Boosting Security with the U.S. is Good for Canada
by Margret Kopala

Published in the Ottawa Citizen, March 26, 2005

Prime Minister Paul Martin downplayed suggestions the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement signed in Waco, Texas this week will lead to European style continental integration but if nothing else it is a major step towards more continental bureaucracy. Any agreement that covers a slew of security, economic, regulatory and environmental initiatives replete with reporting mechanisms across North America is laying the foundation for something.

Despite such sweeping arrangements, nothing emerged from the Texas Summit about western Canadian trade issues that are wending their way through various tribunals and courts. Surprisingly, for the Canadian cattle industry, this is probably a good sign. In a move reflecting current BSE science, but also solid Alberta-U.S. relations over oil, the Bush administration has undertaken to veto a U.S. Senate resolution blocking cattle imports. The administration will also oppose belligerent American ranchers in a U.S. federal court on July 27 when a Montana court-ordered injunction that re-closed the border earlier this month may be lifted.

Softwood lumber is another story. Disputes on this issue are fought in NAFTA tribunals and at the World Trade Organization where Canada has requested authorization to charge the U.S. retaliatory duties of $4 billion. This, along with indications British Columbia’s Minister of Forestry might delay a proposed $20 billion natural gas pipeline from Alaska, may have helped focus talks that commenced in Toronto this week but don’t count on it. Inordinate historical baggage weighs heavily against success that’s probably only possible now through an overhauled NAFTA or new binding mechanisms.

In the meantime, a magnanimous American President and a stern Secretary of State rebuking Canada for its tawdry handling of missile defence is a sharp reminder of how good-cop, bad-cop politics works. When Condoleezza Rice finally arrives in Canada, expect a wholly charming but thoroughly icy plunge into the realpolitik of U.S. foreign relations.

And no wonder. According to Canada’s leading civilian authority on ballistic missile defence, Martin’s refusal to join BMD was the worst military decision ever taken by any Canadian government. In a telephone interview, Jim Fergusson, Director of the Center for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, pointed out that although Canada likes to pretend it is separate from the U.S., it is just as vulnerable, both as a primary or secondary target, and that this has been the case since the Cold War. “The Soviet Union saw North America as a single target,” he said. “Today’s rogue states, North Korea and Iran, if in dispute with the West, wouldn’t differentiate between the United States and Canada.”

Besides, rudimentary technology means a missile aimed at the U.S. could land in Canada accidentally. Though the 3 stage rocket ICBM North Koreans tested in 1998 could theoretically reach Canada, no missile has ever been fired over the pole. “No one knows how accurate Korean technology is,” he says. As for Iran, it is five to ten years away from being able to launch a long range missile.

National capitals, major industrial centres or land based U.S. retaliatory systems are the obvious symbolic, high value targets. But as ice storms and electrical grid failures demonstrate, Canada’s energy infrastructure is also vulnerable. And anyone serious about crippling the North American economy could do so by targeting Alberta’s oil refining and pipeline infrastructure.

“We are an integrated actor in terms of the way the world sees us,” says Fergusson. “Partly because we have surrendered the defence of our country to the United States but mostly because we have common values, cultures and economic interests… Integration,” he continues, “is not at odds with sovereignty. They complement each other. The more we are intertwined, the more influence we will have. If not, the United States will make decisions for us.”

The Security and Partnership Agreement positions Canada to gain time lost during the Chretien years and to assert its sovereignty constructively. But will the anti-American sentiment that prevented meaningful discussion of ballistic missile defence now prevent meaningful discussion of the Texas Summit and the steps that must follow?

Failure here will raise serious questions for western Canadian provinces seeking settlement of trade issues in a context beyond good and bad cop politics or arcane processes. It will also further alienate a constituency now asking questions about a federal government that’s abdicated its responsibility for Canada’s defence against missile attacks.

MARGRET KOPALA’s column on western perspectives appears every other week.

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