Navigating through a difficult US-Canada relationship

Navigating through a difficult US-Canada relationship

Edmonton : Canada | Aug 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM PDT
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Canada sits north of the 49th paralell and is America's largest trading partner. Since the Clinton Administration a Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement has been in existance. This agreement evolved into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Despite the proximity of the two countries and its trade, the relationship between Canada and the U.S. has not always been as good as it could be.

When George Bush invated Iraq and was looking for a coalition of the willing, then Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his Liberal government declined an invitation to participate. In order not to annoy Americans, it agreed to participate in Afghanistan. Canada intially deployed a battlegroup (battalion size) to Kandahar, which was placed under operational control of U.S. Forces.

In 2006, the Prime Minister's Conservative Party and Stephen Harper formed a minority government. In January 2009, the Democrats took control of both Houses of Congress and the White House when President Obama took office. The global financial crisis did not have the same effect in Canada due to better regulations in Canada's banking system. Nevertheless, it did have an effect on the Canadian economy. Canada contributed to the bailout of Chrysler and GM in order to maintain the auto industry. By all accounts, this was a good move.

One of the major issues that has crossed the desk of diplomats has been the XL Keystone Pipeline, which is destined to deliver Alberta crude from the Alberta Oil Sands to refineries in Texas. President Obama rejected the pipeline, which some consider to have been a political move.

Harper, who is a big proponent for oilsand development could have blown up over the issue, but his comments only stated that this was an American procedure and that he is confident that the issue would be resolved and that the pipeline would be build.

Enbridge, a Calgary based company, has had several pipeline leaks over the past two years, most notably the Michigan one, which received a grave report from the EPA. Pipelines will remain a difficult issue in the United States to navigate through.

Canada is not all about Alberta and oil, though. There are many trade an environmental issues, including a co-ordinated carbon reduction plan, standardized gas mileage standards and the flow of trade to name a few. There is close co-ordination between the governors of the northern states and their Canadian counterpart.

Holding it all together since 2009, is Canada's Ambassador to the United States, Gary Dewar. Dewar is the former New Democratic Party Premier of Manitoba. Although a member of the NDP, touted as a socialist party, Dewar has been seen as a moderate. He has the charisma and knowledge of American politics to hold a difficult relationship together.

Canada's government, which is not afraid to tout its conservatism, has probably aggravated the Obama Administration and vice verca has been aggravated by Canadian politicians.

The Council on Foreign Relations touted in an article, "How Obama Lost Canada," all the wrongdoings toward Canada by the Obama Adminstration. These include the delay in the Keystone XL pipeline, protectionist Buy American provisions, even disrespect for Canadian military contributions in Libya and Afghanistan.

Dewar calls that article subjectvie and acknowledges, although the relationship is not perfect, both Obama and Harper have a very professional relationship. Dewar has access to both White House officials and maintains a good relationship with both Democrats and Republicans.

He feels that after the American election there will be some changes, regardless of who occupies the White House. He gives as an example that Hillary Clinton will leave her job as Secretary of State for one.

"Our to-do list is getting done. Is it a perfect relationship? No. I hear Americans complain about what we may or may not do, and I hear it the other way .... But subjective, good/bad, friendly/unfriendly, frowning/smiling, all that stuff — I don't waste time on that." Source CBC

While there may be aggravations on either side of the U.S.-Canada border, overall Canada and the U.S. work well together, despite the difference in political philosophies. Diplomats and lobbyists are working hard to improve this relationship.

As a Canadian one thing that does aggravate me about the U.S. is the lack of knowledge by Americans of Canada. OK, I am getting ready to dodge the bullets.

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.

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Canadian atheletes celebrating and displaying Canadian patriotism (AFP)
Karl Gotthardt is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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