Mission Report

Report on the Mission to Canada


The Council of American Ambassadors carried out its second mission in 2007 with a visit to Canada from October 15-19, 2007. The visit was entirely in the capital, Ottawa, and coincided, importantly, with the opening of new government business with the formal reading of the Speech from the Throne on October 16.

The participating ambassadors were: Keith L. Brown (Denmark, Lesotho), Charles E. Cobb, Jr. (Iceland), Sue McCourt Cobb (Jamaica), Richard M. Fairbanks III (At Large), Bruce S. Gelb (Belgium, US Information Agency), Julian M. Niemczyk (Czechoslovakia), Ogden Reid (Israel), Arthur L. Schechter (Bahamas), Michael G. Sotirhos (Greece, Jamaica), Robert D. Stuart, Jr. (Norway), Timothy L. Towell (Paraguay) and Leon J. Weil (Nepal).

The mission began with a forum, “Canada-US Relations: Views from Both Sides of the Border,” co-sponsored by the Council and the National Capital branch of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA). This program, held at the Lester B. Pearson Building, headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), featured presentations by a number of specialists from both Canada and the United States. They were: James J. Blanchard (former US Ambassador to Canada and former Governor of Michigan); Michael Kergin (former Canadian Ambassador to the United States); George Haynal (Vice President of Government Affairs for Bombardier and former Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the Americas); Paul Heinbecker (former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations); and Christopher Sands (Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Washington).

The delegation received further insight on the state of bilateral relations through a comprehensive country team briefing chaired by US Ambassador to Canada David H. Wilkins and held at the US Embassy on October 16. Main presenters were: Terry Breese (Deputy Chief of Mission); Jim Larkin (Office of the Defense Attaché); and Maureen Blanchard (Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol). A number of other embassy specialists were on hand. A special briefing on health issues, provided by Dr. Brian Griffin of The Cleveland Clinic at the invitation of Ambassador Gelb, preceded the embassy briefing.

On the Canadian side, the delegation met with several top officials from a number of key ministries, including: The Honorable Stockwell Day (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness); The Honorable John Baird (Minister of the Environment); The Honorable Jim Prentice (Minister of Industry); The Honorable Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein and Mr. Rob Merrifield, Member of Parliament (Co-Chairs, the Canada-US Interparliamentary Group); and Mr. Leonard Edwards (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs). These visits culminated in a meeting with a key representative of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, The Honorable Jason Kenney (Secretary of State, Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity). The content of these meetings covered five issue areas: politics and foreign policy; Canada-US relations; security and defense; trade, industry and energy; and environmental stewardship.

On October 17, the delegation took part in a roundtable with student representatives from three Ottawa universities (Carleton University, University of Ottawa and the Ottawa-based Laurentian Center of Trinity Western University), organized and hosted by Keith Mines (Political Officer, US Embassy) at the US Embassy in Ottawa. The students were interested in topics as diverse as the International Criminal Court; the Doha round of trade talks and the future of agricultural subsidies; US commitment to Taiwan; President Putin’s Russia; and US policy in the Middle East (please see the appendix for additional details).

The following report is organized around the five issue areas listed above and includes the main substantive points made during the meetings with the various ministers and in discussions between the ambassadors and other agencies involved in the mission. The mission’s main findings are highlighted at the beginning of the report.

Canadian Politics and Foreign Affairs

Canada has a minority federal government led by the Conservative party which, similar to its predecessor the minority Liberal government, could be defeated in the near term. However, the current government has made strong moves to strengthen relations with the United States.

Central to Canada’s foreign policy is the complex, highly interwoven bilateral relationship with the United States. Although it maintains independence in several policy areas, such as Cuba, Canada employs a quiet approach to diplomacy through “constructive engagement” that can be seen as an opportunity.

Canada, in many quarters of the United States, has not always been recognized for its contributions in Afghanistan and as a global security partner. Although there is a split in support among the Canadian public over the country’s participation in the Afghanistan mission, the Conservative government has proposed extending the deadline for Canada’s participation beyond February 2009.

Canada-US Relations

Overall, the relationship between the two countries has improved notably, particularly at the top governmental levels, in contrast to the state of affairs during the latter stages of the previous Liberal-led governments. However, a “wait and see” attitude must be maintained to see what effect, if any, the upcoming 2008 US election and a possible Canadian election will have on the relationship.

