Canada & U.S Trade War

By Patrick O’Brien (AIMS On Campus Student Fellow) 

The trade war amongst Canada and the United States is beginning to gain momentum as Canada slaps counter-tariffs on steel and aluminium products being shipped in from the U.S. Canada announced on July 1st the implementation of the same tariffs by percentage on steel and aluminum products at 25 percent and 10 percent respectively, and a list of other goods that would be tariffed at 10 percent similarly. The list of counter-tariffs was designed to have the same dollar per dollar affect as the U.S tariffs on Canada and was not very different from the action other Countries took such as Mexico, Turkey, and Europe.

What is the U.S trying to accomplish with these tariffs on many Countries including Canada? Essentially by implementing large tariffs on Steel and Aluminum this allows for the U.S produced metals to become more desirable, as they now cost relatively 25 percent (10 percent for aluminum) less than their foreign competition. This kind of protectionist policies hurt both sides of the economy. At a time when the situation around NAFTA is uncertain (as described in previous articles) implementing tariffs on your trade partner doesn’t help negotiations, especially when there was no discussion prior to.

In a recent conference in Winnipeg, U.S politicians met with Canadians to find regional trade solutions that can be taken to resolve/counteract the new tariffs. During the conference, Martin Nelson who is a Democrat in the North Dakota house representative states that “Americans are feeling the effects of the counter-tariffs not only through a higher cost of steel and aluminum, but also in the other goods such as food products that Canada rolled out tariffs against the U.S. Farmers in Western U.S would also feel the of the tariffs, more specifically those who are in debt to the banks that finance their operations. They may have to sell crop to at lower prices to meet bank capital stipulations and suffer large losses.

New discussions are also arising from the Trump administration about a possible 25 percent tariff on vehicles imported from Canada. This is one of the largest concerns for Canada, as it would almost completely decimate the Canadian auto Industry. Analysis conducted by the University of British Columbia concludes that failure to maintain a NAFTA agreement would lead to a 30 to 40 percent decline in the Canadian auto industry. This is not including the possibility of a 25 percent tariff as described above. Alternatively, the U.S would also be affected by imposing an auto tariff on Canada, as auto parts are shipped back and forth across U.S-Canadian border many times over to complete production of the car. If the U.S were to tariff the Canadian auto industry, then a counter-tariff would only make sense to compete. This would result in higher costs in the industry, loss of jobs, manufacturing plant shutdowns, and ultimately the consumer would be at a lose due as this would translate to a substantially higher cost of cars.

In conclusion, we as Canadians realise that something must be done to compete with the U.S economy, whether that is looking for opportunities abroad in Europe or Asia (thereby increasing our bargaining power) while simultaneously coming to an agreement with the U.S on fair trade practices that benefit both parties.

Education, training, and labour in Atlantic Canada: The big picture

By Ainslie Pierrynowski (AIMS On Campus Student Fellow)

In my previous AIMS On Campus op-eds regarding K-12 education in Atlantic Canada, I tended to focus on specific issue areas. For instance, I wrote about the value of e-learning in the region’s education systems. I also examined the fate of disused school buildings following school closures. Yet, while following discussions about the future of K-12 education in Atlantic Canada, I found that many debates regarding how schools in the region ought to function stemmed from one concern in particular. In Atlantic Canada—and, indeed, across the country—there exists an underlying tension within the public K-12 education system. On one hand, schools seek to deliver the same, shared experience to students. They hold students to agreed-upon standards: report cards, exams, grades, learning outcomes, behavioural expectations, and so on. They grant graduating students diplomas that have a widely understood meaning—and value—for employers and post-secondary institutions. At the same time, however, accommodating students with varying learning needs, interests, and career ambitions has become increasingly integral to how schools function.

