From the Editor: The Saudi arms deal

The Saudi arms deal—it’s much more complicated than that

Nat Mussell / The Runner

Along with financial and media literacy, I’m inclined to believe that international politics should be taught in high schools, especially when looking at the reactions to the Saudi-Canadian arms deal.

It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia has a horrible human rights record, ranging from not allowing women to drive, to executing one of their own citizens for being an atheist. There’s also the strong possibility that they fund ISIS, but that’s not what this editorial is about.

The $15-billion arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the Canadian defense contractor General Dynamics will continue despite objections, and there are several reasons why. The Canadian economy is in bad shape, as anyone who went to America over the holidays should be able to tell you. Our dollar is so weak that even if you stay in the country and don’t shop online from the U.S., things will still get more expensive because of all the stuff we import. If you’re a skilled labourer in the Canadian arms industry, you probably put a higher value on getting food on your kids’ plates than whatever’s happening on the other side of the world.

As any NDP supporter will tell you, manufacturing jobs are scarce in Canada. Holding onto what few we have left is getting more and more difficult.

There’s another method we use to supply money to the House of Saud, and that’s oil, and you can blame Canadian pipeline opposition. Refineries, which hire plenty of blue collar workers, don’t process much, if any, Canadian oil out in the east. Refineries in eastern Canada refine Saudi oil which we import. We ought to be refining our own oil, but opposition to pipelines has prevented them from getting built out from Alberta.

Of course, the concern with pipelines in Canada is the fact that they leak, and sometimes in spectacular fashion. The Nexen oil spill last year in Alberta dribbled crude over 16,000 square metres of land. There’s also the fact that many of these lines go through aboriginal territory. Even then, anyone who lives in a fracking area will tell you all about the earthquakes and toxic tap water.

Now, pipelines are bad, but trains are worse, as the explosion at Lac Megantic is still fresh in the minds of many Quebecois.

Countries like Saudi Arabia don’t mind Canada opposing the construction of pipelines in their own country. Our resource-based economy is dependant on natural resources, and that includes oil. Saudi Arabia can extract oil for almost nothing, while Canadian oil is in awkward ground that then needs to be pushed through pipelines in order to get to market. We also need to pay our workers properly and treat them like human beings. You’d think that higher oil prices would be enjoyed by Saudi Arabia, but it increases market competition from Canada, the U.S., and other places that need to frack.

After all, If you live a somewhat comfortable life in this country, there is likely some degree of conflict or cruelty in everything you buy. Someone in China worked miserable hours to get you your iPhone. The car or bus you used to get to school put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Your H&M t-shirt was probably sewn by a child in Bangladesh who was paid $0.02 for their time and labour. Unless you live in Oslo, drive a Tesla and wear vegan Italian shoes, either a human or the environment had to suffer to make your life more livable.


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