Dear Marni Soupcoff: go soak your head

Published on January 20, 2016
Peter Jackson

“There is a dependence in the region that breeds a culture of defeatism.”
— Stephen Harper, May 2002, on Atlantic Canada

Stephen Harper, then Opposition leader, got off on the wrong foot with Atlantic Canadians when he made that famous utterance.

Well, say hello to Marni Soupcoff. She wants to pick up the thread where Harper left off.

On Monday, Soupcoff had a commentary in the National Post peddling the same, tired stereotypes about Atlantic Coasters.

It was in response to an article by former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, who extolled the benefits of bringing more immigrants and refugees to the region, even floating the dubious idea of a limited mandatory residency.

Soupcoff doesn’t think it’s fair to inflict Atlantic Canada on newcomers.

Yes, she says, an influx of able-bodied residents would go a long way towards “reversing its disturbing economic and demographic trends.”

But, she says, “it should go without saying that even the strongest entrepreneurial spirit will be crushed by economic protectionism and excessive regulation.”

Oh, the humanity! How do businesses survive here at all under the jackboot of big government?

So, does Ms. Soupcoff offer a soupçon of evidence for her opinion?

“(New Brunswick) imposes strict interprovincial import limits on beer and wine to try to force its citizens to buy their alcohol in provincial stores, where prices generally run double what they are in neighbouring Quebec,” she writes.

What she fails to point out is that booze is dramatically lower in price in Quebec than everywhere else in Canada.

As for strict liquor laws, perhaps Soupcoff missed a piece in The Globe and Mail last month by the head of Restaurants Canada. Donna Dooher found restrictive liquor laws all over the country, not just Atlantic Canada.

“(In) the convoluted world of liquor regulations, business owners are charged the same as consumers when they buy alcohol in seven provinces, regardless of the amount they buy. And in one province — Ontario — bar and restaurant owners are charged more than consumers.”

I guess you wouldn’t want to be an immigrant opening a restaurant in Toronto.

Atlantic leaders, Soupcoff preaches, “have to clear away the significant regulatory obstacles to economic progress first, then they can look outside the country for people eager to take advantage.”

Where, in heaven’s name, did she get the impression Atlantic provinces don’t offer incentives to new businesses? The Newfoundland government has been doing it for decades, often to its own detriment.

This is utter hogwash, the standard mantra of right-wing think-tanks who obsess over age-old protectionist industries like the fishery, and ignore the new realities most of us have already come to face.

None of this should be a huge surprise from someone whose most recent columns suggest gun laws don’t work, and that black Americans need more police intervention, not less.

Nor is it any surprise she’s executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a registered charity that’s really just a front to push libertarian dogma.

The foundation, by the way, espouses political neutrality and honesty as its core values.

Except for this nugget at the bottom of the website: “The CCF gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by an anonymous donor towards the development of this website.”

Nothing to see here, folks. Look away.

 

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s news editor. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.