Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quebec Protectionism

One of the best lines I ever heard when interviewing folks was when I interviewed an Hungarian general.  He said: "Everyone is a nationalist after a few drinks."

Well, the relevance of this is that in an election, especially in a place like Quebec, everyone is an economic nationalists.  The parties are competing to be the best ones to prevent outsiders (Americans!) from taking over companies based in Quebec.  This was inspired, this time, by Lowe's trying to take over Rona, one of the major hardware store chains.  The really funny thing is that Charest is also promising to set aside $$ to help Quebec companies invest abroad.  Yep, no golden rule here.  I guess Charest never read Keohane's stuff on reciprocity.  Of course, he shouldn't.  Reciprocity does not play in an election, but it does tend to make one look just a bit silly.

Of course, this is really just another serving of distraction sauce.  The key issues of today are the usual, basic ones: good governance, jobs, health care, education.  But the Liberals cannot talk about good governance.  The PQ cannot either, since that is the CAQ's big issue, plus the PQ's record on caring about good governance is lousy.  Economic nationalism does sound like protecting jobs, but generally does not help much, especially if one is expecting foreign markets to respond to Quebec protectionism with open arms to their businesses.  Health care?  Good luck with that.  And education right now is covered in other distraction sauce--the student protests.

Anyhow, the point here is that running against Lowe's makes sense for all of the parties, but is not going to mean much down the road.

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