In the recent past, several significant trade issues have been resolved, including those related to wood, beef and wheat. Perhaps the biggest emerging issue relates to new border restrictions that Canada sees as having the potential to damage the economies of both countries since delays at the border, caused by tighter security measures, can potentially harm bilateral trade.

From the perspective of the average citizen of both Canada and the United States, there is much misunderstanding regarding trade and security issues. There is also a general lack of understanding of the complex and multifaceted nature of the bilateral relationship.

Security and Defense

Canada is strongly committed to the implementation of security structures; however, it has been requested that consideration be given to delaying implementation of certain initiatives that could harm trade, tourism and personal travel across the shared border.

The current Canadian government is confident that the security measures it has in place are strong, but points out that US misconceptions—such as the erroneous belief that some of the September 11 hijackers came from Canada—must be corrected.

The Harper government’s commitment to the Afghanistan mission reflects Canada’s strong relationship with the United States, as does the intensification of Canadian defense procurement, notably the purchase of Boeing C-17 transport aircraft, among others.

Trade, Industry and Energy

The trade relationship between Canada and the United States is the largest in world history, amounting to US$500 billion in 2006. However, the Canadian government is concerned that thickening border restrictions may hurt the economies of both countries significantly in the short term.

Strong cooperation in the area of trade must continue, particularly with respect to developing new infrastructure, such as building new bridges at key border crossings.

As the largest supplier of energy to the United States, Canada should be recognized as offering high “security of supply.” Also, Canada’s approach to oil sands development is expected to be both sustainable and environmentally sound.

Environmental Stewardship

Canada and the United States have a long-standing collaborative relationship with respect to environmental concerns. Bilateral treaties and agreements, which are seen as models for other countries, deal effectively with current and emerging issues, such as water diversion.

The current Conservative government has stated Canada most likely will not meet the commitment it made as a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol. Consequently, Canada will focus on a pragmatic, multi-pronged strategy to attain realistic reductions in greenhouse gases in the near term.

Canada feels strongly that environmental issues are best addressed through a coordinated and collaborative approach by all countries, developed and developing.

Canadian Politics and Foreign Affairs

Trends in Federal Politics

The Conservative party, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won the January 23, 2006, Canadian federal election and assumed control with a minority government. The party did so while achieving roughly 36 percent of the popular vote. Of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, the Conservative party won 124, or approximately 40 percent. The Liberal party, which had been in power since 1993, became the official opposition. The Quebec-based Bloc Québécois achieved 51 seats, the New Democratic Party (NDP) secured 29, with one independent. Although not winning a seat in the House, the emerging Green Party made notable strides, capturing close to 700,000 votes, representing about five percent of the popular vote.

The previous Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin, elected in 2004, also governed with a minority whereas the Liberal government under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had achieved strong majorities in consecutive elections since first elected in 1993. The minority situations since 2004 appear to reflect certain regional trends. Support for the Conservative party is extensive in western Canada, particularly Alberta, and in rural areas. The Liberal party is particularly strong in cities, including in Vancouver, British Columbia, Ottawa and Toronto in Ontario and other urban areas in the eastern part of the country. Bloc Québécois support is entirely in Quebec, and the NDP’s is found in various pockets across the country.

The minority situation of the Conservative party means that it must maintain the support of some element of the other parties to continue the work of governance and policymaking. Should the party lose the confidence of the others, however, Canada could be heading back to the polls for another general election. At the moment, the sense among most parties and the Canadian public seems to be that another election is unwanted and unwarranted, but the situation could change quickly.

Since its election, the Conservative party has made significant strides to deal with thorny political issues, not the least of which was the tension that existed in relations with the United States. On a number of levels—ranging from trade and foreign policy, to Prime Ministerial and Presidential compatibility—the Canada-US relationship had deteriorated during the latter years of the Liberal government of Prime Minister Chrétien and throughout the period under Prime Minister Martin. The recent reversal of this situation can be traced to several factors. First, key trade issues, such as those related to wood, beef and wheat, have been resolved. Second, Canada has shown strong support on security issues and the Afghanistan mission. Third, personal relationships at inter-governmental levels have improved.

