I’ve got to get something off my chest. I realize in advance I will get hammered for it but I will say it anyway.
I don’t know why Paul Martin has to hammer the United States. I mean, I realize politically it is a great strategy – it helped him pick up a few hundred thousand NDPers in the last election but everything can’t be just about politics.
Maybe I am biased because I lived in the USA for six years and have a lot of good friends there but I find the vast majority of Americans are very similar to Canadians. Sure we don’t agree with everything they do and they don’t agree with everything we do. Sure they screwed us over on the softwood lumber thing and the BSE thing but if you know anything about US politics – it is dominated by interest groups. The lumber retail lobby spent millions in favour of cheap wood from Canada while the lumber producers spent tens of millions to tack on tarrifs. The same thing goes for those mad cows. The western cattle producers saw an opportunity to strike and strike they did.
Side Bar: In many ways this is preferrable to the concentration of power in Canadian politics where Jean Cretien had absolute power over the budget, new legislation and some 3,000 political appointments. South of the border the budget is about give and take, legislation is about horse trading and virtually all political appointments are subject to Senate approval. It just shows you that there is no perfect system. What is better? The big lobby machine in the US or the dictatorship of the PMO in Canada? We could argue this ad infinitum.
But I digress.
We do more trade with the United States than California. More native Canadians are living in the US than just about every other immigrant community.
597,729 of Acadian descent
370,000 of ‘Canadian’ descent
and the mother load: 1,698,394 of French Canadian descent
So that makes over 2.6 million Americans that came from Canada. Source: 2000 Census.
And, of course, that doesn’t include all the Canadians living in the US on green cards or other temporary work permits.
Bottom line. We can disagree with specific Presidents or policies but I think Martin has more than crossed that line. And for political gain, no less. And after he said he would ‘mend’ the relationship with the US that had faltered under Cretien, no less.
Where is the Paul Martin that gave that speech when he was crown Liberal leader? Where Bono sung his praises? Where French and English alternated Paul Martin, Paul Martin. Where he said he would fix just about every problem facing Canada. Specifically, Prime Minister Martin was going to:
-Fix the ‘democratic’ deficit and reduce the power of the PMO
-Root out and eliminate corruption in the Liberal party
-Fix healthcare ‘for a generation’
-Reform the Senate
-Eliminate western Alienation
-Bring Quebec back into the fold
-Fix our foreign policy
-Fix the military
-Restore a good relationship with the USA
-Solve regional economic development
-Fix chronic native Canadian problems
-Distribute more of the Federal civil service throughout Canada
And, although I realized that this was impossible, I applauded his vision.
Then something changed. It was in the middle of the last election when he thought he might lose it. Might not be able to lead Canada in its ‘finest hour’ as he said. His eyes got this wild look about them. He started looking haggard but determined.
In my opinion it all went down hill from there.
Admittedly, Canadian politicians are used to working in a minority government but I don’t see that Paul Martin has moved forward on any of those grand objectives. The relationship with the Americans has not been this tense since Trudeau. The ‘side deals’ he struck led to resentment and more alienation. He is at record lows in Quebec public opinion. Bono called him a liar. There was no health care fix ‘for a generation’. We are still mired in the same old problems of wait times, shortages and private health care. He appointed a pile of folks to the Senate – no reform in sight.
And foreign policy? Well, a quick story on that. Washington-based Foreign Affairs magazine compiled the wish list of each of the G8 leaders before the summit last year. They went through the list. Bush, Blair, Schroeder. Then they got to Paul Martin and they wrote, and this is a quote ‘who cares?’. Couple that with the recent Economist magazine article.
Now we are back at the polls and I see that wild look in his eyes again. Say anything. Do anything. Promise anything. Just get me back to 24 Sussex Drive.
Watching his body language and reading about him in the press, you almost get the feeling he would be relieved to lose the election but his ambition is monumentally larger than his gut.
I got way off topic, again. So the point I was trying to make is that I see no point in slagging the Yanks for political gain. Like it or not our economy is largely tied into theirs and we need to play nice.