This core trade-off between standardization and individualization informs a number of questions faced by educators, policymakers, and parents in Atlantic Canada. To what extent should parents and students be able to choose a course of study and personalize their education, and to what extent should school curricula set course requirements and standards? How can schools respond to calls to offer additional program requirements perceived to be relevant to the post-graduation world, such as career studies, coding, language courses, and more, while also taking heed of cries for a “back to the basics approach,” focused on nailing down the fundamentals of key subjects like mathematics and language arts? How can curriculum developers establish common, meaningful grading requirements while also challenging academically-inclined students and assisting students with learning difficulties?

Fortunately, several promising educational initiatives—many from Atlantic Canada, and a few from further afield—can provide insight into how schools could negotiate this balance and deliver even more relevant, engaging, and useful learning experiences to all.

Expand and standardize learning experiences beyond the classroom

A number of high schools across Atlantic Canada offer co-operative (“co-op”) education programs. Students enrolled in these courses complete a placement with the partner employer of their choice over a set time period, often for academic credit. This immersive learning experience can benefit students with a variety of academic, career, and personal goals. For example, the hands-on approach of a co-op placement can help to engage tactile learners. Co-op can also enable students to “test drive” a prospective career and afford students learning opportunities virtually impossible to access in a classroom setting—whether one seeks to work in the trades, health services, policing, or another field entirely. Co-op also provides students with advantages are pertinent to Atlantic Canada schools’ mission to prepare students to enter the labour force. That is, co-op entails firsthand experience in the workplace before graduation as well as valuable skills like resume- and cover letter-writing, interview techniques, and goal-setting. Nonetheless, co-op curricula and placement offerings can vary from province to province, or even from school to school. Therefore, educational jurisdictions in Atlantic Canada should expand co-op programs to more schools and seek out partnerships in a greater variety of professional fields, particularly when it comes to smaller or more isolated schools. They should also establish common inter-provincial and inter-scholastic standards regarding co-op learning outcomes, grading, and training before, during, and after placements. (Nova Scotia’s Options and Opportunities (O2) program provides one compelling model for a region-wide co-op program.) By doing so, schools can deliver a learning experience tailored to students’ needs and ambitions, in the context of Atlantic Canada’s labour market, while simultaneously providing a uniform, transferable qualification to those who complete the program.

Pursue tuition support programs

In the words of AIMS Schoolhouse Consulting Director Dr. Paul Bennett, the Nova Scotia Tuition Support Program (TSP) affords some students with learning challenges “a vitally important educational lifeline.” The TSP provides students who cannot be served by their local public schools with the financial means to attend specialized schools. The TSP is a prime example of how education systems can grant students individualized learning experiences while ensuring that these experiences remain accessible to all. In a recent AIMS report, Dr. Bennett wrote that since its establishment in 2004 the TSP has enjoyed substantial success in meeting recipient students’ personal and academic needs. For provinces which lack similar tuition support programs, such as New Brunswick, the TSP could prove transferable. According to Dr. Bennett, a New Brunswick TSP could, if adopted, prove advantageous for the province’s 1 000 children who could benefit from specialized schools like Moncton’s Riverbend Community School.

Utilize inquiry-based learning

The term inquiry-based learning (ILB) may, initially, prompt skepticism, particularly in the wake of failed “educational fads.” ILB, however, stems from a substantial body of academic theory and empirical research. While the concept has a number of variations, inquiry-based learning is essentially a teaching method where an educator uses students’ initial questions, ideas, and observations about the subject at hand to structure the learning process, guiding students through problem-solving, debate, evidence-gathering, and, eventually, learning something new. Although putting ILB into practice is not without its challenges, the process nonetheless serves to sustain a balance between a personalized approach to education and a standardized one. Specifically, ILB enables students to delve more deeply into aspects of the curriculum which interest them or to focus on elements which they find confusing, while teaching all students valuable research and critical-thinking skills (capabilities which are especially important in the information age). ILB has been adapted to suit a variety of age groups and school subjects in classrooms around the world. Indeed, ILB was recently implemented in Ontario’s kindergarten classrooms.