The timing of the Council’s mission to Ottawa was particularly auspicious in the fact that it coincided with the Conservative government’s Speech from the Throne on October 16, 2007. This speech, delivered by Canada’s Governor General, lays out the direction and policy priorities of the party in power, on the opening of a new session of parliament. Major themes in the October 16 speech related to maintaining sovereignty; renewing Canada’s place on the international stage, including continued support for the Afghanistan mission and a strong role in the Americas; enhancing security and tackling crime; improving health and the environment; and making progress on domestic issues ranging from the economy to taxation. Notably, among measures of particular interest to the United States are those aimed at bilateral trade, such as upgrading transportation infrastructure at key gateways.

The above initiatives notwithstanding, the Harper government does face significant challenges. First and foremost will be whether, and for how long, it will be able to remain in power. Although it withstood the most recent test—the vote on the Speech from the Throne—the Harper government could find itself in a showdown over the budget in early 2008. A defeat on this issue could trigger new elections. Exacerbating the situation is Canadian public discord over the extension of the Afghanistan mission, which is a key foreign policy goal of the Harper government.

Foreign Affairs

There is no question that the policy relationship between Canada and the United States is significant in all areas ranging from trade and industry to the environment. In fact, the relationship with the United States can rightly be considered central to Canadian foreign policy, as is the view of the importance of North America as a uniting concept. This is a long-standing and integrated relationship, based on common values and characterized by structures such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and a host of other political and economic organizations in which both countries work together effectively.

Despite this close relationship, Canada has had, and maintains, an independent point of view on a number of international issues. From an official perspective, the country differs from the United States not only on particular issues, but also on its diplomatic approach. The Council’s engaging meeting with Canada’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leonard Edwards, helped clarify the Canadian perspective on several topics.

At the top of the list is the Afghanistan mission, which Edwards explained is Canada’s largest contribution to a single mission since the Korean War. In fact, on top of its combat role, Canada is a major contributor to an Afghanistan government trust fund which is used to pay Afghan police salaries. Edwards indicated that the Harper government seeks to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan until 2011. He emphasized that Canada’s role during the extension would focus on training, governance and education. In response to Ambassador Schechter’s query regarding how Canada would decide to extend the mission past the current end date of 2009, Edwards said that the issue would be fully debated in, and decided by, parliament while considering the input of Canadians.

Moving the discussion to issues closer to home, Ambassador Gelb asked for views on Canada-US border issues. Edwards acknowledged that security is important, but re-iterated that excessive border security build-ups could harm both countries by limiting trade. He contended that a restrictive border was not the right answer and that constructive and collegial discussions on how to achieve a balance between security, while allowing trade under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), would be a more productive approach. To provide some food for additional thought, Edwards posed the question as to whether the real solution actually lay at the border between the two countries, or if it was perhaps beyond, i.e. in a perspective of a secure North America coupled with the need to convince many in the United States that Canada is a secure society. Ambassador Schechter acknowledged that the current direction vis-à-vis security may well be a “waste of resources” and allowed that the solution may lie in a more pragmatic approach.

Returning to the international scene, Ambassador Gelb asked about the practice of Canada’s foreign policy and how, with such a small budget for foreign affairs, Canada had achieved such a positive reputation abroad, in contrast to the current image of the United States. Edwards responded that the Canadian approach was indeed different, focusing, for example, on peacekeeping and multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations. He noted that Canada was, in fact, a major player but its methods were such that the downside was “we’re invisible in many ways.” Despite its low profile, Canada has generated much good will.

Following up on this point, Ambassador Gelb cited the recent speech by Prime Minister Harper at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on relations with Colombia. He noted the positive and impassioned approach the Prime Minister brought, as a Canadian, to an issue being debated by US policymakers.

In the delegation’s other meetings, the pursuit of Canadian foreign policy was acknowledged to be different from that of the United States, quiet yet consistent, and centered around “constructive engagement.” Although the Canadian and American approaches may be different, the general aims are similar. Secretary of State Jason Kenney suggested that Canada brings the same values to the world scene as the United States. He pointed out that Canada can continue to play a strong role in many areas. Using the example of Cuba, he said that Canada can be effective because it does not have the “baggage” with which the United States has to contend.

