Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Computer Broke, No More Blog

My laptop has died on me and I can't really afford a new computer right now. As such, I really can't keep this blog going anymore. I want to thank everyone who read it while I was posting, but that's past now. There are plenty of other good Canadian blogs out there, I hope you continue to enjoy them.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Tit for Tat

For the past week our American neighbours have complained that they feel betrayed by Canada's refusal to participate in the missile defense program. Our concerns and complaints have been completely ignored by our so-called allies who claim that we are a bunch of free-loaders. Until recently, nobody was willing to stand up to the American juggernaut, then Lloyd Axworthy stepped up to the plate. He was quickly followed by Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Now support has come in from an unexpected direction.

People across the country have been concerned about Frank McKenna's objectivity in his new role as Ambassador to the US, today he showed those worries might be unwarranted. Speaking from his new home in DC, McKenna directly blamed American policy towards Canada for our refusal to participate in the missile shield.

"Let me say this, that this [missile defence] issue in some ways perhaps could be construed as the direct result of letting fester some of the transactional issues," he told reporters at the Canadian embassy. "From a Canadian perspective, you can understand how the atmosphere has not been conducive to creating a political environment where a different decision might have been achieved on the ballistic missile defence issue."
McKenna specifically cited the softwood lumber dispute, the ban on Canadian beef and the damage they have caused to the Canadian economy for the plan's defeat. Prime Minister Martin abandoned his support for the program largely because the Canadian people are strongly opposed to the plan. The Ambassador went on to explain his comments, pointing out how exactly better treatment from the US might have led to Canadian cooperation.

"One can't say definitively, [but] I think one can say we would have had a much lower temperature in Canada in which to operate.... It is my belief that the temperature in Canada has, in part, been at a pretty high level as a result of these ongoing irritants. So the logical extension of that is that if you could turn down the temperature, you would have a different political environment in which to operate."
These comments come as a big surprise to most Canadians who saw McKenna as a puppet who would largely do whatever the Americans told him. The Ambassador is strongly connected to the Carlyle Group and the Republican Party, but yesterday's comments indicate his loyalty to his country is strong as well.

For years Canada and the United States enjoyed one of the closest alliances on the planet. However, since the election of George W. Bush our relationship has taken a drastic turn for the worse. Despite the claims of the American media, the simple fact of the matter is that the change has occurred on the American end. Finally, Canadians appear willing to point that out, to stand up on our own, to scream to the world about the injustices of the Bush regime. Axworthy, Charest, McKenna...let's keep the list going. We have to stand up to these thugs if they're ever going to treat us with respect.

Thank You Quebec

After spending much of the 90s villainized by the rest of Canada, Quebec has stood up and saved this nation several times in the last few years. After a decade spent figuring out how to leave the country, La Belle Provence is now exporting their ideals to the rest of the country - and we owe them all our thanks.

It's largely because of Quebec that Paul Martin opted out of missile defense. The plan was woefully unpopular in province and could had cost the Liberals a dozen or more seats. They also went to the mattresses for gay marriage, with support for legalizing same sex marriage more popular in Quebec than anywhere else in the country. Just last week, Quebec's ideology was exported again in the form of the national daycare program. Time after time they have saved us from right wing policy and today they stepped up to the plate again.

Speaking in Brussels, Premier Jean Charest urged NAFTA reform, specifically citing the EU model as something to which we should aspire. While at first glance it might look like a capitulation to American dominance, could we really believe that from Quebec? In truth, it's a none to subtle jab at illegal and immoral American trade policies.

“Now with NAFTA we’ve gone through a whole series of panels, but every time we get a panel decision which is invariably in favour of Canada, the United States goes on to another panel decision and that ends up, I think, questioning whether NAFTA is working or not,” Charest told reporters."
Charest, obviously, has a point. The WTO has already declared the American Byrd Amendment illegal and given authority to dozens of nations to impose tariffs on American goods.

Canada and the US have established the world's largest trading partnership, but in recent years the Americans seem more interested in taking advantage of their allies than work cooperatively with them. Thus far, Canada has, by and large, bent over for our erstwhile allies - until today. While Mr. Dithers has begged for Bush's forgiveness, Jean Charest and Lloyd Axworthy have stepped up to the plate and defended the honour of our nation. Now it's time for the rest of this country to follow their lead.

Standing Up for Canada

Lloyd Axworthy may not be the Minister of Foreign Relations anymore, but he's doing a better job than Pierre Pettigrew right now. While Martin's Minister was kissing up to the Americans and begging for forgiveness, Jean Chretien's foreign relations point-man took it to Bush and his cronies.

Axworthy is now the the President of the University of Winnipeg. Today, the Winnipeg Free Press published an open letter from Axworthy to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. If only our current leaders had the balls of Chretien's crew...

The article is by subscription only, but the text follows:

Dear Condi, I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.

Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.

Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such a missile defence can be made openly.

You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond.

Now, I understand that there may have been some miscalculations in Washington based on faulty advice from your resident governor of the "northern territories," Ambassador Cellucci. But you should know by now that he hasn't really won the hearts and minds of most Canadians through his attempts to browbeat and command our allegiance to U.S. policies.

Sadly, Mr. Cellucci has been far too closeted with exclusive groups of 'experts' from Calgary think-tanks and neo-con lobbyists at cross-border conferences to remotely grasp a cross-section of Canadian attitudes (nor American ones, for that matter).

