Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Border’

What surprises Stephen Harper?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported the other day that Prime Minister Harper was surprised by the strong “protectionist discourse” coming from the United States. This was probably not as surprising to his business audience who had gathered to listen to him at a meeting of the Canadian American Business Council in Ottawa. Mr. Harper told his audience that he and other right-wing Canadians consider protectionist feelings in Canada to be “virtually non-existent.”

While he considers those who opposed the free trade arrangement of the Mulroney government in 1987 to be proved wrong, there are still many who would disagree with that assessment. What we argued for at the time was for “fair trade” and we have lived with less than that for a quarter century.

There is a virtual wall of Buy America policies at the state and municipal level in the United States that precludes Canadian products or services from being allowed to compete and no federal laws seem to matter. And then when you can export to south of the border, the American border crossing will tie you up for days to try to prevent your successful completion of contracts.

And yet, Stephen Harper is surprised at American protectionism! He does not appear aware that Americans were never really interested in free trade. They were interested in Canadian oil and other resources. They were mildly interested in the Canadian market—because it was handy and seemed much like their own.

But if the Americans gave a damn about free trade, they would have done a lot of things very different. For example, they would have resolved the soft-wood lumber business in a few weeks instead of being dragged into litigation to put an end to the problem after years of wrangling. The State of Michigan would have put an end to the foot-dragging about a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. This is the major artery for trade between the two countries and the Americans treated the obstinacy of the bridge owner as a joke.  As it is, Canada will pay for the new bridge itself—until the Americans figure out what Canada will make in tolls, and demand a share.

The Prime Minister reiterated his claim that “Canada’s most important relationship remained the one with the United States.” The only problem is it makes Canadians feel like the least attractive of the many relationships in the world leader’s harem.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Senator Kenny sings Yankee Doodle.

Monday, July 25th, 2011

On June 29, 2009, the entry on this blog was an item entitled: Let’s not praise border bungling. It was about an article Senator Colin Kenny had written for the Toronto Star in support of American’s restricting our mutual border.  “Johnny one-note” Kenny is back at it today.  Similar theme, same support, some grovelling but he does seem to understand that the Americans might not live up to their side of the deal.

What is different is that the Senator does ask plaintively for a more fluid and efficient border.  Regrettably, he believes that Canadians should also pay another $3 billion toward beefing up Canada’s security on our side of the border.  That is very generous of him but he fails to make the case on why we would want to do that.  Paying to keep Americans happy is not high on the agenda of many of us.  Canadians naively think that free trade should be fair trade.

Kenny points out that it used to be—when the Canadian dollar was worth about two-thirds of the U.S. dollar—easy for Canada to attract investors who could enjoy lower production costs and easy access to the U.S. market.  The problem is that with the Canadian dollar now more than its American counterpart, the line-up of trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge at Detroit does not seem to be any faster moving.

He thinks it is a good thing that American Homeland Security tsar Janet Napolitano and Harper Public Safety Minister Vic Toews are having ‘friendly’ planning sessions for tighter border security while supposedly easing the congestion.  Easing the congestion—that they have created—is not on the American agenda.  Why would they want to do anything about it?

But Senator Kenny is still faithful to his dream of the North American hegemony.  Not all Americans would understand that the word hegemony means a confederacy of states lead by one of them.  They would expect it to mean dominance.  We already have that.


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Let’s not praise border bungling.

Monday, June 29th, 2009

It has been a long time since Americans and Canadians have had the same ease of transit across our mutual border that Europeans routinely enjoy when crossing borders between their countries. The American-Canadian border used to be the longest unprotected border in the world and today too many people, on both sides of the border, want to see it more restrictive. One of those people is Senator Colin Kenny, chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence. Writing for the Toronto Star today, Kenny applauds U.S. homeland security tsar Janet Napolitano’s efforts to further stifle the ease of crossing that border.

Colin and I go back many years in Canadian politics. When retiring Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau graciously appointed him to the Senate, the appointment had nothing to do with Colin’s stimulating intellect. It had much more to do with a ‘thank you’ for Colin’s many years in a tough, rather thankless organizational role in the Prime Minister’s office. Those of us who volunteered to work off and on with Colin at political functions for the Prime Minister came to refer to him as “the white rabbit.” This was not derogatory. It was said with a smile because he so often came late to meetings with words that sounded like: “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” and we local functionaries, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, were expected to follow him down whatever rabbit hole to which he chose to lead us.

He is certainly not taking me down this rabbit hole. I’ll fight on this issue. Colin says in the Star story that Napolitano’s idea of sending 700 new agents to guard our mutual border is great. He thinks we should have more border guards to help the Americans out. So far all those new rules and increased surveillance have done is hurt trade between our countries and reduce the buying traffic at border discount outlets.

Colin thinks that increasing our border vigilance will impress Washington. He should know by now that nothing impresses Washington people but their own egos. He also thinks our border approach is too relaxed and that this attitude allows the Americans to delay Canadian products going south. He believes our participation with the Americans on Inter-Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs) is a ‘terrific idea.’ Even worse, he applauds the arming of more of our customs personnel.

What Colin fails to understand or explain in his article is how any of this foolishness is going to help bring more American tourists to Canada or expedite shipments of Canadian goods to the American market. Those are two issues that are not on the radar of Homeland Secretary Napolitano and are most important to our Canadian economy.

Colin should enjoy his retirement to the Canadian Senate and stop being an apologist for xenophobic Americans.

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