While Canadian and US approaches on many foreign policy initiatives are similar or potentially symbiotic, there remains a strong undercurrent of tension at a number of levels. One panelist at the Council-CIIA forum noted that, despite having similar values and a powerful bond based on a common heritage and mutual respect, many Canadians do have concerns about the US approach, acknowledging that an independent foreign policy is beneficial. However, voicing these opinions can lead to some in the United States as seeing Canadians as “foreigners.” Ambassador Towell pointed out that in areas where direction deviates, both the United States and Canada must find ways “to disagree without being disagreeable.”

In the same vein, another commentator, a self-acknowledged critic of both current Canadian and US government approaches, added that Canada should do more internationally. He urged that Canada, with its excellent reputation, could take on more of a burden, including in areas such as the Middle East peace process. He suggested that the United States can and should allow its partners, such as Canada, to take on more, while at the same time moving back towards international cooperative diplomacy through the United Nations and decreasing unilateral military action. (Secretary of State Kenney would later point out that these views did not necessarily reflect those of the current Conservative government.).

Canada-US Relations

The relationship between Canada and the United States is not static. It is complex and multi-layered and continues to grow, despite “blips along the way.” At the governmental level, the general consensus is that the relationship between Ottawa and Washington has moved in a positive direction under the current Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper.

This strengthened relationship is the result of several factors. First, several thorny trade issues have been resolved. Second, positive steps have been taken on security and defense concerns. Third, contributions that Canada has made in relation to the NATO mission in Afghanistan have begun to be recognized; and fourth, an alignment of views on the future direction of environmental policy has occurred.

These developments notwithstanding, there are still a number of emerging concerns that must be addressed. Foremost among these is Canada’s view that certain border security-enhancing measures scheduled for implementation in 2008 could have a negative impact on bilateral trade and the Canadian and US economies.

Further, there is general acknowledgement that, at many levels, the strong and integrated relationship between the two countries is often misunderstood. This is noteworthy for the effect it can have on a rising of tension, on both sides of the border, among the general public, functional levels of the bureaucracy, right up to the upper levels of government. This condition is often exacerbated by the nature of media and press coverage. Canadians tend to feel that their country is less well understood by the United States than the other way around. This latter point has been noted by several US experts on Canada, who underscore the fact that many US citizens are unaware of the level of commitment by Canada in a number of areas.

Within the structure of the Canadian government, there is a unique committee dedicated solely to dealing with the Canada-US relationship. This committee, the Canada-US Interparliamentary Group, works closely with a range of institutions and agencies and through personal relationships with many key US policymakers, to address concerns and nurture work on a number of key issues. Priorities on the bilateral agenda include: enhancing mutual prosperity; combating international terrorism; promoting democracy and open markets; and protecting a shared environment.

The delegation met with the Co-Chairs of the Interparliamentary Group to further clarify these perspectives. The Interparliamentary Group is nonpartisan and is composed of representatives from all of Canada’s political parties having members in the House of Commons or Senate. The current Co-Chairs are a Member of Parliament from the party in power, the Conservatives, and a Senator from the official opposition party, the Liberals.

Since the Interparliamentary Group represents all parties, its views generally are considerate of a spectrum of Canadians. The delegation’s discussions with the Co-Chairs focused on several themes, including trade and border security, the US-Canadian relationship and Canadian concerns about sovereignty versus integration.

With respect to trade and border security, both Mr. Merrifield and Senator Grafstein echoed the point raised in the delegation’s previous meetings, i.e. the need to strike a balance between trade and border security. The US and Canadian economies are highly linked; consequently, driving up border restrictions between the two countries will undoubtedly have a negative effect on both. (It was noted that the fact that 39 US states have Canada as their major trading partner must be re-emphasized.). Mr. Merrifield stated that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) must be done correctly so as not to adversely affect trade. He underscored Canada’s strong position on security issues by stating “we’re in this together.”

Using the example of General Motors, Senator Grafstein provided a graphic illustration of the level of integration between the manufacturing sectors of Canada and the United States. Citing the importance of “Just in Time” (JIT) manufacturing, he noted that automobile parts move between the two countries many times, but the speed of the process has been hindered by certain security measures. Noting that GM is, for the first time, the world’s second ranked auto maker after Toyota (which brings two-thirds of its cars into North America already built), the Senator suggested that GM’s decrease in rank could be attributed to the inability to exploit JIT to its fullest, thereby driving up costs and sales down. He recommended that a major message for the Council to take home was to focus on enhancing trade and prosperity and to discourage an over-emphasis on security. In this light, Ambassador Schechter wondered whether there was more logic to place emphasis not so much on border security, but to trust that Canada is doing its part on North American perimeter security.

