Wednesday Night #1329 – SPP with Guy Stanley OWN

22 August 2007

As we prepare for #1329, we offer the following indispensable addition to the Wednesday Night lexicon:
The word outsight, defined as “A statement believed by the person who utters it to be an important or profound insight, but which is in fact regarded by its audience as so obvious or elementary that it reveals the speaker as hopelessly ignorant or slow-witted, at least relative to the relevant group”
We trust we will never have to apply this term to any pronouncement at Wednesday Night!

Over the last few weeks Wednesday Night has (figuratively) travelled to the Arctic, The Republic of Georgia, Russia, China, Darfur and Rwanda. We have discussed human rights, climate change and security, nuclear energy, global governance, innovation and competitiveness, dramatic events in the markets and, of course, Conrad Black. We continue to ponder such global topics as the markets and central banks ; the U.S. presidential election saga – and Karl Rove’s departure from the scene; – havoc wrought by Hurricane Dean and other natural disasters around the world; and more locally, the ponderously titled Québec Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (Bouchard-Taylor Commission) We also invite you to consider the attached piece from the Wall Street Journal on Europe and Iran forwarded by last week‘s guest, David Kilgour.

Along with these topics, SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America) will be on the programme this week.

On the eve of the Montebello meeting, there has been a sudden torrent of conflicting opinion from pundits and think tanks regarding SPP pouring out of every Canadian media outlet. Should we be concerned, complaisant or committed? That Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Iran, Russia or Darfur should be higher on our agenda than SPP is arguable, but it seems to us that a plan hatched by Los Tres Amigos (originally Bush, Fox and Martin) on closer continental cooperation should spark a modicum of interest. Any project that is targeted for criticism by Lou Dobbs and Maude Barlow must have merit!

We quite like the somewhat flippant Gazette editorial view: “Stephen Harper, George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón meet Monday and Tuesday at Montebello, and there, we are told, they will impose a continent-wide draft for military service, destroy the environment, sell us out to the oil companies, create a common currency, confiscate Canada’s water, privatize our health care (but “socialize” U.S. health care), and wipe out thousands of jobs. Then, their work done, maybe they’ll play golf”. However there are some very serious issues involved, not the least of which is WATER.

A National Post story starts off: “To some, it is a ‘corporate coup d’état’, a conspiracy by big business to turn Canada into the 51st state by stealth. Others see it as a plot to destroy the U.S. by forcing it into a North American union with ‘socialist Canada’ and ‘corrupt Mexico’ ” and concludes dramatically: “One thing is certain: The fate of North America, and our place in it, has shot into the spotlight with growing public awareness of the SPP, rekindling a wrenching debate about Canada’s ties to the superpower to the south.” In the same paper, Allan Gotlieb presents cogent arguments to Bring back the special relationship

Neil Reynolds in the Globe & Mail (“What’s good for birds is good for economies”) offers a more upbeat view wherein he points to a very few examples of SPP objectives, all of which sound eminently reasonable and desirable, although given that the bureaucracies of three governments are involved, we are not holding our collective breath
–Develop compatible standards in the manufacture of auto parts.
–Establish common specifications for containers used to transport dangerous goods.
–Take steps to combat the North American trade in counterfeit and pirated goods.
–Pursue greater market access for natural health products in North America.
–Develop common labels for textile products.
–Set compatible standards for the manufacture of pleasure craft.
–Expand scientific collaboration among the three countries on energy – specifically, among other subjects, on the sequestration of carbon dioxide, on the use of carbon dioxide in the recovery of oil, on clean-coal technology and on renewable energy sources.
–Establish ways to identify invasive alien species in North American waterways.
–Develop and sign a declaration of intent on the conservation of North American birds and their habitat. For the record, this last goal has been met. Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have signed the formal declaration, which commits them to act across international boundaries to achieve integrated conservation of native North American birds. “Birds, after all, have economies, too – the continental commerce of the skies.”

But then, as the National Post points out in Monday’s piece Summit has pomp, not much circumstance, “There’s no predicting with certainty what the leaders will actually discuss. The SPP process, having lost much of its momentum, might have to make room for more pressing issues — from Afghanistan to Arctic sovereignty — in the leaders’ talks”. Maybe, after all, they will just play golf? Stay tuned to developments on this and other topics.

We are fortunate to have Guy Stanley as our Concert Master for the SPP discussion .We look forward to having you as members of the orchestra (or perhaps opera troupe?) and to hearing your views on SPP, or not.

