Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stephen Harper, Brian Mulroney, and the Big Tomato

Well there he was the other day, trying to run away from the Senate scandal, while claiming scandalously that his trade deal with the Europeans was bigger than Brian Mulroney's free trade deal. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper touted the benefits of the Canada-EU free trade agreement to a business crowd in Montreal that included the architect of the Canada-U.S. free trade deal negotiated 25 years earlier.

Even though we don't know what's in his new trade deal. Even though the Europeans are secretly bragging that they took Canada to the cleaners. And even though the Euro zone's economy is heading in the same direction as the Titanic.

The euro-zone economy's recovery from its long slump lost its momentum in the third quarter, compounding fears that Europe could get mired in a "lost decade" of stagnation, joblessness and political discontent.

And all I can say is go tell the devastated people of Leamington, Ontario, what free trade has done for them.

H.J. Heinz Co. is closing its plant in Leamington, Ont., a move that will cost 740 jobs and end more than a century of ketchup making in the Southern Ontario town.

Heinz’s cuts underscore the significant pressures facing manufacturing plants in Canada, in part because the loonie has been hovering near parity for the past few years, making exports more expensive.

Or what the so-called Dutch Disease has done to good factory jobs from Atlantic Canada to British Columbia.

Oh boy. You know years ago when I saw the big tomato water tower and the Heinz factory, on a family outing to Point Pelee National Park, I was REALLY happy to know that ketchup came from Canada.

Because I like to put it on everything eh?

And ever since then I haven't even looked at any yummy red stuff unless it was Heinz. But now I'm boycotting it, and all of the company's other products.

Because I'm not just terribly sad for all the poor people who are losing their jobs, after so many years and so much history.

The news was so devastating that a tearful Dennis Jackson, famous for having the world’s largest Heinz memorabilia collection, was too consumed with grief to talk about it Thursday night. “My whole life is Heinz and there’s just nobody that loves Heinz more than I do,” he said. “It just hurt me too much.”

I'm really angry. Angry at the Harper government for posing as economists while killing good jobs all over the country. Angry at companies for whom no amount of profit is ever enough, and who treat their loyal workers like dirt.

When it doesn't have to be that way. Take the example of the John Lewis company, a big retail chain in Britain which is owned by its employees, shares it profits with them, and despite the recession is still incredibly successful.

And whose reputation as a kind and good company shines through in this Christmas commercial...

Isn't that sweet?

Yup. I can't help feeling that when you work for a company whose constitution declares this to be its aim:

"The happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business"

It shows eh?

Oh well, that reminds me...rabbit...rabbit...please don't bring me that humungous alarm clock for Christmas. Because if it went off next to my head in the morning, in the state I'm usually in, I'd probably die of shock.

But a new pair of skates would definitely be appreciated...

Or better still, just bring me a Harper-free Con-free Canada.

And a kinder, gentler country.

Because that's all I really want.

And all I really need....

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  1. The John Lewis advert is adorable, but I showed it to my cat Renzo. He is a pensioner now at almost 18, and no longer brings me half-dead mice very early in the morning, but he said: "Harrumph!" "Look at those cavorting foxes. You know very well they'd have eaten that hare".

    And while its artistry and subtlety are in a whole other league, isn't its core message that consuming X product will bring you love and friendship - much more crudely stated in McShit commercials, and any beer ad.

    I don't eat ketchup, but that is just because it is full of sugar - it doesn't contain anything else harmful as far as I know. Am very pissed off about the workers in Leamington losing their jobs - which will also have repercussions for the surrounding farms, and local businesses.

    1. hi lagatta....Golly. How grumpy can you be, or should I say how grumpy is your murderous cat? Of course the foxes wouldn't have eaten the hare. Not when his best friend is the bear. ;)
      As for the giving of gifts, while I agree that out of control consumerism is not good, giving ONE little gift to the one who keeps me warm at night seems like a good investment.
      Or are you declaring war on Christmas. In which case I will report you to the yankee teabaggers and you'll never hear the end of it.
      And as for ketchup PLEASE. Are you telling me that putting greasy gravy on french fries is better ? Tomato sauce is loaded with lycopene which is very good for you AND tastes good too. So there.
      But yes I am REALLY pissed off at what happened to the people and farmers of Leamington. When I saw and read about their reaction I had tears in my eyes. And if I can't find a Canadian substitute I'll make my own. Because I have Heinz's secret recipe.

  2. Anonymous9:46 AM

    Maybe some Fezziwig out there will buy that plant in Leamington and start its own ketchup company and sell it locally here for a good profit, put those same people right back into their jobs (low retraining costs, eh?), support our own local economy here and in Canada and heilz can go fuck itself. Maybe there's a John Lewis right here in Canada that will read this and can afford to act on it. Harley Davidson almost was history a while back so, at that time, made their employees owners and they turned it around big time. Now, I already know that 70% of all Harleys' parts are made in Asia so don't bother with that stuff. The point is that their own people turned it around back in the 80's and I think something like that could happen in this situation. Piss on john kerry and his wife (the heilz heiress). I won't be buying any more of their shit, either, Simon.

    1. hi anon....I also hope that somebody can buy that plant and put those people back to work. I recently read about how our hapless business class it sitting on all those billions the Cons gave them in tax cuts.
      Maybe now they can show a little initiative and show us that they're really Canadians. I take great care when i'm shopping to support my own people, even if it costs more than the foreign stuff. Honestly, if we don't stick up for ourselves who will?

