Canada must abandon subservience to U.S.
Date: Thursday, September 29 2005
Canada must abandon subservience to U.S.
In response to changes in world politics, our foreign policy has fallen deeper into the trap set by continental economic integration.
by Duncan Cameron
September 28, 2005
On the eve of the new session that opened in Ottawa this week, the Prime Minister called on parliamentarians to treat each more civilly. With respect, politeness is not the issue facing the country.
It is the job of Parliament to identify the issues important to Canada's future. As members return from a summer of talking to constituents, they will have heard a lot about gas prices, the dollar and manufacturing, softwood lumber, child care, beef exports, global warming and a host of other issues, small and large.
The common feature of current concerns is they turn on relations with the U.S.
Gas prices rise because we have a U.S.-led continental energy policy, not a policy made for Canadians.
The dollar goes up because Canada has a trade surplus with the U.S., and the Bank of Canada Governor is trying to keep the lid on our exports, so he uses coded language about interest rate hikes, signalling markets to bid up the loonie, shutting down manufacturing.
Softwood and beef are border issues, obviously, but so is child care. Since free trade we have given up the publicly funded, publicly administered, universally provided model for public services.
Rita, and Katrina wash the Gulf coast with devastation, but no link is made to the U.S. refusal to act on climate change. Canada-U.S. relations affect two other perennial Canadian subjects: Quebec/Canada, and federal-provincial relations in general. Get the U.S. piece wrong, and the other two will hit Ottawa between the eyes.
At a conference last weekend organized by Alberta's Parkland Institute on Challenges to U.S. Empire participants looked at what attitudes were emerging in Canada and elsewhere in the world to U.S. domination.
China is reaching out to Latin America, organizing trade and economic missions in the U.S. backyard, the area claimed historically under the Monroe Doctrine as a U.S. zone of influence. While the U.S. and Canada are talking to China about investment and markets, China is talking to the world.
With the emergence of the euro as a strong currency, the European Union has positioned itself as a legitimate world financial power. While Europeans debate the need to lower interest rates to reduce unemployment, the European central bank tries to remain aloof, all the while quietly undermining social Europe.
In world trade talks, Brazil, India, South Africa and China have shown their ability to work together in opposition to U.S. initiatives.
In response to these changes in world politics, Canadian foreign policy has fallen deeper into the trap set by continental economic integration. As countries re-align, Canada sits passively in the NAFTA protectionist fortress, emerging only to champion ill-conceived, dangerous and downright criminal American trade initiatives on public services, investment and intellectual property.
When Canada speaks out on UN reform, the words are weak because we have failed to organize the sort of coalition that is needed to make things happen. Real UN reform threatens the U.S. and the Martin government is unwilling to do what is necessary.
Canada has much work to do rethinking relations with China and the European Union. Thinking about climate change, UN reform, and a world trade agenda, has to begin anew. What Parliament needs to do is allow debate over Canada-U.S. relations to take place openly. So long as we are stuck in the U.S. camp, the other issues are not going to be addressed seriously.
For the NDP, establishing itself on the Canada-U.S. question is akin to becoming a choice for government. As Jack Layton and his caucus meet Parliament, a top objective should be to bring out the link between a weakening Canadian foreign policy, and subservience to the U.S.
Duncan Cameron is associate publisher of rabble.ca. He writes from Vancouver. His column appears each Wednesday.