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COLUMN: Welcome 2022, Canada's year of global challenges

'Unhappily, we are ... at the beginning of a retreat from global co-operation and interdependence in trade in both goods and services as the U.S., China, and Europe turn inwards and seek self-sufficiency.'
Murdock Alan-col
Columnist Alan Murdock

This year is going to be one of Canada’s most complex and challenging in our history and will mark the beginning of a quarter century of change on a global scale.

Economically we are exceptionally fortunate presently. The value of all final goods and services produced by Canadians annually is close to $45,000 per person. This is behind the U.S. ($60,000) but far above China ($8,600) and India ($1,800).

Unhappily, we are also at the beginning of a retreat from global co-operation and interdependence in trade in both goods and services as the U.S., China, and Europe turn inwards and seek self-sufficiency.

This is a challenge particularly for Canada, where we mainly export goods while our economy has now shifted toward services — principally finance, insurance, professional, scientific, and technical services. Close to 80 per cent of Canadian jobs are in the services sector, accounting for 70 per cent of our gross domestic product. Yet we still import more than export these services and our overall trade deficit (presently $36.2 billion) will increase even more as exports of goods diminish. We need a national self-sufficient services strategy to balance the loss of jobs in the petroleum goods and automotive manufacturing sectors.

Perhaps as importantly in terms of national security and sovereignty is the Northwest Passage. Satellite images now show that the Arctic Ocean has been clear enough to sail straight through the Northwest Passage. We should shortly expect a major diversion of shipping from the Panama Canal (at a savings of 4,000 kilometres per ship).

Canada has done little if anything to protect our sovereignty over this body of water, particularly since the U.S. military sent ships and submarines through the Passage without notification, claiming the Passage as international water. We whined, and did nothing about it. We can now expect the U.S., China, and Russia in particular, to militarize as well as commercially invade this sea route and add claims of internationalization of the Arctic islands for mining and oil/gas exploration purposes.

If nothing else, we need an environmental protection strategy with a naval fleet to monitor and protect not only the Passage, but also the land bases. Where is our fleet of icebreakers, submarines, and coast guard capacity? Where is our international agreement of the Canadian sovereignty over military and economic control of these waterways and lands?

Third in the list of underdeveloped strategies is Canada’s climate plan. Our federal government remains consumed with carbon pollution pricing and net-zero carbon emissions. But what about strategic planning for the probable inundation of our coastal communities and major inland waterways? Surely we should have some planning for the future of the coastal cities in the Maritimes. What is anticipated for the Atlantic fishery industry? And what can we expect for the rising waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway and its impact on the Montreal Island and Toronto's waterfront? And let us not forget the Niagara generating stations that supply one quarter of all power used in New York State and Ontario. What is the plan for managing the already started permanent weather changes for British Columbia? We look forward to a federal government climate-change national adaptation strategy promised by year’s end. Really? They just started it.

And that’s just the beginning. Welcome to 2022.

Alan Murdock is a local pediatrician.