Reading List
Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America
Canada Needs Sharper Game in International Trade Arena
– C.D. Howe Institute
President and CEO, William B.P. Robson argues that Canada must take aggressive action to protect itself from losing its privileged trade position with the United States . Although multilateral trade liberalization remains the first and best strategy, the turmoil in the Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization – and agricultural protectionism at home – put multilateral progress in doubt.
What the partners have yet to doGlobe & Mail special comment
Bush, Harper, Calderon to tackle economy, security
Montebello’s summit is less than it seems
Robert Pastor
writes in Focal Point, the electronic magazine of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas
“The three leaders need to use the summit to speak to their people – not just to their bureaucrats and CEOs – and explain why North America already represents the most formidable regional trading area in the world with a gross product larger than the 27-member European Union. They need to help the public understand why all will benefit from increased co-operation and integration. Mr. Bush especially needs to explain to the American people that Canada and Mexico are our most important trading partners, sources of energy, and our closest friends. Whatever the three leaders actually do in Montebello, there will be protests that they are doing too much, but the real problem is that they are doing too little. It is commendable to have an agreement on avian flu, but this is inadequate to the task of making North America more secure, prosperous, competitive and co-operative. What the leaders should do is enunciate a vision of a North American Community and sketch a blueprint for accomplishing it.
NAFTA all over again? Promoting a better understanding of the SPP Thomas d’Aquino’s op-ed in the August 2007 Focal Point: Spotlight on the Americas
Where’s the transparency in the ‘Security’ and ‘Prosperity’ Partnership?
Maude Barlowe in the Globe & Mail
and a related piece
Secret Banff Meeting of CEOs and the Defense Establishment : Militarization and the Deconstruction of North America
The BBC chimes in with Trade worries cloud Nafta talks
Bush heading to Canada for summit, business seeks concessions for Canada
The ReportBill 104
Bill 104 was effectively killed – although, because the Government is appealing, the ruling only affects those families who brought the suit. The death at the hands of two out of three judges of the Québec Court of Appeal appears to have caused a much greater reaction than warranted in a Province that has seen the evolution of a virtual de facto bilingualism within a legal framework of a presumably Francophone culture. The big battle has already been fought and won without bloodshed. The lingua franca of Québec is undoubtedly French, within a world where the lingua franca is English, an undeniably reasonable situation. As with many issues in Québec, however, the means of achieving this end appears to have become more important than the result. Bill 104 closed a loophole in the law that permitted children to qualify for instruction in grammar school in the English language by having previously attended their first year in English in a non-government subsidized private school. The loophole widens when this extends to privately funded kindergartens. Presumably, home schooling would open the floodgates. An objective viewer would simply ask why, if the objective is integration into the language and culture of Québec, a simpler solution would not be to measure the success in the achievement of the desired objectives at various academic levels rather than attempting to control the means of attaining them. However, the vehemence of the reaction of Quebeckers on both sides of the issue would lead one to suspect that winners and losers do exist and that an understanding of their issues might clarify their actions and reactions.
(Gérald Larose, Chairman of the Conseil de la souveraineté has expressed the opinion that the closing of the loophole will permit Anglophones to buy their way into the public school system through their payment for one year of private schooling, implying that public education is for Francophones only. As he was commenting on the case in which French-speaking Vietnamese parents wanted their child educated in English because he was learning French at home.)
Parents of English speaking immigrant children may possibly see integration into a community in which they are linguistically comfortable as a means to ease integration into their country of adoption, confident in the fact that the acquisition of French language skills in English language public schools is a requisite of Québec law.
For school boards the issue is funding. A loss of students (possibly as many as 8,000 students) from the French Language School Board to the English, translates into a transfer of funding and increased resources. Money has always been a powerful motivator.
Following the enactment of and most likely in large part due to Québec language laws, Francophones have become more affluent. With affluence comes decrease in reproduction and there is an understandable real concern that, unless the decrease in birthrate in the Québec population is offset by the Francization of the immigrant population, this province could become a linguistic New Brunswick. It is extremely difficult to solve human problems that remain ill defined.