Questioning by Ambassador Gelb led to the issue of the perception of Canada by the United States. Merrifield underscored the point that many in the United States continue to see Canada through a faulty lens. He cited the persistent myth that the September 11 hijackers came through Canada and the lack of understanding of the close relationship in general—on issues such as foreign policy direction and energy supply—and the need to work together to counter growing trade blocks. Senator Grafstein underlined the ongoing need to “lay out the facts and educate” in order to dispel the misunderstandings that exist at all levels.

Ambassador Towell broached the issue of sovereignty and inquired about Canadian concerns regarding integration with the United States. Merrifield said that some Canadians feared a possible take over of their country by the United States, since the United States is significantly larger in population and economic terms compared to Canada. However, he suggested that this view must be considered in light of the experience of the European Union, where significant integration has occurred but whose member nations have maintained their cultural identities.

Security and Defense


Security in Canada is strong and has seen a steady increase in focus since September 11. At all levels, it reflects close cooperation with the United States. The level of integration in terms of trade and personal travel across the 5,500-mile long border is significant. Unlike the United States which has both a northern border (with Canada) and a southern border (with Mexico), Canada has only one border—the one it shares with the United States. This reality explains why Canadians view the border from a different perspective.

At the same time, the relationship regarding the border, whether about trade or security, is marked by strong and effective cooperation. For example, bilateral agreements have been established to maintain and strengthen effectiveness and collaboration with many agencies. These include, among others, a Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) framework to help assess threats and protect shared infrastructure, such as bridge links; an Integrated Border and Marine Enforcement Team (IBET) to harmonize both countries’ efforts in law enforcement; and specific measures in the area of aviation security and other sectors.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), signed in 2005, links the United States and Canada, along with Mexico, in a new partnership to develop a common security strategy for North America and to promote economic growth, competitiveness and an enhanced quality of life. In August 2007, a meeting of the SPP in Montebello, Quebec, led to agreement on additional cooperation in a number of areas relating to health protection, intellectual property and science and technology.

In general, the Harper government is fully supportive of efforts to improve security. Continuing a trend seen in the United States and elsewhere, it has consolidated several agencies with security-related missions and responsibilities under one Minister, Stockwell Day, and “considerably ramped up funding” for security. Day’s Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Department includes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), customs and border guards and prisons. It is responsible for national security issues and emergency management. Funding increases have been implemented, which provide for an additional 1,000 RCMP personnel and 400 border agents, and the arming of border guards.

Day noted that there are two outstanding concerns that are important to resolve. The first relates to finding a reasonable balance between security and trade. Re-emphasizing the fact that trade is significant between the two countries, and thus key to economic growth, he discussed the implications of the WHTI legislation, which will require passport entry at all land border crossings by February 2008. He echoed the concern that resulting delays at the border could hurt both countries’ economies in the near term.

However, Day pointed out that mayors, state and provincial representatives along the border supported the idea of delaying the introduction of certain measures in the legislation. He stated that Canada is working “as hard as it can” from its side to ensure implementation and suggested Canada was likely to be ready ahead of the United States just due to the relative size of its population. In addition, reasonable pre-clearance measures must be established to ensure the smooth flow of trucks across the border. While accepting that there was currently a “difference of opinion” about how to resolve the issue, Day pointed to the need for action since land border delays can reach three hours. Ambassador Fairbanks asked the Minister what he would do if he were the US Secretary of Homeland Security. Day responded that he would ask for progress on pass cards and land pre-clearance procedures.

The second issue relates to perceptions about the Canadian security situation. Sadly, much misinformation exists, leading many in the United States to believe that Canada is not dealing effectively with security. Day re-affirmed that the northern border of the United States is “the best protected” and that the average Canadian bristles at statements such as “Canada is a haven for terrorists” that have appeared in the US media and elsewhere.