I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.

These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.

To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.

To protect people against international crimes like genocide and ethnic cleansing, they support new institutions like the International Criminal Court -- which, by the way, you might strongly consider using to hold accountable those committing atrocities today in Darfur, Sudan.

And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed -- beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.

On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defence ever will.

This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.

There is also a very strong awareness on both sides of the border of how vital Canada is to the U.S. as a partner in North America. We supply copious amounts of oil and natural gas to your country, our respective trade is the world's largest in volume, and we are increasingly bound together by common concerns over depletion of resources, especially very scarce fresh water.

Why not discuss these issues with Canadians who understand them, and seek out ways to better cooperate in areas where we agree -- and agree to respect each other's views when we disagree.

Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because of one missile-defence decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power.

In friendship, Lloyd Axworthy

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

More Payback?

Earlier this week Canada opted out of the missile defense program and concern rapidly spread that our erstwhile allies would retaliate. Already, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has cancelled a state trip to Canada. Tonight, another blatantly anti-Canadian action was taken south of the border; is this the second wave in a petty game of international payback?

US District Judge Richard Cebull has delayed the planned opening of the border to Canadian beef. The industry has lost over $7B in the 22 months that the border had been closed. Prime Minister Paul Martin pledged to the people that he would get the border opened, and the issue was a major part of the meeting between Martin and President Bush last year.

Belinda Stronach has already jumped on the issue, pointing out that the issue highlites the failure of Mr. Dithers to improve relations with America:

"When the prime minister should have been nurturing support throughout the American political system to keep the border open, he and his cabinet were skulking away from a proper discussion of missile defence with the U.S. government,' she said in a release.

"The border closure on BSE is a perfect example of the kind of real-world situation where Canadian interests would be looking for maximum help from the administration."
American administration officials insist that this is a temporary measure which will be resolved shortly. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns reiterated that the border will open shortly.

Andy Mitchell, Canada's Minister of Agriculture, pointed out that this is the action of one American judge, not the American government. Still, the fact of the matter is that Canadian beef will still not be crossing the border come Monday, and another chance to at least give the appearance of improving relations has gone by the wayside.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Playing into your Enemy's Hand

For months, Stephen Harper has stood atop his soap box screaming to anyone who would listen about the slippery slope involved in legalizing gay marriage. The Conservative leader claimed a slew of undesirable events would occur as a result of same sex marriage. Supporters of equal rights across the country have scoffed at the suggestion, but today the Young Liberals decided to prove Harper right.

The Young Liberals of Canada are putting forth what is certain to be a controversial measure at this weekend's Biennial Liberal Policy Convention -- a motion to decriminalize prostitution.

Prostitution is not technically illegal in Canada. Rather, it is illegal to operate a brothel, communicate for the purpose of prostitution or procure customers for a prostitute. The Young Liberals claim removing those barriers would improve the safety of the sex trade.

"We believe that what this does is it forces sex trade workers into a position where they have to hide themselves and try to avoid the public eye and put them in dangerous situations," Jason Cherniak, a Young Liberal National executive member, told globeandmail.com.
The Young Liberals specifically cited recent tragedies in Vancouver and Edmonton as a motivating factor for the motion, but one must wonder if there is not a better way to make prostitution safer. Vancouver police have already enacted numerous measures in an effort to protect the city's sex workers, why not give those time? Why not simply invest more in such programs?

While decriminalizing prostitution would certainly improve the safety of such a vulnerable demographic, this motion certainly carries a downside. The political ramifications of this discussion are likely to be disastrous. The Conservatives have tried for months to make inroads in the gay marriage debate without success. Despite spending a small fortune, working in cooperation with religious groups and receiving beneficial media coverage, the Conservatives have been unable to convince the public as to the merits of their case. Now, the Young Liberals have gone and done it for them.

Stephen Harper should phone young Mr. Cherniak and tell him 'thanks'.

Childish Diplomacy

President Bush has been criticized around the world for his abrasive demeanor and denigration of former allies. The simple fact of the matter is that the United States has been perfectly willing to throw away friendships in order to make a point about obedience. Now, it appears as though Canada is the newest victim of America's punitive foreign policy.

Despite government claims that all is going well in the aftermath of the missile defense decision, CTV is reporting that US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has cancelled a planned trip to Ottawa in April.

A senior state department official, who was on a London-bound flight with Rice, confirmed that the cancellation of the visit was a direct consequence of Prime Minister Paul Martin's decision, CTV News reported.
Officials indicate that the meeting may be re-scheduled at a later date, but the simple fact of the matter is that an international meeting has been cancelled because of a disagreement over policy. And it's not as if America cancelled a meeting with some nation with which they have no relationship. Our two countries share the largest undefended border in the world, the same electrical grid and we are vital economic partners.

The American government has been lobbying Canadians on the issue for years and they seem to genuinely believe that it is in our national interests to participate. More importantly, Canadian participation would lend an air of credibility to the controversial program. In that light, it's perfectly understandable that the Americans are upset. However, such a public rebuke serves no real purpose except to try to shame, threaten and cajole a sovereign nation.

If you're friend snubs you it's understandable to be upset, but grownups don't take their toys and storm home. That's for children...and Republican Presidents.