I was reading DailyKos a few weeks ago and I came across a comment that questioned Canada's support of, and friendship with the United States in the post 911 world (read: global war on terror and North American continental security).
A Canadian Kossack replied to the post back then, somewhat defensively, citing the outpouring of support from Canadians to the people of New York, the reaching out to the thousands of stranded American passengers at the Gander airport in Labrador, our military support role in Afghanistan, our training of police, etc.
I was a bit alarmed at seeing this neo-con/Bush theme seeping through, perhaps unconsciously, in the assumptions of the person who was questioning Canada's loyalty as an ally and friend. Today, I want to demolish those assumptions in my first diary here as a Canadian visitor.
These messages that Canada isn't doing enough to support the U.S., or isn't pulling its weight militarily are part of a larger neo-con plan, authored in both countries and aimed like a dagger at Canada's sovereignty.
In fact, Canada has shifted its domestic priorities, beefed-up its internal security, re-aligned its foreign policy and increasingly used its foreign aid programs to mop-up after U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (a progressive research institute), and recent Canadian decisions point to a rocky road ahead for our two countries. The report National Insecurity from which I am quoting below is found here.
To illustrate the threat to Canadian sovereignty posed by the Bush administration and its Canadian corporate allies (the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the report descibes a new political agenda called NASPI, the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative.
First, here's what the report says about the CCCE:
The CCCE is the country's strongest political lobby. It consists of the top executives of Canada's largest 150 corporations. They have quick and easy access to the levers of power in Ottawa -- to cabinet ministers, to top bureaucrats, to the most influential journalists and academics.
These powerful business leaders are accustomed to getting what they want from our federal and provincial governments. And what they want now, more than anything else, is to bind Canada more tightly to the United States in order to ensure direct access to the world's largest market.
The threat posed by NAPSI is trade security at any price including our Canadian nationhood.
NASPI is the new deal that the CCCE wants Ottawa to work out with Washington. The plan itself was developed in dialogue with the Bush administration and the U.S. Business Round Table. In April, 2003, 18 months after 9/11, CCCE President Tom d'Aquino took 100 Canadian business leaders to Washington to meet with officials in Washington, including Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security; Spencer Abrahams, Secretary of Energy; and Richard Pearle, author of the Bush Doctrine on National Security. It was clear from these exchanges that there would be no new deal on trade issues from the U.S. unless Canada agreed to make major commitments on "security" issues.
"Security will trump trade," declared Paul Cellucci, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, following the post-9/11 Bush Doctrine on National Security. Canada's former ambassador in Washington, Allan Gotlieb, echoed Celluci's warnings: "The Canadian political agenda is economic security: for Americans it is homeland security. Therein lie the potential elements of a grand negotiation." And Wendy Dobson, from the big business think-tank the C.D. Howe Institute, went on to argue: "Canadian concerns about economic security need to be linked with U.S. domestic priorities... [and since] homeland security is the single overriding U.S. goal... what's needed is a strategic framework that links security and defence with economic goals."
To understand the scope and gravity of the NASPI threat, it helps to see the various elements of the Bush administration's foreign policy offensive under the all-purpose rubric of "security." To strike a CCCE-driven "new deal" with the U.S. - acceptable to the U.S. - will involve meeting the Bush government's security criteria on several fronts, including military security, homeland" security, energy security, social security, water security, and global security.
How far down the NAPSI road has Canada travelled In return for trade security? Canada has complied with the U.S. criteria in some areas, but not others. A full discussion of the U.S. security criteria can be found here.
- Publicly and diplomatically, the Martin government has disavowed Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). But the hawks in Canada's parliament who favour involvement in BMD are held at bay only by the Liberals razor thin minority government.
- Martin has significantly raised military spending and Canada is now "the sixth highest military spender among the 26 nations that comprise NATO."
- The Martin government has established a Canadian version of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
- New anti-terror legislation (Bill C-36) has been enacted patterned on the U.S. Patriot Act.
- A Smart Border Accord to coordinate U.S. and Canadian Intelligence operations and harmonize visa, immigration and refugee policies with those of the U.S.
- Canada provides the U.S. access to a stable supply of oil, gas and electricity.
- Canada is now the No. 1 source of U.S. imported oil, surpassing even Saudi Arabia.
- The Martin government will likely not make any controversial moves to harmonize Canadian social security and health programs with those in the U.S. by allowing foreign-based companies to have access to Canada's health-care, education, or social assistance programs.
- The World Trade Organization (WTO) is planning to open up cross-border trade in services in its General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which will greatly facilitate the privitization and deregulation of publicly delivered social securtiy programs in Canada.