Prompted by a query from Ambassador Gelb regarding home-grown terrorist cells, such as those seen in the United Kingdom, and Canada’s approach to profiling, Day acknowledged that some cells existed in Canada but highlighted the country’s security success in the case of a group located in a small town in the southwest of Quebec near the US border. These individuals were quickly identified and captured. Day made the key point that profiling was largely a thing of the past. This was because many of the recent crop of radicals defied past characterizations—being generally well educated and middle class—and that new technologies, which permit increased surveillance, were far more useful for identifying risks. Day also said that due to its size Canada is more effective in areas such as deportation and that it actually deports a higher number of individuals relative to the United States.


In the area of defense, Canada and the United States have always maintained a strong bilateral relationship evidenced, for example, in the long-standing NORAD agreement for joint defense of the continent. In fact, this agreement, which has been renewed periodically since its inception, has been made permanent.

Currently, Canada is playing a major role in Afghanistan in support of the NATO mission. This commitment is larger than any since Canada’s involvement in the Korean War. In fact, the country has taken on a significant burden in both combat and reconstruction roles and has suffered significantly in human terms.

From the US standpoint, there had been concern about Canada’s defense commitment, which became an issue with the decline in defense spending as a percentage of GDP, thereby placing Canada around the bottom of all NATO countries. In recent years, this situation has changed, and the Conservative government has introduced several measures to increase support for the military. Personnel levels have increased, as has spending on equipment. The latter has been significant in all areas, with C$15-17 billion in new procurements budgeted and evidenced in the purchase of new tanks specifically for the mission in Afghanistan and new Boeing C-17 heavy lift transport aircraft, among other examples.

Trade, Industry and Energy

Trade and Industry

Many may not recognize the extensive trade relationship that exists between the United States and Canada. In fact, the two have the largest trading relationship in world history. For example, in 2006 over US$500 billion in goods and services were traded across the border, which represents close to US$2 billion every day. Seen from another perspective, merchandise trade between the United States and Canada is roughly equivalent to that between the United States and all EU countries combined, and well over double that of the United States and Japan. Seen through a Western Hemisphere lens, Canada accounts for nearly half of all US trade in the Americas. Moreover, the investment relationship is significant; it is one of the largest two-way investment relationships in the world. At the end of 2005, Canadians held US$175 billion in direct investment in the United States, and Americans held US$219 billion in direct investment in Canada. Finally, in terms of people, there are in excess of 200 million border crossings each year between the two countries.

In light of the above, it is not surprising that the linkage between trade/industry and border issues is high on the list of concerns for the two countries. However, that concern may not necessarily be reflected in equal perspective by Canada and the United States.

However, the situation relative to the border goes beyond finding the proper balance between trade and security. Other important issues include how to build on the success of NAFTA, while recognizing some of the concerns surrounding how trade is carried out between the two nations. For example, a total of five border crossing points between the United States and Canada are responsible for approximately 60 percent of truck traffic annually. Of these, only one, the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge, accounts for over 25 percent of truck movements. Notably, four of the five crossing points are bridges and thus subject to both security and aging infrastructure concerns.

With this perspective in mind, and while focusing on economic issues between the two countries, Christopher Sands of the Hudson Institute offered his analysis during the Council-CIIA forum. He said that the recent rise in the Canadian dollar does not affect the country in equal fashion. It is squeezing the manufacturing and service sectors of Ontario and Quebec, while at the same time helping resource-based Alberta. Sands also outlined four elements that are worthy of critical focus in relation to trade between Canada and the United States. Each has implications at all levels of government (federal, state/provincial, municipal) and throughout bureaucracies and other agencies. The four are as follows:

Infrastructure. i.e. road and rail links;

Inter-structure, i.e. ties between respective borders, such as bridges. (New bridges are required but it will take time to get them built);

Super-structure, i.e. the need to build more links along the lines of the SPP;

Sub-structure, i.e. supporting issues such as education policy and labor mobility. Sands argued these elements need to be managed well to ensure that the relationship will continue to be strong. He further noted that border provinces and states needed to be more involved in this process.

A meeting with Canada’s Minister of Industry, Jim Prentice, added perspective to the Harper government’s point of view regarding trade. First and foremost, he acknowledged the need to continue to focus on security and prosperity. He suggested that there has been a challenge, as a result of growing security consciousness after September 11, to maintain proper emphasis on both countries’ prosperity. He underlined the fact that not only is the trade relationship important, but trade is integrated in both countries, particularly from an industry standpoint. He cited the example of the Ontario-Michigan auto industry, in which parts move back and forth often, operating as a single system. He suggested that an important question is how the two countries move to ensure a proper infrastructure develops into the future. With respect to the Detroit-Windsor bridge, Prentice acknowledged that action was needed to build another. The current bridge was built in the 1930s, yet that single structure today handles more trade than that between the United States and Japan.

