right. And that is who the C D Howe Institute are. It annoys me that the CBC runs the headline “New report says privatizing Canada’s ports could generate significant revenue” as though it came from an authoritative source, as opposed to yet more conservative propaganda. As usual the only thing that gets discussed is how much money is supposed flow – as though that will somehow benefit us.

What is ignored is that ports in Canada though supposedly under the authority of the federal government are in fact a law unto themselves, and have performed very poorly in terms of their impact on the environment and local communities. It is very significant that south of the border, no local community has permitted the expansion of coal exports through their ports. They have also successfully held back expansion  of LNG and methanol simply by insisting on adequate safety provisions. Things are different here. We still have a provincial government gungho for LNG and a port only too willing to expand thermal coal exports. Somehow Canadians do not deserve anything like the protections that US west coast communities enjoy. Privatising the port will only make matters worse. We are already losing the battle to protect the tiny percentage of land in BC capable of growing vegetables, being airily assured that we can continue to import all we need as though climate change and water shortage is not already damaging California’s ability to farm as it once did.

It was recently revealed that the Fraser Institute has long been funded by the Koch Brothers – something hotly denied up to now. C D Howe is just such another “think tank” set up not to promote objective policy research but rather to proselytize the Hayek philosophy, quite uncritically. Such studies always seem to be able to discount anything that does not produce profits for corporations. Considerations for ecosystems, or climate, or even equality are dismissed as irrelevant.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 20, 2017 at 3:13 pm

One Response

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  1. There is also talk about selling off the largest airports. I don’t have as much of an issue with that because we’ve avoided flying a lot (no overseas trips … yet) which, after all, means a kilogram of CO2 is emitted every 20 km by every passenger on average. That’s one tonne emitted per 2,000 km per passenger into the worst possible place: The upper atmosphere. Should the sale raise $100B for transit and other urban infrastructure, then please bring it on.

    The seaport is a different animal. So many good things come and go along with the bad. My understanding is that PMV exports more metallurgical coal than it does thermal, though the latter is pretty significant. Even Andrew Weaver gives a pass to anthracite because of the dependence on steel in our society. I disagree with the notion that the ports should be privatized.

    The federal Liberal’s infrastructure bank is heading toward the P3 door too. That is a shame. The op-ed in Spacing linked below is quite good and outlines the pitfalls.

    Alex Botta

    June 20, 2017 at 4:25 pm

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