Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, June 12, 2009

Canada's Cynicism

You really do need to read this excerpt from a paper that I found by chance on the Internet. It was an eyeopener for me and explained a lot about why Canada is acting as it is on the border file.

It could have been written today since it is so current. It wasn't. It was written in 2001.

This helps explain the 50 year old Canadian paranoia over the border and why the Ambassador Bridge Company supposedly has to be forced to sell out to the Government.
  • "Historically, Canadian policy has wavered between the desire for closer economic ties with the United States, and the desire to maintain a safe distance from the world’s most powerful country. Three elections – in 1891, 1911 and 1988 – were fought on the issue of free trade with the U.S., and even in relatively peaceful economic times, there is no shortage of concerns about perceived threats to Canadian sovereignty from the United States.

    While this debate is ongoing, the context in which it takes place is changing rapidly. Over the past decade, Canada’s economic ties to the United States have deepened markedly, first under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), later expanded to include Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Elsewhere, economic integration is increasing, both multilaterally under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and regionally through the European Union, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

    Canada and the United States enjoy one of the closest relationships in the world. Over the years, the United States has been a key ingredient in ensuring Canada’s security and prosperity. Although disagreements and disputes can be found in any relationship, the Canada-U.S. relationship is very secure, as evidenced by the world’s longest undefended border, across which more than $1.5 billion of goods crosses daily.

    Because of the importance of the United States to Canada’s well-being, it is important even in tranquil, prosperous times that Canada pay attention to its relationship with its neighbour to the south. Managing this relationship is becoming more complex, for a number of reasons.

    First, the world-wide trend toward economic integration is redefining sovereignty and the conditions under which nations can be independent, interdependent and prosperous. This trend has led some policy analysts to call for increased integration with the United States.

    Second, guaranteeing access to Canada’s most important market (and the wealthiest country in the world), always an important concern, must be accomplished within the context of a changing United States. The focal point of U.S. power is on the move. Canada has traditionally had a “special relationship” with Washington, founded on the common understanding of leaders and policy-makers who had the same shared experiences of the Great Depression and World War II. However, as the locus of U.S. power shifts from the Northeast to the Southwest, Canada may find it increasingly difficult to be understood by, and plead its case in, Washington.

    Third, a new generation of U.S. leaders, exemplified by President George W. Bush, formerly Governor of Texas, is coming into power, for whom Canada is only one of many countries with which the U.S. deals. The focus of the U.S. will increasingly be on a newly vibrant Mexico under President Vicente Fox.

    Fourth, traditional concerns about overdependence on the U.S. market for Canada’s economic well-being remain. Worries have also been expressed about NAFTA provisions, such as the investor-state investment rules under Chapter 11; critics worry that these rules erode national power to establish environmental and other regulations. Ironically, the framers of Chapter 11 did not foresee this problem with what was supposed to be a tool to protect Canadian and U.S. investments in Mexico. There is the ever-present concern over protection of Canadian culture in the face of the allure of U.S. cultural products, as evidenced by the dispute over “split-run” magazines in the late 1990s.

    Finally, there are the recurring elements that affect any close relationship, related to implementation of the FTA and the NAFTA, and the reality of being a small country located next to the most powerful country in history."

Has anything really changed?

The problem I have is Canada's position. There is the Realpolitik that Canada uses on the one hand but not on the other.

Remember how our leaders were using the war in Afghanistan to curry favour with the new Obama Administration. Body bags for trade concessions and no protectionism.

Why aren't they using the same Realpolitik logic in dealing with the Bridge Company? The Bridge Company should be considered their best partner not their worst enemy! They can use their alliances with the Americans better than Canada ever can, especially after the latest news story about our porous border. Why Canada is not relying on their assistance to deal with the US Government is beyond me.

It is not a public vs. private ownership issue as some would like us to believe. The Government always intended to "turn over" the border crossing to a private operator for up to 99 years, depending on the P3 term!

It is in the interest of both parties to see that the border is open and operating smoothly. It is in both their interests that traffic, especially truck traffic, increases back to the volumes of the past. It is beneficial to both that border impediments are not imposed on exporters and importers so that the Americans' "Dirty Little Secret" does not hurt our economy.

I am sure that Canada knows that the Bridge Company can take and has taken action that it can never do that is beneficial for trade including suing the US Government to open booths to end line-ups in Canada. Which P3 operator would dare do that especially when American Governments are potential clients! What is legally perfectly acceptable for the Bridge Company to do would create a diplomatic war if Canada ever tried it.

Canada knows it is losing the border war. No wonder the last resort is the smear campaign. From what I have heard, it is backfiring badly with those at whom it was supposed to be targeted.

Why is Canada acting this way?

Simple. Money is one reason. And I will talk about that in another BLOG about how P3s are ripping us off.

More importantly, some of the people who were involved back when there was a settlement with the Bridge Company over FIRA are now deeply involved in the strategy against them today. They lost once badly before. They think they will never again have a chance to take over the Bridge. Accordingly, their egos cannot afford a second battering no matter what it may wind up doing to US/Canada relations.

As more and more is discovered, the worse it will become for Canada in the eyes of the Americans. What is truly amazing though to me is that Canadian officials are giving speeches that will allow us to be buried.

For that, you will have to read my next Border BLOG!