The Three Amigos at Montebello
Despite some harsh words and virtual sabre rattling, the Québec language debate has thus far been much more low-key and civilized than the elaborate drama played out on the stage at Montebello. Rumours abounded that the meeting at Montebello would result in a total integration of the North American economy and consequent loss of Canadian (and presumably Mexican) sovereignty, through such dastardly actions as the construction of a super highway connecting the heartlands of the three countries – a plot hatched by the political and corporate élite. The sad truth is that from what those outside the process could establish, very, very little was accomplished. Along with Maisonneuve MediaScout, we may well question the large amounts of taxpayer money devoted to photo-ops. For the leaders, a few days at Montebello, good food, friendly discussion, relaxation and jellybeans (it would have been nice had the politicians understood that the issue for jellybeans was not regulation of content, but of labeling and packaging) was no doubt a pleasant summer break.
Essentially it was a non-event. What they discussed was not what everyone thought they were there to discuss. They came to virtually no conclusions – it surely didn’t take that huge organizational effort to decide that the three countries are against importing defective toys from China -; George Bush did not support Canada’s position on the Arctic (which in any case was not on the agenda). No solution to the easing of movement of goods and people across the borders, as Security continues to dominate policy in the U.S. Finally, the elephant (not the Republican one) in the room that never surfaced is the collapse of Northern Mexico and the general failure of Mexico’s economic strategy.
Whatever President Bush, Prime Minister Harper and President Calderon do at Montebello, some will accuse them of doing too much. The reality is that it is too little because there is a lack of a comprehensive blueprint.”

Demonstrations and secrecy
While the usual suspects demonstrated outside the gates, it was not a large crowd and to one observer many seemed uninformed. While only one Wednesday Nighter was at Montebello, we heard from several who have been in the thick of demonstrations in the past. The comments below encapsulate the discussion which, as might be expected, divided the room by age rather than ideology.
It is true that in a democratic country there is a right to demonstrate, but it is unacceptable that demonstrations include throwing rocks, damaging private property or other destructive and confrontational behaviour
Civil disobedience is an important part of democracy
Our democracy is in danger if we do not have people clearly expressing their opinions; this (demonstrations) is a way that young people have of making their voices heard. They have a right to be there as long as they are not violent – and 95% are simply young people who are exercising their right. But there’s always the other 5% who cannot be controlled
I believe that many of the demonstrators do not vote; it is important that they also engage in traditional means of expressing their opinions (voting)
National organizations that are truly reaching out to youth are shutting down [in Canada] at an alarming rate

The Undercover (Keystone) Cops
Newscasts this Wednesday evening feature a video that purports to show 3 men who on Monday were identified as police disguised as masked demonstrators and accused of trying to incite violence by Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, (who was wearing a suit and tie). One Wednesday Nighter who was there said that he had seen the three men and judging from their build, it was very likely that they were police.
[Postscript: after earlier denials, the SQ admitted on Thursday that these were 3 undercover policemen. The admission provoked howls of outrage and scorn for the inept attempts at disguise.]

Security trumps trade
Despite the general civility of the protestors and the inability of the leaders of the three democracies to implement secret plans without ultimately taking them to Parliament (or Congress), there appeared to be a feeling among the Canadian population – or at least the chattering classes – that the elaborate nature of the conference and the paucity of important information emanating from it were designed to hide secret plans. However, the success of NAFTA on one hand and the perceived fear of rising international terrorism on the other, demonstrate the importance of addressing the mind-numbing task of developing uniform standards and regulations, facilitating and making continental transportation more efficient. NAFTA has demonstrated the importance of these issues but they are technical in nature and will be resolved not by politicians but by technicians. As difficult as they may prove to be, they will undoubtedly be made more so by the involvement of Homeland Security. Security measures can often prove to be an anathema to efficiency.
It is more likely that the perceived secrecy was mostly due to a lack of information and that the discussions among technicians are a work in progress.

North American trade North-South has increased in volume by 300% in all categories, however it costs us 200% more because of the lack of a proper transportation infrastructure – we can’t make it cheaper to ship
People who go to these summits have no patience for technicalities so they don’t discuss any of those matters

In the opinion of many, SPP, the Orwellian acronym for Security and Prosperity Partnership, has a menacing ring giving rise to the public’s fears of a dark purpose to form a union in which the interests of Canada and Mexico would be totally subsumed to those of the U.S. The term is misleading: the negotiations are not about Security and prosperity, but about rationalizing the North American economy. The great failure of the Montebello Conference was in the area of communications and public relations – there was no evidence of any effort (or even desire) to manage the public’s expectations or to develop a reassuring closing statement. This is an inherent problem with George W. Bush, he does not use words properly and consequently encourages misapprehensions.