    2. e.a.f.1:50 AM

      it is doubtful that anyone will buy the factory and start manufacturing something else. The first free trade agreement was designed for multi national corporations. It didn't do much for Canadian workers or the amount of income the Canadian government took in. At the rate it is going, it may not matter that the ketchup plant closed. People in Canada have less and less money to spend. Pretty soon they won't be able to afford ketchup. \

      Why Harper wants a deal with the E.U. is so multi national corpos. can make even more money. The European countries can produce things more cheaply than Canada and many of their argicultural industries are heavily subsidized by their governments. It will cause small diaries to close and with that the jobs.

      People can make a difference by simply looking at where something is made. if its not Canada, don't buy it. There are all sorts of food items which are "Canadian brands" but the fruit is grown and canned in China. Now why the hell would we buy that. Simply start reading where food it made. By buying Canadian you create jobs for Canadians and you save a lot of money by not purchasing all sorts of things.

      Have a look at paper produces and see where they are made. You'll find many no longer have the small Canadian maple leaf on the package. Its being made in the U.S.A. or does not list a country of origin. In those cases, its made in China.

      Unfortunately Canada no longer even makes tea kettles. There are a few small firms in the U.S.A. which still makes them, but most are from China. Not a good way to grow an economy.

      We all wanted cheaper goods. Now we have them, We just don't have the jobs anymore and that has led to us not being able to buy much of anything.

  3. And what about the loss of skills in aircraft design and building, ship design and building. steel making, and on and on for the profit of greedy shareholders who want more and more money without working for it. It is the wages of these workers being lost all across this country that created our economic boom times, not the dribble down effect from the wealthy. The States has realized this and are bringing the jobs back. Maybe we'll wake up too one day. I hope I'm still around to see it.

    And, while I'm at it, how about that sucking up for separatist votes from Mulcair.

    1. hi James...I completely agree with you. Companies seem to exist these days only to make rich investors richer, and treat their workers who create the real wealth with absolute contempt. I understand the need to make a profit in our capitalist system, but their greed knows no bounds. I was reading recently about how the U.S. was so successful after the Second World War when corporate taxes were at least double what they are now, and companies tried to act like good corporate citizens. The result was a win win situation, with the companies doing well and the communities around them were healthy and thriving. As far as I can see globalization has been a total disaster, and is only turning workers into low wage slaves. We need to demand an end to this nonsense and put our own people first.
      As for Mulcair, I don't mind him defending his position on the fifty plus one majority, because it's a legitimate debate. What I do find deplorable is his threat to "wipe the floor" with Justin Trudeau. Because we should be focusing on attacking the Cons, and not attacking those we may one day have to work together with to form a government. But then I really liked that little video so you know I'm a sappy idealist... ;)

  4. James A. Latimer, I have no idea what you are talking about, "sucking up for separatist votes" (rather sneering expression there, non?) Mulcair is a federalist and was in the Liberal Party. True, a lot of pro-independence Québécois voted NDP, but that is because of a general agreement with the progressive aims of the party against that vile crew in power in Ottawa.

    If you are talking about our right to self-determination, that is a matter of democracy, not advocating Québec independence. You'd rather send in the troops?

  5. From the CBC news article on the Leamington Heinz plant closure:

    "Ken Hamm grows tomatoes for the Heinz plant in Leamington. He said close to 40 per cent of all field tomatoes grown in Ontario are shipped to Leamington."
    "He said the plant’s closure means he no longer has a buyer. He’ll have to stop growing field tomatoes and start growing soy beans, corn or wheat."
    "He said the cost of the change is “very substantial” because he has to buy new farm equipment that differs from that used for growing and harvesting tomatoes."
    "Hamm said his 82-year-old father has been growing tomatoes for Heinz all his life."
    "CBC News asked Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is also the Minister of Agriculture, for comment but did not receive a response."

    And when our political leaders do offer comments on supposedly relevant matters, they foolishly praise the economic successes of brutal dictatorships based on labour camps and slave wages, passively observing and occasionally lamenting the demise of important sectors of Canadian industry and agriculture. And you have Liberal bloggers complaining of the NDP's alleged "far left" stance with respect to Alberta oil sands and proposed BC or East-West pipelines in the current federal by-elections.

    Whereas Leamington tomato plant processing can hardly be deemed harmful to the environment and is economically beneficial to rural Ontario, growers, plant employees and local businesses, and to Canada as a whole.

    It is time for local growers and plant employees to close ranks and defend the continued existence of a key local industry, through demands for public ownership if required. And it's time for the alleged "far left" NDP to show some political leadership by taking the lead in such campaign, by embracing some of those socialist principles that its leadership abandoned as an electoral albatross in its search for middle class electoral respectability....

  6. So-called trade deals have investor-rights provisions, like the ones Eli Lilly is using to sue Canada for $500 million:

  7. Why is Rob Ford still Mayor?
    Why is Stephen Harper still P.M.?

  8. Just in case you missed it, Harper has changed the Canadian packaging laws. As you may or may not know the products on our shelves used to come in different sizes from those sold in the US on great many products due to longstanding regulations regarding them. By allowing the same sizes sold in the US to now appear on our shelves means that having a separate production and bottling facility in Canada is no longer necessary for Heinz as well as many other US based companies that may soon shut down other Canadian operations for that very same reason.

    Obviously it's easier to simply overrun what they're making in the US to include the Canadian market which improves their per unit profits right accross the board and because it's cheaper to just ship that to Canadian distributors than having to run a complete facilty here that was the best way to originally handle that packaging difference.

    That, in essence is why those regulations had actually been put in place to nurture and protect our own abilty to produce as well as having a reliable Canadian source of supply even if it was foreign owned like Heinz. So we may not have heard the end of this or seeing more jobs go down the drain because of that change that most Canadians aren't even aware of and certainly never asked for.