Every hour of every day in Canada there are groups and individuals demanding that our federal government take action about something, but recent experience would suggest that Ottawa’s power is not nearly what we think it is.
Crossborder shopping is as Canadian as the Maple Leaf flag. But when we travel to places like Grand Forks or Fargo or Minot, we are left to wonder why prices in this country are so much higher for non-Canadian goods that are exactly the same. In what may well be his last budget as Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty announced that the government would introduce legislation “to deal with consumer price gaps between Canadian and American goods.” Beyond those few words, the budget said nothing, but promised that details would come at a later date.
Flaherty also repeated a promise that the government will be “standing up for consumers by encouraging competition and lower prices in telecommunications”. This refers mainly to cellphones and cable and satellite TV. Harper and company have already spent millions on an ad campaign attacking the Big 3, Rogers, Telus and Bell.
So far nothing has changed, and don’t hold your breath. To move with a heavy hand in these areas would be a major intervention in the marketplace, and totally contrary to what Conservatives have stood for over the years. The last Tory leader to move in such a direction was Robert Stanfield.
Forty years ago he promised to freeze wages and prices to combat inflation. It was a major reason that he was the best Prime minister we never had in Canada. Pierre Trudeau ridiculed Stanfield, then won a majority and did exactly what the Conservatives had promised to do.
Why do governments promise things that they know will never happen? Instead they should do something meaningful about unplugging the backlog of prairie grain trying to get to the west coast.
I’m Roger Currie