As Chuck Schumer’s popularity continues to fall — particularly in economically depressed communities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica — the Senate Minority Leader keeps refusing to involve himself in the ongoing renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement being conducted in Montreal.
Rust Belt activists, who are responsible for swinging the presidency to Donald Trump, are calling for an end to the trade agreement and a return to a bilateral, reciprocal relationship between Canada and the United States. Unfair trade practices, they argue, have exacerbated the economic collapse of legacy cities like Buffalo, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cleveland.
Following Schumer’s willingness last month to shut down the federal government, Rust Belt activists are livid. That the undocumented community holds such a preferred perch in the Democratic Party’s pecking order is a slight that hardly goes unnoticed in this working class, underemployed, economically stagnant region.
Now, they want Schumer to shut down the government in order to pressure Canadian trade representatives to open Canadian markets to American companies on an equal basis — and in particular, to end the Canadian banking monopoly. Such a posture could help Democrats rebrand themselves in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — states that Trump won, and where Democrats in the Senate face reelection this year.
In Canada commercial banks are considered ‘federal works,’ meaning they are charted extensions of Canada’s federal government. Five commercially branded banks dominate the Nation: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC); Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank); Bank of Montreal (BMO); Scotia Bank; and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).
“American commercial banks should have the right to enter the Canadian market at par with any Canadian banking institution; just as Royal Bank of Canada and others are aggressively and unapologetically entering the American market,” explains Matthew Ricchiazzi, a Buffalo area publisher and political operative.
“At the same time that Royal Bank of Canada is aggressively and unapologetically entering the American market, American banks — like Buffalo based M&T Bank — are unable to expand into Canada,” he explains.
In New York City, where Wall Street bankers have profited mightily on NAFTA and similar trade agreements, the issue of foreign trade doesn’t come with the intense toxicity and repulsion that is provoked in voters upstate.
But activists wonder whether Schumer — who once served on the Senate Banking Committee — understands how opening the Canadian market will help New York’s financial industry as well as upstate manufacturers.
“If Schumer doesn’t stand up on NAFTA, he loses four Senate seats — perhaps even a fifth in Missouri, where St. Louis sees itself as part of the Rust Belt, too,” he says. “I like Claire a lot, but she’s not going to get a free pass on this, either. It’s as simple as that.”
Senator Bob Casey (PA), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Sherod Brown (OH), and Claire McCaskill (MO) all face uncertain reelection prospects later this year. For his part, Ricchiazzi is pledging to ‘flood’ those states with journalism that is supportive of the working class, as he did during the past presidential election.