Balancing Closer U.S. Ties with the Character of Canada
Graham, Bill, Canadian Speeches
Resisting continental integration simply to distinguish ourselves from the United States is contrary to Canada's real economic and security interests. But we must balance three facets of Canada: an independent sovereign nation; a partner with the United States and Mexico in one of the world's largest economic relations; and an outward looking country of diverse peoples committed to multilateral solutions to global issues. The claim that Canada has no choice but to proceed full steam ahead with economic and security integration is disputed. Canada's decision not to join the invasion of Iraq and its stand on such matters as the Kyoto Accord, the International Criminal Court and the Ottawa Landmines Convention, are cited as instances where Canadian views lead to positions distinctive from the United States. Prepared text of speech to the 72 annual Couchiching Couchiching Conference, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs conference, Geneva Park, Ontario, August 10, 2003.
In considering what Canadians want from continental integration, some basic things are obvious but perhaps bear repeating. First, we are a sovereign country enjoying peace and a healthy economy, and we constitute a society that is widely admired around the world. Second, we are also part of North America, sharing one of the largest economic relationships in the world with the United States, as well as countless ties of history, geography, culture and values. Over the past decade, NAFTA has joined our two countries together with Mexico in a partnership that has made the prosperity of the three countries on our continent inseparable. Finally, we are a country with a global outlook stemming from our amazingly diverse population, our broad international trade relations and our long-standing commitment to finding multilateral solutions to problems facing the globe.
Taken together, these three facets of Canadian identity mean that when we seek to maximize opportunities in one sphere, we must bear in mind the demands placed on the other two spheres. This implies that we have to be very clear about what our bottom line is in each sphere, as well as identifying our non-negotiable priorities as a sovereign nation, as a North American partner and as a member of the global community.
From this perspective, the crux of the issue is determining the right balance between continental integration and independence. This is, no doubt, complicated by the disparity of size and power between us and our American neighbours. It is also hardly a new challenge for Canadians. Sir Wilfrid Laurier put it this way:
"I have the greatest possible admiration for the American people. I have always admired their many strong qualities. But I have found in the short experience during which it has been my privilege and my fortune to be placed at the head of affairs, by the will of the Canadian people, that the best and most effective way to maintain friendship with our American neighbours is to be absolutely independent of them."
Being typically Canadian, and perhaps quintessentially Liberal, he then ran an election in 1911 on the notion of free trade with the United States--and lost. Some will recall that our 1988 election campaign largely revolved around this one issue. I'm sorry that Michael Wilson is not here; we might have rerun some of our debates of those days. Nonetheless, I am sure Mel Hurtig did a good job of presenting his perspective in the earlier session, and that Lloyd Axworthy will have added his shrewd political perspective as well.
For some time then, those responsible for Canadian public policy have been wrestling with the question: how can we best enjoy the benefits of an economic and security partnership with the U.S. (and now Mexico) while retaining our capacity to pursue distinctively Canadian policies within our borders as well as differing relations with the wider world? It is important to start with the observation that the benefits we stand to gain by integration do serve national priorities of the first order, namely economic prosperity and the security of our country and continent. …