Vive Le Canada

Relationship needs work, MacKay says
Date: Tuesday, October 04 2005
Topic:


Relationship needs work, MacKay says

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton joins deputy federal Tory leader Peter MacKay and diplomat Pamela Wallin at an Oct. 17 London conference on Canada-U.S. relations. Free Press reporter Joe Matyas spoke to MacKay and Wallin about their thoughts heading into the forum.
By JOE MATYAS, Free Press Reporter


The Canada-U.S. relationship is too tense and acrimonious, says the deputy federal Conservative leader, part of a London forum on the issue.

That's why Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay says he won't be shy about criticizing the state of affairs between the two nations at the Oct. 17 conference at the John Labatt Centre.

"We need to get back to what's important between the two countries in a respectful business-like manner," said MacKay, referring to Canada-U.S trade worth $1 billion a day.

MacKay will expand on that theme with the star attraction at the sold-out Canadian-American Relations Conference -- former U.S. president Bill Clinton.


MacKay said he's "thrilled and delighted" to share the stage with the former president.

Clinton "fostered good relations" between Canada and the U.S., said MacKay.

But that's not what the Canadian government has been doing lately, he said.

Instead of acting as America's best friend and most important trading partner, Ottawa has sent mixed messages sprinkled with a dash of insults, said MacKay.

The lows were reached when former prime minister Jean Chretien's communications director publicly called U.S. President George W. Bush a "moron" and when then-Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish stomped on a Bush doll in a TV satire, he said.

Such antics showed a lack of diplomacy and low regard for the importance of Canadian-U.S. relations, said MacKay.

"We have to rise above the (anti-U.S.) rhetoric."

MacKay he found some tensions around trade issues and security during a recent visit to Washington.

"The government has to set a better tone," he said. "We don't always have to agree, but if we disagree, we should do so in a respectful manner."

U.S. officials are concerned by the Canadian government's response to security issues, said MacKay.

"Americans took a direct hit (during the 9/11 terrorist attacks) and they expect a full commitment" on North American security, said the MP, adding, "I don't think our government has given our common security a high enough priority."

MacKay said the Canadian government confused and disappointed the Americans on the issue of continental missile defence, with mixed messages of yes, no and maybe.

Although government-to-goverment relations aren't what they should or could be, Canadians have maintained goodwill toward the U.S. with an "extraordinary relief effort" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, said MacKay.


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