Seizing this opportunity, Ambassador Gelb posed a question regarding the vulnerability of the all-important bridge links between the United States and Canada. He sought to understand Canada’s view regarding the protection of privacy versus the need for security. Prentice said that the approach between the two countries is really not all that different. However, he focused on the point that many in the United States see the Canadian border as porous due to myths burned into popular thinking. He added that while border security is important, the fact that the United States and Canada are “best friends” cannot be lost.

Moving on to the issue of international trade, Ambassador Gelb inquired about the economic threat from countries such as China. Prentice noted that, in the future, competition among trading blocks would be high. In this regard, it is imperative for Canada and the United States to work closely together. Prentice added that he would be meeting with his Chinese counterpart in early 2008 to discuss trade issues.

On a subject closer to home, Ambassador Towell suggested that Canada could play a stronger role in helping Americans understand trade issues. Prentice agreed that this was the case, although he noted that officials in the northern border states also could play a more significant role in lobbying within the United States.


Prentice reminded the delegation that Canada and the United States share the largest integrated energy relationship in the world. Canada is the largest supplier of energy in a range of forms (oil, natural gas, electricity), amounting to over 30 percent of the imported energy consumed in the United States. The energy trade is not solely one way, however. For example, western Canada supplies significant amounts of oil southwards into the United States, whereas Ontario tends to receive much of its supply northwards from the United States. Nonetheless, the US imports some 85 percent of the natural gas and most of the electrical power it uses from Canada.

An important perspective in this regard was added during discussions with the Canada-US Interparliamentary Group. Senator Grafstein highlighted Canada’s “security of supply” of energy. He suggested that many policymakers do not understand the concept. Canada is the largest supplier of energy to the United States, yet education has to be continued on this front. There is a need to have some emphasis placed within the United States regarding this linkage, including the existence of the combination of Canada’s strong security levels and energy policy relationship under NAFTA. On top of this is the fact that, over the next 20-30 years, there will be a need to double energy output.

Relative to this last point, Canada will seemingly be able to contribute to this increasing demand. The current Conservative government expects that it will be able to expand development of the reserves in the country’s western oil sands area in a manner that will be both sustainable and environmentally sound. Further discussion of this issue is continued in the next section.

Environmental Stewardship

Undoubtedly, environmental issues and sustainable development have risen near the top of the agenda for advanced nations, and recent notoriety, as well as meticulous scientific study, has brought the need for action to the general public and governments alike. For a number of reasons, the issue is an important one for the future of the Canada-US relationship, and coordinated action will be necessary.

However, perhaps lost in the discussions about where to head in the future on such issues as the Kyoto Protocol or other approaches, is that Canada and the United States have a long history of collaborative and highly successful environment-related initiatives. This fact highlights the strong relationship between the two countries.

Historically, in fact, the two nations have arguably one of the oldest and most effective environmental partnerships in the world, dating back to 1909 with the signing of the Boundary Waters Treaty. This agreement established the International Joint Commission (IJC) which, inter alia, carried out the early work related to the St. Lawrence River watershed in the eastern half of the continent and numerous boundary issues relating to rivers flowing through both countries in the western half. The IJC is the major mechanism that facilitates transboundary water cooperation.

Moreover, over 30 environmental agreements exist between the two countries. Notable successes include the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, signed in 1972, aimed at cleaning up the lakes. This collaboration resulted in progress against algae growth in the lakes (eutrophication) initially. Toxic elements proved to be more of a challenge, though, leading in 1997 to a new bilateral strategy to help eliminate the most persistent substances. Emphasis is being placed on the cleanup of eight particularly evident “hot spots.” The agreement is considered a model for international cooperation on environmental concerns.

Another example of an effective bilateral agreement is the US-Canada Air Quality Agreement, signed in 1991, with the goal of reducing the emissions that cause acid rain. It was expanded in 1997 to help reduce ozone levels, among other additions. Overall, at the functional level, the two countries cooperate effectively, with the EPA and Environment Canada jointly working to address numerous concerns.

