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Canadians Know Who Runs the Free Trade Show
Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2001 in the Toronto Star
Canadians Know Who Runs the Free Trade Show
by Dalton Camp
 
Spring arrived as I type this. It is a glorious day, a warming sun, a high blue sky and, if I had the time, I would have liked to sit outside and listen to the snow melt.

Still, it is only March and more weather is yet to come; tomorrow, for example, they are calling for more snow here and there in the region.

I suppose, on the first day of spring, one ought to sound a high note, something to lift the spirit and serve to remind us of just how blessed we all are.

But I would rather put on record my disappointment that we did not have the character or intestinal fortitude to invite Cuba to attend the Quebec meetings on trade in the Americas.

John Manley, our foreign affairs minister, has explained Cuba's exclusion on the grounds that Cuba is not a democracy. Well, you know - who is?

But the real trouble with Manley is in his self-declared ambition to please the Americans more than did his predecessor, Lloyd Axworthy. It seems to me he is off to a roaring good start.

The Americans - those few who run the world from Washington, D.C. - must sometimes wonder about us, and they must once in a while pause to thank the God in whom they trust for giving them Canada as a neighbour and for folk like John Manley as its foreign minister.

Then, the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the Parliament of Canada - Stockwell Day, MP - went to Washington to share 28 precious minutes with the vice-president of the United States, Richard (Dick) Cheney, a meeting so steeped in confidentiality that no photographs were permitted to be taken.

The only hard evidence we have that the Leader of the Opposition was in the presence of the vice-president is that he returned to Canada with lint on his knees that matched the rug in Cheney's office.

Our man Day afterwards went on to grovel before a lunch bunch of right-wing crazies who were stunned to be informed by their Canadian guest that world domination of true conservatism was now at hand, as soon as Canadians had the opportunity to put him and his Socred Alliance party in power, when - wait for this - he and President George W. Bush and Senor Vicente Fox, el presidente de Mexico, would form a mighty triumvirate of devout conservatives (after all, he pointed out, none of them are ashamed to admit they regularly attended church).

But even though both Minister Manley and Opposition Leader Day have extended themselves in efforts at ingratiation, pouring flattery over compliments, we remain where we were at the start of play.

As obliging as we are, though not obliging enough for Day, and as quietly supportive as we've been, although not too quiet to suit Manley, the result is diplomacy as a one-way street, leading southward to the lobbyists and special interests that haunt the corridors of power in the national capital.

While on the subject, how about free trade? The Americans have a definition of free trade: It is defined as whatever suits their interest.

We are having a very hard time getting our lumber into their markets. They want to set out stumpage fees, since they don't conform to their own. Our lumber is not just cheaper, it's better.

They have stopped the import of Prince Edward Island potatoes - someone found warts on some of them last year. They would like our diplomatic goodwill and genial compliance with their intentions to revive their arms industry by developing Ronald Reagan's dreams of Star Wars - the anti-missile missile to stop the anti-missile anti-missile, etc. And God only knows what plan they have for our national water resources, but we could not be so naive as to believe there is none.

Then, this further humiliation about Cuba and this so-called Summit of the Americas. The decision does not reflect the opinion of the Canadian people. It would not likely carry a vote in the Liberal caucus.

It pleases no one in the Americas, save the United States, its sugar lobby and the peculiar interests of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, in whose state the majority of Batista and mafia refugees have settled, and Jeb's brother, Bush, the president, who carried Florida with the crucial help of the Cuban immigrant vote.

It is said the United States wants to isolate Cuba as an example of the cost to others who might risk defying its interests. But that is a problem for the United States and not for us. Our problem is our lack of courage and, as a result, of having to live with it.

Copyright 1996-2001. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited

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