- U.S. access to Canadian lakes and rivers for bulk water transfers will likely be a flashpoint in Canada - U.S. relations by 2009. The Canadian public will not support the re-direction of Canadian rivers due to the ecological and environmental disasters such a policy would cause.
- The recent plan to divert water from the Great Lakes proposed by the governors of the states bordering these lakes is only the first of such American schemes to use waters shared by the two countries.
Mad cow and missile defense:
- Washington wants Canada to follow U.S. unilateralist foreign policies rather than the multilateral policies of the U.N..
- Much of Canada's overseas development aid is now being directed to Afghanistan and Iraq, meanwhile Canadian aid commitments to sub -Saharan Africa are down.
- The U.S. has successfully pressured Canada to devote some of its overseas aid money to train police and military forces in developing nations so they can join the war on terror.
Canada has skewed its domestic priorities towards continental security, diminished its citizens rights through anti-terror legislation, distorted its foreign policy and aid to support the U.S. war on terror, all for the sake of a trade security that does not exist. How much more can an ally like Canada be expected to give? <snark> It seems that Bush and Rice are surprised that Martin would say enough is enough.
Trade harassment is one of the levers the U.S. uses against Canada, and that policy has turned many Canadians against the Bush government. Some recent examples of countervail and antidumping duties driven by U.S protectionism that have been imposed on Canadian commodities include softwood lumber, wheat, cattle and hogs.
A Canadian rancher recently told me that the reason the border remains closed to Canadian cattle is because the Martin government rejected missile defense. He went on to say that in his opinion, missile defense was a boondoggle and that he could now care less about shipping his cattle south. He said he was going to join his neighbours and invest in a co-operative meat plant and sell specialty boxed meat to other countries.
Continued U.S. trade harassment against Canada has led to trade retaliation from Canada as this CBC report of Friday, April 1. reports.
DUTIES - CANADA RETALIATING: (CBC, 6:30 a.m., Friday, 401) Ottawa has decided to get tough with Washington over a controversial trade bill. Yesterday it announced it is retaliating against the Americans' refusal to repeal the so-called Bird Amendment. Starting next month, Canada will impose a 15% surtax on some American imports. They include live swine, cigarettes, oysters, and some fish. As Rosalee Wolosky reports, the move has found wide-spread support among prairie farmers.
Under the Bird Amendment, Americans who feel they have been financially hurt by foreign imports can launch trade action. If that results in duties being imposed on the imports, those who launched the action get to keep the money from the duties. Two years ago, the World Trade Organization ruled it was illegal. Still, the Americans refused to repeal it. So now Canada, Japan, the European Union and several other countries are retaliating with duties of their own.
Ken Ritter chairs the Canadian Wheat Board, which has been challenged 14 times by the Americans: "It is about high time that Canada stood up for its trade rights..."
Martin Rice is with the Canadian Pork Council, which is fighting a ten per cent duty imposed on Canadian hogs: "It would appear that retaliatory steps are the only thing that is left to get the US attention." (Update: the 10 per cent duty has been removed as of April 7.)
For years, Ottawa tried negotiating with Washington, afraid of an escalating trade war if it retaliated. Ken Ritter says he is glad negotiators finally ran out of patience: "Sometimes these symbols are important in negotiations. A country has to say enough is enough and it is amazing how your partner will reciprocate then."
However, beef producers say this likely won't open the border to Canadian cattle. They believe a much tougher challenge is needed before that happens.
The future of continental security
This is what the Centre for Policy Alternatives says in its report about the immediate future.
... given the public distrust and dislike of Bush and his government in Canada, Martin will decide to proceed more cautiously. He will probably address the various "security" matters more gradually, step by step, hoping not to unleash NDP and Bloc (Quebecois) resistance or a revolt in his own caucus before having to fight another election.
In any case, it is becoming evident, in this minority government situation, that the balance of decision-making on the whole continental security agenda could well be tipped one way or the other by public opinion. To the extent that Canadians become aware of the scope and ramifications of the various "security" proposals - and of the detrimental effects they will have on this country if adopted - to that extent will the probability of blocking them be bolstered. Unlike a newly elected majority government which could ram through the whole Bush "security" program despite strong public opposition, a minority government always on the brink of another election has to be much more sensitive to public sentiment.
Ultimately sovereignty is meaningless on a dying planet
Continental security is in the interest of Canadians, but not some Bush/neo-con scheme or its NAPSI twin, cooked-up on behalf of the corporation.
Progressives on both sides of the border should put forward an alternative vision based on green security. Our citizens want protection from global warming which constitutes a real national security threat. Together, we could start a continental debate about water and energy conservation that might lead to sustainable solutions for the people of North America and real security.