Geo-strategic significance of the Atlantica Project
Commentary by GARY ZATZMAN and TONY SEED
HALIFAX (15 June 2007) - THE Atlantica project is a new and aggressive variant of old annexationist schemes to integrate the Canadian Maritimes with New England in the service of the biggest monopolies. The right of these monopolies is being challenged and must be defeated. As part of this challenge to monopoly right, Canadian working people must establish considerations for their own all-sided, self-reliant and socialized economy that serves the needs of the people and their society and supports the same in the US, Mexico and the rest of the world.
The current form of the Atlantica project is to form an economic federation of the four Atlantic provinces in some never-precisely-defined kind of association with the governments of Quebec, the New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Masssachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut), and the State of New York. The size of the envisioned market area encompasses almost 60 million people.
Its geo-strategic significance in North America is its linking up of the upper St. Lawrence valley, the eastern Great Lakes, the Gulf of St. Lawrence along with the ports of New York and Boston commanding the northeastern-most reaches of the US Atlantic seaboard and the ice-free container ports of Halifax, NS and Saint John, NB.
Also envisioned are additional gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas receiving facilities and new highways to be specially upgraded to handle heavy truck traffic between the Atlantic ports and ports on Lakes Ontario and Erie. A Halifax-Moncton Corridor concept to concentrate "development" between these two cities and the "Atlantic Gateway" concept to capture an increasing share of Asian trade with North America are also integral to this scheme.
To this end, the elites imposing the Atlantica project require ideological and political positions that justify and put in place arrangements which
* harmonize and unify federal-provincial regulations with the US; privatize public infrastructure and services;
* integrate policy making with the US;
* expand NAFTA; erase the Canadian-US border;
* integrate military and immigration policy;
* build a highway from St. Stephen, NB, to Cornwall, NY on the St. Lawrence River (or, alternatively to Buffalo, NY on the Great Lakes);
* lower the minimum wage and "union density," an attack on the workers' defence organizations which, as matters presently stand, comprise only a small percentage of the work force (and the lowest in Canada); and
* denigrate environmental standards, etc.
For its part, the Bush administration has already approved funding for a new "international," i.e., border crossing, bridge linking St. Stephen and Calais, Maine. US Ambassador David Wilkins was fully briefed by the head of the Atlantic Provinces Chamber of Commerce and a couple of board members in a private meeting held in Saint John a week before the Atlantica 2006 Conference, June 7-11, 2006. Wilkins blessed the project in an interview with Progress Magazine in November, 2006 saying, "It seems to me to be very pro-business, pro-economic development." Harold D. Foster, US Consul General for Atlantic Canada, who holds a Masters Degree from the National Defense University's Industrial College of the Armed Forces, is a guest speaker at the 2007 Atlantica Conference.
The Council on Atlantica also demands a seat on the New England Governors and Atlantic Premiers Council. This Council was set up in the 1970s, mainly at the instigation of then Québec Premier Rene Levesque, New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield and a succession of governors of the State of Maine. It was the original version of regional cross-border economic federation, aimed at ensuring New England industry a supply of cheap and plentiful electricity from Québec and New Brunswick.
The updated 21st century version of Atlantica is even more deeply interested in annexing the oil and gas resources of the eastern US and Canadian Atlantic seaboards. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving facilities planned mostly for ports in Atlantic Canada and on the St Lawrence, are also intended to link to the "northeastern energy grid" of the United States.
As has been pointed out by the Council of Canadians and some US opponents of these schemes, Atlantica's dreams for ever-increased integration of North American highway transportation infrastructure are intimately linked to the so-called NAFTA superhighway, the ten-lane corridor almost a quarter of a mile wide with gas, oil, electricity, and water pipelines running up either side, which is being proposed to link Mexico directly to Winnipeg. That is intended to backstop the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership, which is intended to underpin plans for a so-called United States of North America -- or more precisely: a United States of North American Monopolies.
This program also intersects some port development proposals.
There's the concern that the present site of the Stelco main plant in Hamilton, ON will be cratered in favour of a so-called superport, and there is the US Army Corps of Engineers' study to deepen and widen the St Lawrence Seaway, largely to enable ocean freighters to bypass the existing Port of Montréal. This program intersects schemes proposed to heighten the role of the port of Halifax in increased goods traffic between Halifax and ports in the Indian Ocean basin via the Suez Canal. The Atlantic Gateway strategy includes construction of a new container terminal at the Strait of Canso Superport. Last year, this port handled 32.8 million tonnes of cargo, second to only the. Port of Vancouver at 79.3. million tonnes.
On the energy front lie some of the nastiest plans.
In 2010, the US government will be in a position to lift the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration from Florida to Maine that has been in effect for the last several decades. This threatens the scallop fishery in the Gulf of Maine on which many fishermen's livelihoods in southwestern Nova Scotia and eastern Maine depend.
