May 25, 2009

Pt 1: Buy America - Ever since the United States Government approved a 787-Billion-dollar economic stimulus package, Canadian manufacturers have been on pins and needles. That's because the package includes a clause specifying that -- wherever possible -- the money the U.S. Government hands out should be spent on American-made products. When it was first signed into law, many Canadian manufacturers panicked and said the "Buy American" policy would lead to significant financial hardship and even job losses.

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Pt 2: Oil - Well all roads lead to oil when it's cheap ... vacations are more affordable, fruit and vegetables from around the world are on our grocery shelves and all those cheap, imported electronics stay nice and cheap.

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Pt 3: Beauty vs Kitsch - We started this segment with the song A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band ... a disco re-interpretation of the first movement from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

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It's Monday, May 25th.

The Canadian Pain Society will hold its annual conference in Quebec City this week.

Currently, I'll be the keynote speaker ... again.

This is The Current.

Buy America - Cdn Manufacturer

Ever since the United States Government approved a 787-Billion-dollar economic stimulus package, Canadian manufacturers have been on pins and needles. That's because the package includes a clause specifying that -- wherever possible -- the money the U.S. Government hands out should be spent on American-made products. When it was first signed into law, many Canadian manufacturers panicked and said the "Buy American" policy would lead to significant financial hardship and even job losses.

When President Barack Obama visited Ottawa in February, he tried to ease those concerns. But in the three months since President Obama made that assertion, an increasingly long line of Canadian companies have been coming forward with complaints that they say they have either lost, not had renewed, seen them jeopardized or been refused the right to bid on ... all because of the "Buy American" provision that wasn't supposed to affect them.

John Hayward is among them. He's the President of Hayward Gordon, a medium-sized manufacturing company based in the Halton Hills region northwest of Toronto. He says his company has lost so much work over the last few months that he may have to move the company out of Canada. The Current's Sandra Ferrari went to see him.

He isn't the only Canadian company losing out on American contracts. Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters -- an industry association -- says there are seven bills before Congress with protectionist provisions. And it has identified about 250 companies that are threatened by just one of those -- the Water Quality Investment Act.

Trade War - Canadian Municipality

The Canadian government has also expressed concern about the fallout from the Buy American clause. After a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington last week, the Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement noted that provisions such as this seem to be proliferating. But he also added that he believes the Obama Administration is "our ally on this," and that "they understand the need to combat protectionism."

But Rick Bonnette isn't waiting around to see if that happens. He's the Mayor of Halton Hills, Ontario. He is spearheading a made-in-Canada response to the Buy American clause and he was in Toronto.

Buy America: US Mayor

Jim Walker is the Mayor of Peru, Indiana ... a small city of about 13,000 people north of Indianapolis. He's been pulled into this debate because John Hayward's company possible contract with Peru's utility company is in jeopardy.

Now Jim Walker, the mayor of Peru has been targeted by angry Canadians, some of whom accuse him of helping create a trade war between Canada and the United States. Mayor Jim Walker was in Peru, Indiana.

Oil - Jeff Rubin

Well all roads lead to oil when it's cheap ... vacations are more affordable, fruit and vegetables from around the world are on our grocery shelves and all those cheap, imported electronics stay nice and cheap.

Of course the reverse is also true. When the price of oil is high, bad things happen including recessions. And according to Jeff Rubin, that's something we're just going to have to get used to because cheap oil is a thing of the past.

Jeff Rubin is the former Chief Economist for CIBC World Markets. He's just written a book called Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and The End of Globalization. And Jeff Rubin was in Toronto.

Beauty vs Kitsch - Scruton

We started this segment with the song A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band ... a disco re-interpretation of the first movement from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

To some, it's a desecration of one of the world's great classical masterpieces. To others, it is a glorious work of art in its own right ... the musical equivalent of a velvet Elvis painting. And that is where British philosopher Roger Scruton thinks we've all gone terribly, terribly wrong. He's the author of a book called Beauty, and he was in Washington.

Urban Empire - Kitsch Store

Now if kitsch is indeed an epidemic, you might think of Vancouver's Urban Empire as one of its epicentres ... a retail outlet that proudly celebrates all that is playful and tacky. We aired a clip of the owner, Patricia Salmond speaking about her kitsch store.

Beauty vs Kitsch - Kiger

And she's not alone in defending the value of kitsch. Patrick J. Kiger is the co-author of Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions and Lore That Shaped America. He was in Washington.

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