Vive Le Canada

When Parliament resumes we'll find out how big a splinter softwood can be
Date: Monday, July 10 2006
Topic:


When Parliament resumes we'll find out how big a splinter softwood can be

Deirdre McMurdy
CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, July 08, 2006

OTTAWA -- It may continue to be a Canadian obsession to the bitter end, but for most Americans, the softwood lumber war is officially over.

Both Gordon Giffin, who served as U.S. ambassador to Canada from 1997 to 2001, and his predecessor, James Blanchard (1993-96), concur that if Canadians don't accept the deal initialed last week in Geneva, they run the risk of severely damaging their most important economic and strategic partnership.

"Canadians have been using the softwood lumber dispute as a bloody shirt in their relationship with the U.S.," notes Giffin, now a partner in the Washington law firm, McKenna, Long & Aldridge and a director for several major Canadian companies, including Canadian National Railways and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

"It was important economically, but even more important symbolically. Canadians used this issue to prove to themselves that Americans never play by the rules."

With Liberals and the NDP threatening to vote against ratifying the agreement when Parliament resumes, Giffin maintains that it's crucial for Canada to "get past it," and to resume a less narrowly defined, less bilateral approach to cross-border relations.

"This relationship should not be reduced to just an economic dialogue about how much we sell each other across the 49th parallel," insists Giffin. "And Canada has much more leverage, is a much more valuable partner to the U.S. when it has a broader, more multilateral context."

He says one of the ongoing problems between the two nations is Canadians suffer from a "Goldilocks conundrum."

"You want relations to be not too hot, not too cold. And that can cause real timidity and fear of taking initiative for leaders. That in turn impacts their effectiveness," Giffin says. "There are a whole lot of things to talk about besides softwood lumber. And it's really time to move on to another agenda instead of staying locked on this one," he adds. "Just imagine how much can be accomplished when every bilateral meeting doesn't get hijacked by softwood."

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