Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 07, 2008

Obama Issue: Canada's Ultra Secret American Playbook

Did Canada interfere in the US Presidential Election? Has the Obama issue now raised itself to the highest political office in Canada?

CTV news reported:
  • "opposition MPs hounded the government over the reports of the apparent involvement of Ian Brodie -- the prime minister's chief of staff -- in the so-called NAFTA-gate affair."

At least Canada has made the American news media, other than for hockey, even if for only a day or two. Just wait until I show you how Windsor fits into all of this, believe it or not!

The issue arose over whether the US presidential candidates on the Democratic side really support renegotiating NAFTA or whether what they have said in the US is nothing more than a political game to get votes in certain states, especially Ohio, during the primaries.

In particular, the stories about Barack Obama seemed to be out there in order to stop the momentum that he has gathered over the last few weeks in winning a number of primaries.

The Toronto Star reported that

  • " David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, signalled Washington's quiet displeasure at the controversy.

    "I guess you could say it shouldn't have happened. It was interference. "

Check out the New York Times article to read more about this brouhaha

As Forbes Magazine online wrote, this matter is crucial to Canada:

  • "That charge led Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take the unusual step of denying that Canada was trying to stir up trouble in the election process of its powerful southern neighbor.

    "I certainly deny any allegation that this government has attempted to interfere in the American election," he told the country's parliament.

    Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States and would be badly hurt if Washington pulled out of NAFTA."

To be direct, normally I would have little interest in this issue since it appears to be nothing more than a political tempest in a teapot. However there was a key section in the Times' story that fascinated me:

  • "He added that the Canadians had reached out to Professor Goolsbee and that he met them as a “courtesy.”

    “At some point,” he added, “they started talking about trade and Nafta, and the Canadian Embassy confirmed that he said exactly what I have been saying on the campaign trail.” Campaign officials said Professor Goolsbee went to the consulate as a professor, not as an adviser to Mr. Obama and that other campaign officials did not know about the meeting when it was held.

    In a statement, the Canadian Embassy in Washington suggested that the consulate had sought out Professor Goolsbee specifically because of his ties to Mr. Obama’s campaign.

    “The Canadian Embassy and our consulates general,” the statement said, “regularly contact those involved in all of the presidential campaigns and, periodically, report on these contacts to interested officials."

I'm afraid that this has let the cat out of the bag. It has revealed a big secret of Canadian foreign policy to our detriment in my opinion. The Canadian Embassy has made a huge mistake that will cost us dearly once the American media get ahold of the real story. Can you imagine Prime Minister Harper being interviewed on Inside Edition or Extra just after Britney's latest escapade.

While Canada tries to maintain good relations with United States, as do other countries for a variety of reasons including strategic and economic, I wonder if other countries have created an ultra secret playbook that sets out exactly how Canadians should deal with Americans in order to influence them on our behalf.

That top secret playbook is called:

"Advancing Canadian Interests in the United States: A Practical Guide for Canadian Public Officials."

This should not be a surprise since:

  • "Recognizing the importance of these connections, the federal government is working to further enhance stronger bilateral relations with the U.S. This includes expanding Canada’s official network in the U.S. With the opening in July 2006 of the new Canadian Consulate General in San Francisco, Canada’s network in the U.S. now includes 13 consulates general and six consulates, in addition to the Embassy in Washington."

For the conspiracy theorists who believe that there is a concerted effort to unite Canada, United States, and Mexico, these paragraphs from "A WORD FROM THE CHAIR" should cause a severe chill:

  • "What has changed more recently is the range and scale of these linkages. Virtually all federal and provincial departments now have strong ties with their US counterparts, whether by sharing information on food safety, conducting joint inspections at ports of entry, or co-leading working groups on energy matters. Indeed, the extent of this collaboration in certain sectors has blurred the division between domestic and bilateral affairs.

