Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Duncan Cameron on UN development goals and the SPP

This is rather a wandering article. Cameron does not say exactly what the US has decided and is trying to impose through the SPP. It combines talk of the SPP with the UN millenium developments goals. There is also a part about the failure of the US to pay its fair share of border security. The article would have been more effective if it had made some more detailed criticisms of the SPP.

Mowing the border

Our government exhibits indifference to the UN Millennium Development Goals yet, if they knew more about them, Canadians would actively support reaching the nine objectives.

>by Duncan Cameron
July 11, 2007

Canada has developed a new international personality. We sign up, and then do not show up. Our failure to establish a plan to meet our Kyoto obligations on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is well known. Our government exhibits indifference to the UN Millennium Development Goals yet, if they knew more about them, Canadians would actively support reaching the nine objectives.

From goal one, halving extreme poverty; to goal nine, developing a global partnership for development; UN members have agreed to deliver results by 2015. Canada is nowhere to be seen.

Instead of looking out at the world and asking, “what can Canada contribute to peace and development?” the last four prime ministers, two Conservatives, two Liberals, have looked across the border, and said, “what can we do to placate the U.S.?”

The current answer is to sign on to the poorly-conceived, inaptly-named Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a White House led, corporate driven process for bringing Canada and Mexico into a North American Union, to be run for the benefit of Washington. It would be nice if Canadians would revolt at the prospect. Despite the remoteness of the revolutionary option, Canadians are being nonetheless kept in the dark by their government on what is at stake in the SPP.

We do know that from Aug. 20 to 21 in Montebello, Que., Prime Minister Stephen Harper will welcome U.S. President George W. Bush and President of Mexico Felipe Calderón for further plotting about North American “deep” integration.

The SSP is not about the U.S. maintaining security on our joint border. The Wall Street Journal reports that Canada has complained the U.S. has defaulted on its financial obligations to maintain an equal contribution to the International Boundary Commission.

Under the 1923 Treaty of Washington the two countries are supposed to share the cost of maintaining the border. The U.S. currently pays only $1.4 million, or one-half of its share according to Canada, says the Journal story by Barry Newman, which provides an hilarious account of the failed attempts being made on the U.S. side, first to find, and then mow the border.

The SPP is a poorly disguised attempt to remove economic decisions from public view and democratic oversight. Security does not mean improving pensions, or providing health care for all. Prosperity does not mean alleviating poverty, or improving access to public services. And partnership does not mean partnership.

It means whatever the U.S. decides, goes.

Imagine if instead of courting two leaders who obtained high office only through fraud — in order to please corporations who are at war with citizens across the globe — a Canadian prime minister would ask Canadians what we should be doing to meet the UN Millennium Goals. Is it all that hard to envisage a Canadian foreign policy initiative on world peace and development?

Think of a Canadian foreign policy that focuses on dialogue with China, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, and India about how to best reach these development goals.

Instead, these countries are either supposed to be our competitors, or represent market opportunities, depending on whether Canadians are being told to tighten our belts, or look forward to a rosy future.

The U.S. expects Canada and Mexico to play minor roles in the main production where the U.S. gets to continue as the dominant player in the world. Canada should refuse to sign on, and start showing up for meaningful discussions about what kind of future is possible, post-American hegemony.

Duncan Cameron is associate publisher of He writes from Vancouver.

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