Saturday, November 15, 2008


I'm glad to see the Conservative government is at least signaling that its prepared to take a tougher line with the U.S. on trade:

Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement would have "consequences," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon warned yesterday, including finding markets other than the United States for Canadian oil.

Mr. Cannon said he agreed with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's assessment this week when he suggested to business leaders that he was not reassured on the future of NAFTA after a meeting with advisors to U. S. president-elect Barack Obama.

During the presidential primaries, Mr. Obama raised the possibility of renegotiating the three-way trade agreement, which also includes Mexico, in order to protect U. S. jobs. Until the Obama team firmly discounts that possibility, Canada's Conservative government continues to send strong messages defending the treaty.

"Clearly I share Minister Flaherty's views on that," Mr. Cannon said in an interview yesterday. "Canada is an energy superpower. We produce oil. If, at the end of the day, that is not going to find a way down to the American market, we have to be able to sell it elsewhere. There are consequences to this, on both sides."

Added Mr. Cannon: "We don't take it lightly."

The fact is, the Americans do need us too. Or, at least, they need our oil. Reminding them of that should they get bellicose with protectionist rhetoric and threats is the right thing to do. It also would have been the right thing to do during the softwood lumber dispute, instead of the Conservative decision to surrender and let the U.S. keep $1 billion in illegally-collected duties.

Anyway, I will watch with interest to see the reaction to Cannon and Flaherty's comments from the Stemlach government in Alberta, and from the Conservative Alberta caucus. When the Liberals were trying to deal with the softwood dispute, I favoured linkage, and reminding the U.S. of our oil exports. Never happened though, for one simple reason: Alberta, and the Conservatives, would have unleashed a furious rage of anti-Liberal rhetoric, claiming we were selling-out Alberta to protect Eastern blah blah.

Perhaps like only Nixon could go to China, only the Conservatives could threaten the U.S. over the oil sands. We'll see if Albertans buy that theory or not.

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