    By focusing on the networks of collaboration between government officials in Canada and the US, the Roundtable sought to provide guidance to Canadian public officials to make the most of these unique channels of cross-border co-operation. It aimed to highlight many of the essential practices that energize these channels, from building trust at the person-to-person level to understanding the institutional context within which US officials operate. Indeed, several lessons in this study can also be applied to Canada’s other foreign relationships."

Given the range and scale of these linkages and the networks of collaboration, it was clearly necessary to ensure that Canadian bureaucrats all travelled in the right direction. Moreover, it is from "The Canada School of Public Service [which] helps ensure that all public service employees have the knowledge and skills they need to deliver results for Canadians"

  • "While the bilateral relationship is too complex for a single government to “manage,” the role of providing some guidance to the increasing number of government and non-government players nonetheless remains. This role requires that practitioners of the relationship share information about the US and seek guidance from the main co-ordinators of Canada-US relations, such as the Privy Council Office, Foreign Affairs Canada, International Trade Canada and Canadian missions in the US, among others. An important motivation for co-ordination is to ensure as much as possible that Canadian actors speak with a single voice in their interactions with US officials."
Accordingly, just telling you what is in the Table of Contents of the playbook should demonstrate to you that the subject matter of it is huge and very extensive:
  • Executive Summary

    1. Scope, Rationale and Methodology of Study

    2. Networks of Collaboration

    3. Functional Channels of the Relationship

    4. Co-ordination of the Relationship

    5. Provinces, Territories and Intergovernmental Collaboration

    6. Understanding and Engaging the US Political System

    7. Asserting Canadian Interests

    8. Conclusion



    Appendix I: Select Bilateral Processes and Agreements

    Appendix II: Canadian and American Governance: A Comparative View

    Appendix III: Useful Web Sites


    Figure 1: Actors in the Canada-US Relationship

    Figure 2: Snapshot of the Canada-US Relationship

    Figure 3: The Formal to Informal Dimensions of Bilateral Processes

    Figure 4: Approaches to the Co-ordination of Canada-US Relations

    Figure 5: Bilateral Regional Groupings

    Figure 6: Executive Office of the President

Especially interesting are the "The 20 lessons in this study...of how practitioners can make the most out of their co-operative relationships with US officials."

Here is just one tip that is disclosed about how to beat the Americans and they will not even know it:
  • "As mentioned earlier, practitioners believe it is useful to keep non-contentious issues at the working level, avoiding conflict and resolving issues at the operational or regulatory level before they become matters of policy or high politics. It is also an effective means of avoiding the linkage of disparate issues in bilateral negotiations."
And how to diffuse Obama-type affairs:
  • "In the eternal Washington competition for access and influence, the Canadian ambassador may need to seek publicity for his or her cause. Clearly, this kind of diplomacy must be practiced with considerable finesse or else risk being accused of interfering in US domestic affairs."
Of course, there is more to this story than what I have set out already. Notice that the Chair of the group that is responsible for this playbook is Louis Ranger, Deputy Minister of Transport Canada. Yes, that Mr. Ranger whom I have mentioned before.

Did you notice how quickly the Canadian Embassy came out with a press release to try to put the Obama story to bed before people start asking questions. Remember, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States is Michael Wilson and for a time he was involved with the border matter until he disappeared as quickly as he entered the fray. The Canadian Embassy tried very hard to downplay everything didn't they. The reason for this has nothing to do with the Presidential election. It has everything to do with the economic future of Canada. And Mr. Ranger is right smack in the middle of that too.

As you will recall, Transport Canada under Mr. Ranger issued a position paper on "Canada's NATIONAL POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR STRATEGIC GATEWAYS AND TRADE CORRIDORS." As I wrote about this before:
  • "The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association states that...We must put in place the infrastructure and logistics systems that will enable Canada to become the logistics hub of North America — the preferred point of entry and exit for trade."

This Report has to be the culmination of Mr. Ranger's career. It is that important to Canada's future. Unlike many other bureaucrats, his career has been primarily within Transport Canada so it would be a fitting legacy for him.

