President Barack Obama's not-too-softening stand on NAFTA
It was all smiles on Parliament Hill Thursday for the meeting of Prime MInister Stephen Harper with the new U.S. president. Obama indicated any NAFTA renegotiations could wait, leading to crossed fingers in Harper's cabinet he's forgotten some of his campaign promises to change the trade deal. But, as Lori Wallach from Public Citizen told the Washington Post, her group and other non-profits remain hopeful Obama was merely handling a tricky topic with sophistication and will deliver his promises of a better deal for workers, the environment and other NAFTA issues. In the wake of his Ottawa visit last Thursday, Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Trade Watch division, told the Post:
"I am happy for him to frame his way of positioning the issue any way he wants, as long as he actually delivers on the issue. If down the road Obama doesn't deliver on the policy, there will be a whole lot of really upset people."
Public Citizen, a non-profit based in Washington, was among the first to point out recently "Buy American" commitments in the $800-plus U.S. stimulus plan do not contravene the NAFTA. The organization put out a no-nonsense review of the stimulus provisions as they relate to NAFTA wording. They also released a handy Public Citizen guide to Obama's campaign commitments that includes a nice selection of his campaign videos. It's worth a look. Their releases don't let any Obama campaign pledge slip by. We'll see.
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Mickey, Mickey, Mickey: The Academy Awards aren't my forte but, like everybody else, I was glued to the TV last night, making snarky remarks. I must say, though, I've got a soft spot for Mickey Rourke's wearing a photo medallion of his deceased dog. Sadly, Loki the Chihuahua passed away a few days ago at some incredible dog age of 113. I happened to catch Maclean's movie critic Brian Johnson on Q this morning. Enough with the chihuahua, he said. He was joking.
Not for me. Rourke said he would rather have had two more years with Loki than a Best Actor award. It's a loyal comment from a man who appreciates the company of dogs. Too bad he didn't get either.
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A postcript on Big Three pensions, or lack of: As days go by, the promised pensions and benefits for GM retirees (among others) appear less secure. Readers have posted interesting comments to Political Decoder about whether taxpayers should be on the hook for pensions if the companies/unions can't cover. Most people are clear: NO!
The reason I think these corporations must respect their retirees is these issues were settled in a bargain with unions over time, and seniors can't be thrown overboard at this late date. It would be great to see all retired workers in this country get fair and decent pensions and benefits. That is not the case but that should be the goal of unions and employee associations, even in these grim times.
Too many Canadians find themselves with zip at retirement time. A government pension isn't much. That's the lowest common denominator. The battle should be to better conditions for everyone, not punish Big 3 workers because other people are losing out. Besides, corporations can be sneaky. Experience has shown that, even in the most dire circumstances of bankruptcy and closure, there's always money tucked away for corporate executive payouts.
Would G. Richard Wagoner Jr. lose his pension and benefits package?