Tony Clark / The Polaris Institute – 2004-12-02 00:29:13
(November 29, 2004) — For Paul Martin, George W. Bush’s official visit to Ottawa this week after taking control of the White House for another four years, not only signals a new era in Canada-US relations. It could also be the launching pad of a new political agenda for continental security.
Behind the scenes in Ottawa, Canada’s big business leaders have been quietly mapping out a blueprint for a new deal with the United States.
Fifteen years after bringing us the Free Trade Agreement, Bay Street is quietly lobbying for a new form of economic union and trade deal with America. The C.D. Howe Institute calls it the “Big Idea” and others the “Grand Bargain.” Meanwhile, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), representing the country’s largest 150 corporations, calls its plan the “North American Security and Prosperity Initiative”
In April, 2003, CCCE head Tom D’Aquino led a delegation of 100 Canadian business leaders to Washington for meetings with their counterpart, the US Business Round Table. To prepare their “new deal” plans, briefings were scheduled with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and Richard Perle, former chair of the White House defence policy board and architect of the Bush doctrine on security.
The timing was particularly sensitive for Canada-US relations. In Ottawa, Jean Chrétien’s government had just announced its intention not to join the US in its invasion of Iraq. In Washington, the Bush team reportedly told our business leaders that the central issue for the US administration was “security,” not “trade.” In keeping with the Bush doctrine, security would trump trade in foreign policy developments.
Indeed, the terms of “engagement” had been radically altered since the events of 9/11, reinforced by subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any “new deal” between Canada and the US, therefore, would have to serve America’s security agenda, which, in turn, meant a higher price tag.
Canada Told to Back US Space War Plans or Face ‘Consequences’
First, Washington’s demands for military security. Clearly, the big issue now is Canada’s participation in the Bush plan to build a North American ballistic missile defence system. Non-participation, says Defence Minister Bill Graham, will have “consequences” for Canada-US relations.
Yet, if the Martin government joins Bush’s Star Wars enterprise, then Canada’s Armed Forces will, in effect, be placed under the US-led “Northern Command-NORAD” structure for military operations on this continent.
According to the Canadian CEOs, Ottawa would also have to invest heavily in Canada’s military to ensure the “interoperability of Canadian and United States armed forces on land, sea and in the air.” To do its part, Canada would have to make corresponding large increases in current levels of military spending for high tech equipment just to keep pace with US commitments (now more than $500 billion annually).
Furthermore, these new military security measures would also lock Canada into a war-based economy with no choice but to support America’s pre-emptive strikes in the future.
Second, US demands for homeland security: Washington wants a full common security perimeter that encompasses Canada and Mexico, as well as the United States.
A US-style War-based Economic Model Planned for Canada and Mexico
Ottawa has begun to comply by establishing its powerful new Ministry for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (modelled after the US Homeland Security Agency in Washington), plus enacting similar anti-terrorism legislation (C-36) and setting up a data bank to track foreign air travel by all Canadians (C-23).
Also, under heavy pressure from the Canadian CEOs, Ottawa signed and implemented in December, 2001 the “Smart Border accord,” to co-ordinate cross-border intelligence operations while harmonizing visa, immigration and refugee practices between the two countries.
Yet, as the case of Maher Arar shows, such measures can pose a serious threat to the civil liberties of Canadians — including detainment, deportation, imprisonment and torture.
Using police state tactics to track peoples’ movements, while providing fast-track clearance for goods and services across borders, will not necessarily make us safe from attacks from terrorists.
Canada to Become US’ Major Oil Supplier
Third, US demands for energy security: Unbeknown to most, Canada is now the largest foreign supplier of oil, as well as natural gas, to the US In submissions to Congress, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has declared the US will decrease its dependence on Middle East sources in favour of Canadian sources.
In particular, the US has focused its sights on the Athabaska tar sands in northern Alberta, where proven reserves are second in size to Saudi Arabia’s and roughly equal to that of Kuwait.
With the Athabaska tar sands, Canada is able to supply the US economy and its military needs with a safe and reliable supply of oil.
Moreover, the oil refinement process itself will be fuelled by the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which is to begin bringing Arctic natural gas south to Fort McMurray by 2009.
Yet, this massive increase in energy production will have untold environmental consequences for Canada, including our commitments under the Kyoto accord.
Indeed, the Bush-Martin summit, spurred on by big business lobbies on both sides of the border, could set the stage for a new deal on continental security. If so, Canadians will be called on to pay a huge price.
Tony Clarke is the director of the Polaris Institute in Ottawa, which studies corporations and public policy making.
The Polaris Institute is a public interest research organization federally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with Industry Canada under the Canada Corporations Act. The Polaris Institute, 312 Cooper Street, Ottawa ON K2P 0G7. tel. 613 237-1717, fax. 613 237-3359.
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