Meanwhile, construction of liquid natural gas receiving ports at Saint John, NB and Rabaska in Québec City by a conglomerate of gas monopolies which include Gaz Métro, Gaz de France and Enbridge, including additional pipeline connections to the US, are already well under way. But in the midst of growing protests by residents of southwestern new Brunswick, a dogfight has already erupted between the backers of the Saint John LNG port and a rival scheme to install such a facility just inside the State of Maine and less than half an hour from the New Brunswick border!
On this front of energy transport and marketing, the scene has been set as well for major inter-monopoly struggles, especially with the oil barons controlling pipelines between Alberta and the midwestern United States, to redivide the richest markets located in the relatively heavily-populated corridors of central Canada and the eastern US.
Ports control and domination of energy sources -- in the name of "homeland security" and "the war against terrorism" -- have also been key in the plans of the Pentagon. Greatly advanced during the Bush Administration's period in office, their aim is to fuel, as well as backstop with the required infrastructure, an entire generation of aggressive wars and military interventions around the globe. Different changes and multi-million dollar expansions of the naval-military infrastructure of the harbour of Halifax are underway. Halifax is home to Maritime Command and Canada's largest Naval facility -- approximately 9000 personnel -- a strategic port for the US-NATO pact.
On this side of the international boundary, the essential content of the much-ballyhooed "economic co-operation" of the Atlantica concept is a strengthening of the hand of the financial oligarchy in Canada with the added backing of the US financial oligarchs and their armed forces against the struggles of the Canadian and American working class and people in defence of their rights and to open society's path to progress.
The political content of Atlantica entails annexation of more of the political and economic space of the Canadian people by the dominant sections of the financial oligarchy.
The opposition to Atlantica is not only necessary and just from the standpoint of the economic interests of the working class and peoples of Canada, Mexico and the US but explains the urgency with which the working people and social, political and environmental activists are developing their resistance to these schemes on the basis of upholding rights and livelihood and the sovereignty of Canada. This opposition is politically crucial to the program of the workers to constitute themselves as the nation and vest sovereignty in the Canadian people.
Annexation No! Sovereignty Yes!
1. In 2000, the Halterm container operation, recently taken over by US interests with minority government participation, invested $23,500,000 in two cranes, five yard tractors, two rubber-tired gantry cranes; and pier improvements required to support the massive lifting equipment. The specialized giant cargo cranes purchased in China (reaching to a height of about 108 metres (355 feet) -- about the height of a 38-storey building), are designed to speed loading and unloading of cargo from a new generation of vessels classed as "post-Panamax" (i.e., drawing too great a depth of water and too wide to traverse the existing system of locks in the Panama Canal). The second major US-owned Ceres container terminal on Halifax's Bedford Basin also unloaded such a crane this very week.
2. The Association to Combat Atmospheric Pollution (AQLPA), which opposes the construction of the Rabaska liquid natural gas port in Quebec City, and the Etchemin River Restoration Committee (CRRE), is the target of a $5 million SLAPP. SLAPPs are defined as: "...suits without substantial merit that are brought by private interests to stop citizens from exercising their political rights or to punish them for having done so. SLAPP suits function by forcing the target into the judicial arena where the SLAPP filer foists upon the target the expenses of a defence."
For more information on Rabaska, see: "The Rabaska problematic issue" and "Contested Rabaska project: an overview," TML Daily, December 19, 2006 - No. 100, http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2006/D36199.htm; "Quebeckers Defend the Right to Conscience Against Organized Harassment and Intimidation by Big Business Interests," TML Daily, December 5, 2006 - No. 190, http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2006/D36190.htm; "No to Construction of Liquid Natural Gas Port in Lévis!" Serge Patenaude, TML Daily, November 8, 2005 - No. 182 http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2005/D35182.htm.
3. In addition to growing protests against the Rabaska LNG terminal project near Quebec City, residents of southwestern New Brunswick are independently demanding the Canadian government intervene to prevent construction of an LNG terminal at the US end of what is known as Head Harbour Passage.
The Passage, the only safe and internationally approved channel for commercial shipping to reach ports on the US side of Passamaquoddy Bay, lies entirely inside Canadian waters. If the project is completed and Canada was to intervene with the flow of vessels into and out of the LNG terminal, the operators of the facility would have a case under Chapter 11 of NAFTA to seek compensation from a NAFTA tribunal, an unelected corporation-approved panel operating beyond the jurisdiction of any court in the US or Canada. Supporters of this movement of public opposition are demanding intervention to prevent this kind of de facto annexation and to avert the catastrophic potential such development holds out both for the natural and social-economic environment of the coastal waters -- site of both a rich aquaculture industry and a developing ecotourism market -- as well as for the physical safety of those residing in the vicinity of such facilities.
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