Mulcair talks about ‘Dutch disease’: is he crazy or crazy like a fox?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

There's got to be some people out there who think NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is crazy for bringing up the concept of "Dutch Disease."

After all, there's probably not another issue in Canada, right now, that evokes more animosity between east and west. But is Mulcair crazy or is he crazy like a fox?

Dutch Disease is said to exist when an economy's manufacturing sector suffers a dramatic reversal after an oil-price boom boosts the value of its currency, something the Dutch experienced in the 1970s.

On CBC Radio's 'The House' Mulcair said the high loonie was hurting the economies in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

"The Canadian dollar is being held artificially high, which is fine if you're going to Walt Disney World, (but) not so good if you want to sell your manufactured product because the American clients, most of the time, can no longer afford to buy it," he said on Saturday.

"We've hollowed out the manufacturing sector. In six years since the Conservatives have arrived, we've lost 500,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs."

Dutch disease has become a hot potato issue. Not only do academics disagree on whether it even exists in our country, it's an issue that pits the west's interests against the east's.

Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen, who was also on "The House," said Mulcair was being divisive in his treatment of the oilsands.

"[It's] old-style politics, trying to pit one part of the country against another," she said according to the Financial Post.

"It really is disheartening to see such divisive comments coming from a federal leader, and I'd certainly invite the honourable leader to come out and meet with us. I'm not sure that he's done that. I'm not sure if he's actually visited the oilsands."

Nevertheless, by bringing it up, Mulcair can only win.

According to blogger Far and Wide, this was "a shrewd gambit."

"Mulcair has intentionally singled out three provinces with his message, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, arguing that our artificially high dollar greatly harms the manufacturing sector," the blogger wrote, adding that the NDP have no chance of gaining seats in Alberta anyways.

"Of note, those three provinces ALONE count for 209 seats with the new distribution next election, the one that supposedly moves power west. It is quite reasonable [that] Mulcair could well sweep Quebec in the next election, this "dutch disease" message will resonate all day long in a province with little sympathy for the "oil patch."

Divisive, wedge politics?

Isn't that what the NDP were railing against?