Before we pick apart the recent calumnies heaped upon Canada by the president of the United States and his lieutenants, it is useful to meet a woman who may fairly be described as the perfect anti-Trump: a thoughtful, impeccably rational, fluently bilingual Canadian policy wonk named Martha Hall Findlay.
At the federal Liberal Party’s epic 2006 convention, Hall Findlay was the only woman among the eight leadership candidates and came in dead last. In 2013, she tried again, campaigning on important but hopelessly technocratic issues such as building a national energy infrastructure. This time, she ranked a respectable third. But since now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won that contest on the first ballot with 79% of votes cast, silver and bronze ranked as mere footnotes.
Populists such as US President Donald Trump get elected by telling attractive lies. Wonks such as Hall Findlay become noble failures by repeating inconvenient truths. Imagine a US politician beginning her presidential campaign by telling Iowa voters that the federal ethanol mandate makes no sense, that the Second Amendment wasn’t drafted to protect individual gun owners, and that building a border wall is a big waste of money. In Canadian terms, that’s basically what Hall Findlay — who now serves as the CEO of a respected think tank— did during her last Liberal leadership bid.
You may be tempted to raise an eyebrow when I tell you that the protectionist racket in milk, cheese, eggs, and poultry has become the third rail of Canadian politics. But it should be noted that many otherwise free-trading nations go weird when it comes to food. Japanese rice tariffs have been as high as 1,000%. To protect its meat industry, France has passed a law banning the use of labels such as “soy sausage” or “mushroom burger” on vegetarian products. And in the United States, Big Sugar cynically props up a nakedly protectionist law that guarantees a minimum price that’s a quantum leap beyond the amount customers would pay on the global market.
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