Thursday, November 04, 2010

Potash aftermath

I haven't blogged anything to date about the Potash takeover mostly out of a sense that this is primarily a Saskatchewan issue and there are many bloggers out there who have been doing a great job writing about it. Thought I'd just throw a few thoughts out there into the mix, now that the big "no" decision has come down.

If you look at the polls on the prospect of this takeover, from late summer through the fall, they've been pretty consistent in showing strong opposition to this deal. Here was one from August 27th showing 55% opposed in Saskatchewan. Then in mid-October, there was still that 55% level of opposition. Then just two days ago, another poll showing 62% in Manitoba & Saskatchewan opposing, 48% in B.C. opposing and further:
While many Canadians are not following the situation in Saskatchewan, those who express their views are siding with the position of the Premier of Saskatchewan. It is important to note that respondents in every region are more likely to urge the federal government to block the proposed takeover than to allow it to go through. British Columbians favour blocking the proposed takeover by a 17-to-1 margin.
I think it's fair to say, based on such polls, even though people didn't fully get the corporate intricacies and that Potash was a foreign owned company, as the Prime Minister and others told us, they had an innate sense of what they wanted the outcome to be here. Whether saying no to the takeover was driven by economic insecurities, fear of what it would mean for the province, pride of ownership in a natural resource, what have you, the public response was pretty clear. It may have to do with a mood that Glen Pearson wrote about on his blog yesterday that seems to fit in well with the Potash public reaction:
A perfect storm has descended upon Canada where we are a fabulously wealthy country, but less and less of the gain has been distributed throughout the middle and lower classes. This is much of what drove the anger in these past civic elections. Canadians know something is wrong, yet they are continually told to be content with less at the same time others are making a risky fortune. To a large degree, average citizens don’t cause times of economic upheaval; an overreaching financial sector does, and yet repeatedly Canadians are asked to pay the price for market gambling.
Maybe Potash represented another one of those uncertain market gambles that people have just had enough of, particularly in view of the recession we've been through and its causes.

Yes, there was a weighing in of high profile business leaders in the past few days, also opposed, but ultimately, if the poll numbers weren't showing the possible political fallout, we might have seen a different decision.

So what might we speculate that it all means? For those supporting a more economically nationalist industrial policy, one that doesn't shy away from protecting Canadian champions, it could be a sign that the Canadian public is willing to buy in if you boldly make the case. Granted, this was a company where the case was easier to make, given its stature, because we didn't see sentiment to the same extent with Nortel, perhaps due to that company's history. It is interesting, though, that last poll cited above, showing that respondents "in every region" were more likely to urge the federal government to block the takeover here. There might be something afoot, maybe to do with this historic recession.

And it sure looks like we proved once again that we're just not as conservative a country as this government would like. The conservative "principles" of this government ran smack dab into a popular wall, pardon the double pun. Any day that is reinforced is a good day.