Despite rumours to the contrary, Water was not on the agenda of the Montebello meeting, however Stéphane Dion’s allegation prior to the meeting that bulk-water sales were under discussion prompted an impassioned rebuttal from the Minister of Environment and among some Wednesday Nighters, a feeling that the remarks were ill-advised. The topic has been on Wednesday Night’s agenda for many years. The debate this evening was fuelled by questions as to the meaning of water as a (finite) renewable resource; reports that Hydro Quebec is artificially maintaining higher prices for water while claiming that Canada has a sufficient supply to meet the needs of the world; the effects of climate change, pollution of groundwater and world population growth, which brings additional requirements for agricultural purposes and municipal water systems.

Boycotting the Beijing Olympics
Talk continues of boycotting the Beijing Olympic Games. The question is asked, what is so different from the situation when Beijing was designated six years ago? More information about human rights abuses? More people like David Kilgour who are willing to speak out? Some believe that the boycott of the Moscow Olympics ultimately played an important part in the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. It is more probable however, that that country was in the process of disintegration because its time had come. Certainly, the boycott of the Montreal Olympics by the African continent did much less harm to our city than it did to African athletes.
Some wonder whether the presence of the world’s athletes and the attendant media circus will cause China to mend its ways, or will the ugly face of China be swept under the carpet until the world goes home again.
The consensus is that if anything is to be done to demonstrate our anger at the execution of innocent human beings in order to supply organs on demand, it is we who should take the necessary initiative rather than impose it on our athletes.
Mia Farrow is leading an Olympic-style torch relay through countries that have suffered genocide to press China, host of the 2008 games, to help end abuses in its ally Sudan‘s Darfur region. This initiative does not call for a boycott of the Games and while applauded by David Kilgour, is a parallel activity focused on the Darfur genocide, not on abuses in China.

The medical brain drain
A secondary effect of the linguistic harmony enjoyed by Quebeckers for well over a quarter century is our seeming inability to retain our medical graduates. With medical school fees lower than anywhere else on the continent, we continue to produce large numbers of well-trained medical graduates at great public cost. The majority of these young doctors will end up practicing elsewhere regardless of their mother tongue, while we continue to face a declining number of family physicians.
There is a critical need to design incentives to encourage these valuable practitioners to stay in Québec, but no thought appears to have been given to what would be feasible and attractive to them.

7 Comments on "Wednesday Night #1329 – SPP with Guy Stanley OWN"

  1. Guy Stanley August 20, 2007 at 10:28 am ·

    Always a bad idea to let yourself be defined by your opponents. D’Aquino’s piece is on target–how else does a country like Canada manage to make its huge neighbour a tad more predictable, especially when (1) its administration has such a peculiar view of the world and (2) the threat of another terrorist attack is real? Another aspect of this is the consequence of a single market in so many commodities–producers on both sides of the border want access to the same array of inputs, even chemical ones. So “harmonization” is also about managing a single market for controlled substances across 3 jurisdictions.
    Since all 3 governments regulate “by reference” to statutes, as long as the changes don’t break the boundaries of the relevant laws, the reg changes have only to be announced in Gazettes or federal registers–official publications of rule changes. It’s only the working groups that get involved at that level, however. The Heads of NAFTA governments are supposed to consult regularly anyway (Chapter 20 of NAFTA) to ensure the agreement is continuing to function as it should. Anyone who studies NAFTA is aware of its flaws as a design for what has emerged from it, namely a single North American market in most of what the 3 countries make. But there is no mechanism for upgrading continental infrastructure, reducing inadvertent trade barriers caused by minor rule differences, and now on top of that addressing security concerns. The energy stuff is mainly about Alberta trying to lock in US markets. Water management is not touched in NAFTA but recent concerns about unilateral action in Great Lakes tributaries need addressing and the US has been in violation of its treaty with Mexico over water flows for some time. As the Greens point out, no country in NAFTA is a “water surplus” country.The US is also outside the UN mechanism for
    resolving international territorial disputes…so lots of reason for the leaders to talk.
    Why not more publicity? The same hostile crowd raised the same objections about the WTO meetings and even managed to shut them down to some extent. Now global trade liberalization has ground to a halt and Doha is moribund if not yet a corpse. Result: even more subsidies for rich western farmers and less hope for raising the welfare of poor countries through trade-led
    growth. It’s clear that Executive Branches of all 3 governments have not learned the lesson of these WTO disasters–they definitely should never create the impression they are conspiring against their electorates.Many of those who support the SPP process would welcome a debate about the future of North America as an economic partnership. But that debate would have to be much more far reaching than the constrained, relatively technocratic SPP.

