James Laxer on Montebello

Laxer points out some of the features of NAFTA that ought to be challenged by Canada. The Northwest Passage issue was brought up by Harper to no avail. Bush re-iterated his view that the Passage is international waters. I thought that there might be some change or agreement that would allow US ships special privileges.

Harper, Bush, and Calderon: The Men Behind the Barbed-Wire Fence

The men who met behind the barbed-wire fence at the Chateau Montebello on the Ottawa River have been promising to enhance the prosperity and security of their fellow citizens.

They are not the sort of men who gladden the hearts of democrats. At their summit at the Chateau, they met with the CEO’s of some of the world’s most powerful corporations. Others---labour leaders, environmentalists, writers, students, aboriginals, humanity in general---were only allowed to stand on the other side of the fences and to be sprayed with tear gas and pelted with rubber bullets.

One thing the three men share in common is that they are not trusted by millions of their compatriots. In recent polls, 31 per cent of voters say they would back Stephen Harper in an election. In the U.S., the approval ratings of George W. Bush are stuck at around 29 or 30 per cent and many Americans are counting down the days to January 20, 2009, the day W. leaves the White House. Anyone who thinks this man will strengthen their security only has to think of the two failing wars he launched and the freedoms he took away from his fellow citizens with the powers Washington seized under the Patriot Act. And amigos visiting from Canada or Mexico should keep in mind that the US government has assumed the right to lock up any foreigner deemed a security risk for an indefinite period. Watch out, you could be the next Maher Arar. Arar was a victim of a previous border security deal between Canada and the US. If W. has done little for security, he has not raised the tone of democracy either. His friends in Florida and the US Supreme Court stole the 2000 election for him, and historians have not yet made up their minds whether the funny business in Ohio in 2004 amounted to another theft. Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s president, holds his office following elections in 2006 that were riddled with irregularities.

As for prosperity, the three men share views that inclined them to believe they would be most likely to enjoy their meals at the Chateau in the company of multi-millionaires. All three are devoted to the cause of tax cuts for the rich. Bush’s tax cuts, along with his wars, have driven the US into record indebtedness. Calderon, who opposes contraception, abortion and gay marriage, is a proponent of flat taxes, free trade and lower taxes for his corporate friends. Harper is an opponent of public childcare, a fair deal for first nations, and he dreams of the day when he has a majority government that can deliver steep tax cuts to Big Oil and the rest of his pals. No wonder that under the rule of the three partners, Mexicans, Americans and Canadians are watching the income and wealth gaps widen between the rich and the rest.

From a Canadian perspective, here are some issues that ought to be on the table in any meeting with a US president:

· Ottawa ought to insist the NAFTA be amended to end the deal that commits Canada to providing oil and natural gas to the US even in the event of shortages for Canadians. That deal, along with a ban on Canada’s right to sell petroleum to the US for a higher price than the Canadian domestic price, infringes on our security and our prosperity.
· No discussion with the US is complete without bringing the unwillingness of Washington to recognize Canadian sovereignty in the North-West Passage to the attention of the public in both countries.
· Ottawa ought to make it clear that it has no intention of sharing security information with a government that has yet to publicly apologize for the treatment of Maher Arar.
· No summit should be held with a US president that does not feature the grave concerns of Canadians about the prevalent use of guns smuggled in from south of the border in the commission of violent crimes in Canada. The risk of someone being killed in a Canadian city by a gun of American origin is far greater than that of dying in an assault by Al Qaeda. The American gun culture and its consequences belongs on our security agenda.

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