Obviously, the threat to NAFTA is a huge concern to Canada since our economy would be put in jeopardy and a huge concern to Transport Canada since their raison d'être revolves around trade and infrastructure. It is no wonder then that "that the consulate had sought out Professor Goolsbee specifically because of his ties to Mr. Obama’s campaign." They had to make sure that Obama was still onside.

If you think the story ends there, wrong again. Guess who else is in the group with Mr. Ranger. The group is multi-Departmental from the Canadian Government. But there is also one other person on there who intrigues me: Right Hon. Herb Gray, International Joint Commission. Yes, Windsor's own Herb!

Do you see where I am going with this? In my opinion as I have said before there is an overriding agenda on the border file that probably has to do with economics and trade and the desire of Canada to maintain its access to the US market. Fundamental to this is controlling corridors and gateways into the United States as well as to and from Asia and Europe.

Which Gateway is the most important gateway into the United States, the Gateway over which most of our trade goes into the United States... the Ambassador Bridge. Who was involved in the FIRA fight with the Bridge Co. years ago? Who in my opinion is deeply involved against the Bridge Co. now? Interesting that they are both on the same Committee that deals with Canada/US relationships.

I read this interesting statement on the Internet:

  • "The significance of the Central Cartage case appears to extend far beyond ownership of the Ambassador Bridge. The decision was the agency's first under Canada's new Liberal administration and FIRA's new chief, Herb Gray. Gray, whose 1972 report on multinationals in Canada prompted the creation of the agency, is a long-time critic of foreign corporate activity in the country.

    U.S. government officials speculate that the decision may be the first step in Gray's campaign to broaden the jurisdiction of FIRA.

    At present, FIRA's jurisdiction is limited strictly to reviewing applications for new investments in Canada. Gray is looking to make the agency an oversight body as well, with the power to review multinational operations after corporations establish Canadian facilities. Such a move would have dramatic implications for foreign investors-each year, multinationals reinvest $6 , billion in Canada, and if Gray's ' proposals are adopted, these investments would fall under FIRA's scrutiny.

    All signs indicate Gray may very well succeed. In the Liberal Party's opening address to parliament on April 13, the Trudeau administration vowed to extend the powers of FIRA to include the oversight provision. If FIRA does begin extracting more favorable terms from foreign corporations, the credit will be Gray's. According to Marc Lortie, spokesman for Canada's Embassy to the U.S., "Herb Gray is the prime mover behind all these policies."

There is a lot of Bill C-3 in those few paragraphs concerning FIRA isn't there, especially over "oversight," managing operations and foreign ownership. It certainly looks now like the war over the Ambassador Bridge ownership never ended notwithstanding that the Bridge Company thought they had signed a peace treaty with the Canadian Government when they settled their FIRA lawsuit a number of years ago.

It all fits in very nicely together. NAFTA, corridors and gateways, the Ambassador Bridge.

Frankly, it looks like Canada has suckered the Americans using the ultrasecret playbook (Did someone slip up by the way... it was loaded onto the Internet at ).

We convinced them that even though the Ambassador Bridge location, where the Americans are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the Ambassador Gateway project, is the best place for a new bridge, they ought to destroy Delray and put a new bridge there.

We seem to be able to convince them to say things that we can build upon to convince P3 investors that they ought to sink their money into a bridge that may go bankrupt if there is not enough traffic.

Moreover, we let them go forward with their plans first to see what the reaction will be so that we can change our plans as needed. We even extended the time during which we said that our report was going to be produced from March/April into June/July to ensure that we have the best answer to meet any contingency.

Once the Michigan Governor killed the downriver locations for a new bridge to save her own political neck, she owed Canada one and it looks like we have not hesitated to call in our IOU big time.

And if the Canadian Government crushes the Bridge Company and a P3 investor favourable to Canada takes over building the Enhancement Project because that is really where the new bridge is going to go (and makes the Tunnel part of the package as well since both Eddie and Kwame will be desperate for a deal at any price) then Canada has done quite well!

Fortunately for Canada, the Obama story will die quickly and nobody will look at the playbook. Are we ever lucky. Our Ultra Secret is still safe.