  2. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 21, 2007 at 6:37 pm ·

    In the interest of balance, we offer the more extreme view:
    “For another informative piece written from a very different perspective you might find the following of interest, providing a wider and problematical not to say worrisome context. The SPP is discussed about half way down the page.
    Before that though, you and David may be interested in a video from Lou Dobbs on CNN about “North American Union”
    There also are some interesting items at August Review including
    ” Toward a North American Union: The global elite, through the direct operations of President George Bush and his Administration, are creating a North American Union that will combine Canada, Mexico and the U.S. into a superstate called the North American Union…. ”
    Canada’s Sovereignty in Jeopardy: the Militarization of North America By Michel Chossudovsky”
    David Mitchell OWN

  3. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 21, 2007 at 6:27 pm ·

    A week ago, 13 August, there was also a conference at the Hudson Institute featuring a paper on SPP by Greg Anderson and Chris Sands, “Negotiating North America: The Security and Prosperity Partnership.” The paper and the panels were relatively uneventful, but they were also something that helps keep SPP in perspective. Hudson website should have the paper for any of your Wednesday Night participants who are interested.
    David Jones OWN

  4. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 21, 2007 at 6:58 pm ·

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met U.S. President George W. Bush at Montebello, QC, ….They were later joined by Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon, who said he’ll have to return home on Tuesday instead of on Wednesday to deal with the emergency caused by Hurricane Dean, which is nearing Yucatan. The three leaders’ main purpose is to discuss their countries’ North American Security and Prosperity Partnership.
    Canadian officials revealed that Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper discussed border issues, trade and Canada’s sovereignty claim over the Arctic. During the weekend, former U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said it would make sense for the U.S. to recognize that claim. The president did not reverse the longstanding U.S. contention that Canada has sovereignty over the Arctic islands but that the waterways around them are international. RCI

  5. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 28, 2007 at 8:32 am ·

    Montebello meltdown, based on an interview with Dr. Robert A. Pastor of American University, neatly resumes the realities of SPP:
    “The federal authorities in both Canada and the United States have simply not gotten their acts together on the big picture issues. One of Pastor’s great concerns is that since NAFTA, trade has increased considerably. But the cost of the goods traded has risen instead of fallen, mostly, he says, due to the lack of a renewed transport grid that is so outdated that it actually makes the costs of further expansion of North-South trade prohibitive.
    There are vital issues on the agenda of North American co-operation. These include easing rules on legitimate travel and immigration, eliminating rules-of-origin with a customs union, preventing monopoly practices in an enlarged North American market while reducing unnecessary regulations, and developing more effective procedures to facilitate co-operation on Canadian job protection. Sadly, these critical questions are not yet on the agenda. When they get there they must be debated in the open.”

  6. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 28, 2007 at 9:09 am ·

    August 27
    “Like badly rehearsed actors in a comic opera, three burly Sûreté du Québec officers were unmasked last week trying to pass themselves off as protesters during the North American government leaders’ summit meeting in Montebello.
    For men whose assignment apparently was to blend with the crowd and be on the lookout for dangerous or violent protesters, the police officers appear to have gone badly astray.
    First, they were dressed in combat fatigues and facemasks, looking for all the world like extras in a Rambo movie. The relatively low numbers of actual protesters at this meeting generally stuck to conventional attire, including in some cases business suits.”
    Gazette editorial

  7. Diana Thébaud Nicholson January 14, 2008 at 1:25 pm ·

    Bill for Montebello summit: $13.6M
    Doesn’t include RCMP costs. Leaders of Canada, U.S. and Mexico feasted on $95 meals of caribou, duck and quail
    PHIL COUVRETTE, Canwest News Service
    Last August’s Montebello summit cost at least $13.6 million, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service, and that doesn’t include the RCMP’s costs, which will likely be the biggest bill of all.
    While various government departments and police forces are still tabulating their expenses, the Department of Foreign Affairs – the lead agency for the meeting between leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico – has spent about $3 million and counting, according to receipts obtained by Canwest News Service.
    The Security and Prosperity Partnership summit lived up to its name, at least cost-wise.

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