Odd Thoughts: Expertise determined by lottery

I’m not an economist.

I’m not an expert in international trade relations.

Maybe the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) signed between the governments of Canada and China is a good deal.

Or maybe it’s a bad deal.

I have neither formal education nor experiential background that I could add to the debate about the value of the deal.

What bothers me is that the debate is taking place after the deal has been signed.

Nobody gave me the benefit of the doubt that I might have something to contribute to a trade deal between Canada and a country that constitutes one of the largest economies in the world.

There are lots of people in this country without formally acknowledged understanding – people like myself, but with a different range of personal interests – who would have liked to have participated in the decision-making process.

And many of them might have been able to contribute valuable thoughts.

Of course, tapping into that kind of general knowledge base is a radical concept that – once upon a time in a land far, far away – used to be called “democracy.”

I understand, however, that international politics is not a wiki-world proposition – although politicians often like to invoke that spectre of democracy and give the impression that we all have input and each of us is an invaluable part of the overall public policy-making machinery that guides their decisions.

When it suits their purpose.

So personally, I’d be perfectly content to leave complex evaluations of such things as trade deals and international negotiations to the experts who have the certified training and experience to understand them.

Too little value is placed on expert understanding these days.

Except, that is, the experts weren’t given the opportunity to provide input into the trade deal, either, not unless they came to the table with the “right” answers (and the right political orientation) from the get-go.

Climate change… environment… social economics… arctic sovereignty… trade deals…

Experts need not apply for consultation privileges… unless they have only the “right” answers to offer.

Besides, what about just letting people know what’s going on?

How is it that we are only allowed to get on the China FIPA bus after the engine is in full running mode and the wheels are turning?

I get the impression that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has his own special coterie of experts on democracy, too.

Then there’s the flip side of the anti-expert movement: Justin Trudeau’s policy lottery.

Forget about earning your place at the table by developing an area of expertise – Justin isn’t interested, because like Stevie, he doesn’t really need you, he already has his crack troop of policy wonks filled with pre-approved party policies.

For only three dollars, however, you can literally win a chance to bend the ear of the federal Liberals’ prime ministerial hopeful with your favourite policy concept.

And you meet Hillary Clinton… who is not running for president… or not not running… or… whatever. At least there seems to be an acknowledgement in the Liberal Party that visiting with a U.S. presidential hopeful is of more consequence than sharing policy thoughts with a potential prime minister.

Hey! Maybe next time we need a trade deal, we could just draw names from a hat!

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