Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti And The DRIC Detroit/Windsor Bridge

It is important that you remember this quote from Margaret Thatcher's speechwriter so you will not be too angry with me.
  • "At last, my sluggish civilian’s brain began to understand.

    The decisions that really matter to political leaders are those to do with the getting and holding of power. Other decisions may turn out well or ill. They may cost billions of pounds or hundreds of lives, but for enlisted politicians those decisions are secondary. What matters to them is: will I still be here after this?"

Some of you will find this BLOG offensive and cynical. I am sorry if you will feel that way but I will explain my reasons.

  • "Obama invites Michaëlle Jean to Washington
    Feb 21 2009

    OTTAWA–Governor General Michaëlle Jean discussed the plight of her native Haiti with U.S. President Barack Obama, who invited her to come to Washington – an invitation that was not extended to Prime Minister Stephen Harper."

On her visit to Haiti a year ago she said:

  • "Barack Obama's historic arrival at the White House Tuesday is "a major step" for of all humanity, Canada's Haitian-born Governor General Michaelle Jean said Sunday on an official visit to the poor Carribean nation.

    Jean told reporters Sunday that she thought Haitians would be deeply affected by "this new chapter being written" in the United States.

    Jean, who moved to Canada at age 11, said the story of Obama's rise to the US presidency is a part of a "continual story of empowerment."

    The election of African American "is a major step not only for the USA, not only for the world's black population, but also for humanity," she added.

    "I think that without having met and talked to Mr. Obama, he knows very well Haiti's story," she said."

Given her obvious good rapport with the President, I would bet that she has spoken to him more than once concerning the earthquake in Haiti and that is probably one of the reasons for the big US aid package of $100 million along with more American troops being sent to help out. Naturally, you will never see this in the press. It's behind the scenes stuff.

Consider this co-incidence. As the US Ambassador wrote on his BLOG:

  • "We learned of the tragedy when we arrived at Rideau Hall for a long scheduled dinner last night with Governor General Michaelle Jean and her husband Jean-Daniel Lafond. The Governor General’s warmth and compassion for the victims in Haiti touched Julie and me."

Of course, from Canada's perspective, there are two reasons for the Jean conversations with Obama if they happened. One is humanitarian of course but the second and more important side is Realpolitik: Canada has struck out consistently trying to get the Americans to reduce their economic protectionism and, as part of this, to help give them control of the Ambassador Bridge.

Yes it is cynical but no more so than Canadian soldiers coming back in bodybags from the war overseas as a quid pro quo for staying on Obama's good side as I have Blogged before:

  • "[Former Liberal Cabinet Minister John Manley] "He said Mr. Harper could leverage dearly bought political capital on Afghanistan to push for border infrastructure investments to ease trade: " Then he may have a more willing partner."

    The trick is to use alliances on global concerns to open doors for bilateral ones, Mr. Manley said." [Risk soldiers' lives for DRIC in other words. How disgusting!]"

The "trick"....what a nice choice of words.

Taking over Moroun's bridge is a 50 year effort by Canada that started under Diefenbaker long before Moroun owned the bridge. Jean in my opinion is Harper's last hope especially after a string of failures: NAFTA-gate, Michael Wilson overstaying his welcome in Washington, Harper's 3 failed attempts with Presidents Bush and Obama, the idiotic end-run by Harper with Congressional leaders on his DC visit and now this.

Take a look at this video of the US Ambassador to Canada being interviewed by Robert Fife of CTV News when Fife asks his question re the Windsor/Detroit border. The DRIC bridge is hardly an issue of such great importance in the Ottawa Parliamentary Gallery circles that it should be asked. Watch how his face changes. Not the diplomatic poker face is it. It's a "gotcha" expression. Payback to come.

The US Ambassador is very familiar with the Ambassador Bridge. Watch and listen to his comment and read the transcript:

  • FIFE: Another issue that’s been a sore point is most of our goods go across the Windsor-Detroit border … are we ever going to get that bridge? Are you going to be the Ambassador that delivers that bridge that’s going to be built?

    JACOBSON: I hope so, I hope so. Again, this is a subject that we talk about all the time. Indeed yesterday I had a discussion about this with Ambassador Doer, who I was with yesterday afternoon. This is important. One of my favorite statistics about Canada and trade with Canada is that there is more trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge than there is between the United States and Japan. It is an extraordinary channel. It is a bridge that dates back a long time, and there needs to be an additional facility there. And hopefully we’ll be able to get that under control. It’s expensive, it’s a difficult time to do it, but it’s something that I think is important to the future of trade between our countries.

Interesting quote. Now we have to read tea leaves to try and figure out what is going on. Here are my comments for what they are worth and why the Governor General is so important to Harper now.

Canada got shot down again on DRIC. For the nth time. The Ambassador could have mentioned DRIC but did not do so.

I suspect that Canada is after him all the time as he said, even as late as the day before his interview. If there had been a decision to build DRIC, then Canada would not need to talk to him as much. It would be a done deal

I suspect as well that this was a set-up question through Transport Canada or some other high person in the Government or PM's office just as I speculated about the Geoffery Simpson column in the Globe which came out of the blue---the one and only time he wrote about the border.

The Ambassador smiled when the question was asked, knowing he was being set up. I am not sure he appreciated it. Again, that will hurt Canada/US relations even more. Cheap shot tactics to catch someone off-guard does not work.

Reading the transcript, it seems like a nothing answer. I cannot believe that Obama has any interest in doing anything for Canada right now with medicare and 2 wars to fight. And Congressional elections coming up.

The only line of concern to the Bridge Company is "It is a bridge that dates back a long time, and there needs to be an additional facility there. And hopefully we’ll be able to get that under control. It’s expensive, it’s a difficult time to do it, but it’s something that I think is important to the future of trade between our countries."

Could that mean a DRIC Bridge...maybe? But it is said in the context of the age of the Ambassador Bridge and when he says "there needs to be an additional facility there." "There" obviously means beside the existing bridge given what the Department of State of behalf of the President has already stated.

"It's expensive" cannot mean that Governments will pay for it since no Government has set aside a budget for it since it is to be a P3. Only to Moroun can it be "expensive" since he is paying for it. His answer is diplomatically very vague.

Remember as well that the US Ambassador knows all about the Bridge. In his Senate hearing he said:

  • "As I sit here today, I cannot help but think back to a family vacation I took when I was seven years old. We were going to leave the country for the first time. My parents, my two sisters, and I packed up our blue Buick to drive from Chicago to Niagara Falls. Our route took us to Detroit and we drove over the Ambassador Bridge. Despite my mother’s protestations that he would get us all killed, my father stopped the car in the middle of the bridge at the border. I will never forget my parents reaching from the front seat in Canada back into the United States and my sisters and I reaching forward into Canada. If anyone had said to that seven year old in the middle of that back seat on the Ambassador Bridge that some day he would be appearing before this great Committee as the nominee of the President to be Ambassador to Canada, I can assure you that he would not have believed it."

Who is left for Canada to p**s off now that the US Ambassador has been misused. I wonder if the Canadian Ambassador let someone know that the US Ambassador was going to be interviewed on CTV. If so that relationship of trust has been destroyed. The legacy of Michael Wilson lives on.

Accordingly, the Governor General is Canada's last hope. I wonder how she will feel once she learns how she has been mistreated too by her Government.

After all, Realpolitik trumps humanity.