Conventional wisdom holds that NAFTA has been good for Canada. That's pretty much the only story corporate media have room for - although the Globe and Mail used to give Unifor economist Jim Stanford a token column once in awhile to sow seeds of doubt - in the interest of journalistic fairness I suppose. But the over-riding theme, always, is that NAFTA has been a rip-roaring success.
Every now and then, though, the gate-keepers of the "news" get sloppy and a bit of truth slips out. Canadian Press had a story last week about Canadian auto-parts plants in Mexico. Writer Alexander Panetta informs us that "Canadian auto-parts companies have over 120 plants and 43,000 employees in Mexico..." That's up from a small handful of plants and a few hundred employees pre-NAFTA.
Panetta introduces us to Nataly Jacobo. She works eight hour shifts six days a week in one of those Canadian plants for a weekly pay of $61. Those hours would pay a minimum wage worker in Canada over $500 per week.
Geez!... you don't imagine that's why Canadian auto-parts manufacturers operate in Mexico, do you?
Of course it is! That was beyond obvious to the typical factory hand even when Lyin' Brian Mulroney was singing the praises of the original Free Trade Agreement back in the eighties.
"Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!.." the old swindler promised.
A recent trend that's been gathering steam in the last couple of years is to blame the gutting of Ontario's industrial economy on automation. That's becoming truer every day, but it certainly wasn't true twenty or thirty years ago when the real damage to our industrial working class was being done.
So a little rough math tells me that our Canadian auto-parts makers are saving about twenty thousand dollars a year for every job they put in Mexico as opposed to having that job in Canada. Times that by 43,000, and we're talking serious money. Obviously, some Canadians have done well under NAFTA... the ones who own those companies!
The rest of us got screwed.