Offer programs with international recognition

Finally, specialized programs with international standards allow students to pursue niche interests or meet their individual academic needs, while also earning a widely recognized qualification. Examples include the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) programs, offered at multiple schools in each of the Atlantic provinces. These programs deliver rigorous, internationally recognized curricula. The IB’s high school-level diploma program even affords graduating students academic credits at multiple universities around the world. Students seeking an academic challenges could also look to the Advanced Placement (AP) courses offered at some Atlantic Canada high schools. On a smaller scale, language tests like the French DELF/DALF provide a common measure of achievement. Therefore, Atlantic Canada schools should look to expanding their existing offerings of such programs, or even look into additional globally recognized programs with their own unique course content and benefits, like the International General Certificate of Education (IGCSE) for 14 to 16 year-olds.

Ultimately, grappling with the questions and debates which surround Atlantic Canada’s K-12 schools requires a close look at the tensions within K-12 education itself. The aforementioned measures, models, and examples from the region—and beyond—provide ample ways for policymakers, educators, and parents to move forward.

Premier Ford must stay the course

By Henry Gray (AIMS On Campus Student Fellow)

Doug Ford was recently sworn in as the new Premier of Ontario, ending 15 years of uninterrupted Liberal rule in Canada’s most populous province. The PC leader rode a wave of change into Queen’s Park, promising to shake up business as usual.

You might be asking yourself “what business?” if you subscribe to the belief that as a populist candidate his biggest concern is returning Ontario to the glory of ‘Buck-a-Beer’. However, his leadership leaves a little more to the imagination than cheap suds.

It appears that Mr. Ford will have his work cut out for him. Long considered Canada’s economic engine, Ontario became a “have not” province in 2014 under Kathleen Wynne. In 2015, it assumed the ignominious title of the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign and saw its credit rating downgraded to AA- by Fitch Ratings, its lowest level ever. Public sector unions and other special interests have ridden roughshod over the political process, and public trust has been eroded by sweetheart deals for government insiders such as electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. Under the Liberal government, Ontario began subsidizing zero-emissions vehicles. Studies have found that offering rebates on the purchase of electric cars are simultaneously one of the most expensive and least effective ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Wynne government also drew criticism when it announced that it was removing a provision that had previously prevented Tesla owners from receiving the maximum rebate of $14,000 around the same time that a senior Liberal staffer was hired by Tesla.

The incoming premier has laid out an encouragingly ambitious plan to restore Ontario’s fiscal health. Indeed, a precedent was set when the Ford government froze pay raises for public sector managers mere hours after taking office, leaving no room for public hesitation on the government’s plans to make good on its election promise of finding $6 billion worth of efficiencies in government spending without firing anyone. Moreover, Premier Ford is vowing to follow through on another platform plank by scrapping Ontario’s cap and trade system, which increases the price of gasoline by 4.3 cents per litre. The elimination of the centrepiece of Premier Wynne’s environmental legacy will facilitate Premier Ford’s achievement of his stated goal of a 10 cent reduction in the price of gasoline. The costs of the carbon tax are also passed on to already burdened families in the form of higher hydro bills, as well as goods and services that produce emissions. Eliminating the carbon tax will stimulate Ontario’s economy in addition to letting Ontario families keep more of what they earn.

Finally, Doug Ford will also go a long way towards returning Ontario to “have” status by following through on his famous “buck-a-beer” pledge. During the election campaign, Mr. Ford promised to reverse the Liberal government decision, made in 2008, to increase the minimum price floor for beer. The PCs also committed to expanding the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, a convenience the residents of neighbouring Quebec have enjoyed for years. These measures would encourage price competition, which will be beneficial both to consumers and to producers.

Doug Ford has already meaningfully shaken up the status quo in Ontario but creating a better Ontario will require a concerted and focused effort over many years. The PC government can expect to face numerous hurdles and distractions over the next four years. Mr. Ford must not allow himself to be distracted by a hostile press or led astray by self-serving lobbyists or ingratiating special interests. There are many good things to be said about the plan that Premier Ford presented to the people of Ontario and which won him his mandate. However, the key to the success of Mr. Ford’s effort to restore Ontario’s prosperity will be staying the course.