As for the future, Canada’s environmental approach to the development of the Alberta oil sands is important. Water supply and diversion is also a concern, and efforts are ongoing on both sides of the border to address these issues. Farther out in the future, and with the real worries about global warming and polar ice melt, there may arise the need for further cooperation to address the Arctic passage. However, as pointed out by Ambassador Wilkins, this is not solely a Canada-US issue but an international one.

For a range of reasons, not the least of which may be because they live in a country of vast spaces with a history of economic development based on its natural resources, Canadians tend to have a high awareness of environmental issues. It is important to note, from the government side, that all political parties reflect this concern. The current minority Conservative party, for example, while suggesting that Canada’s Kyoto commitments cannot be met, has implemented what is arguably a pragmatic approach to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberal party, which signed Canada on to Kyoto and is currently the official opposition, has a policy focused on three pillars—the economy, the environment and social equality. Both the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois share the perspective of the environment as a significant issue. Perhaps one significant indication of the growing environmental awareness of the average Canadian is the recent emergence and growth of the Green Party.

Canada, unlike the United States, was a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. Despite this, emission levels continued to climb through the late 1990s and early 2000s. In fact, Canada’s emissions levels currently stand much higher than those in the United States relative to Kyoto standards (17 percent versus 33 percent). Therefore, in the recent Speech from the Throne, the government effectively admitted the Kyoto commitment cannot be met and will instead approach the problem with a new Clean Air Act aimed at achieving a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and 60-70 percent by 2050.

John Baird, the current Minister of the Environment, acknowledged his belief that the Canadian public is cynical about the level of government action on the environment. However, he asserted that, while initially skeptical of the situation, he has become convinced by the science that the environment is a major concern and action must be taken. In fact, Baird noted that the body of scientific evidence now is demonstrably larger than it was even in March 2007. In general terms, he said that the most effective method would be for all countries to coordinate their approach. He gave the example of the Montreal Protocol, which outlines a two-tier approach to ozone reduction, as being effective because all parties were on board.

An important point to remember in this discussion of the environment is that the governmental situation in Canada is somewhat different than that in the United States. Constitutionally, the provinces have responsibility for the environment. Therefore, the position of the federal government in Ottawa is one where significant collaboration with the provinces is required.

Minister Baird laid out the pragmatic plan the Conservative government has for Canada, noting that a number of small measures taken together could make a big difference. It will be important to carry out initiatives ranging from the mandatory introduction of energy-saving light bulbs and windows, to the development of new biofuels. He added that Canada is taking steps to deal with large emitters and that various initiatives are underway for all forms of transport in addition to consumer-related action. On an issue of particular importance to the United States, energy and oil sands development, Canada must find a way to carry out extraction the right way, i.e. by effectively balancing development with environmental concerns. The current Canadian approach focuses on carbon sequestration. Key issues that are expected to arise will be smog generated by the development and the fact that the Canadian oil industry is not currently thrilled with government policy.

As for the United States, energy security is a key issue. Baird emphasized, as did several other interlocutors, how this perspective should be made clear to interests throughout the United States. Canada is the US’s number one supplier of energy; its approach to oil sands development will be based on environmental concerns and will be safe. This may not be the case with other major US suppliers.

On the international front, particularly with regard to developing nations that will have emerging major environmental problems, Baird re-iterated the fact that coordination is key. He suggested, though, that negotiations with these countries may prove challenging.

With respect to the Canadian view on nuclear energy production, Baird stated that support within Canada was mixed, at the same time noting that the country is a large manufacturer of nuclear reactors for export.


Perhaps the main outcome of this mission was to re-enforce and re-iterate the pre-eminent relationship that exists between Canada and the United States. The two are strong friends, closely integrated with shared notions, albeit with certain differences that can, in fact, bridge rather than divide. They are linked as no others in terms of trade, economic performance and security. Moreover, this linkage extends to values, as well as a range of social interactions, from the working level of policymakers, through tourism and cross-border traffic, to cultural and personal relationships.

This situation is historically rooted, and continues to be the case, despite tensions that arise at a number of levels from time-to-time. However, throughout the range of meetings and discussions during the mission, the overall strength of the relationship was determined to be clearly deep and well-structured at all levels. Canada is a strong friend and ally.

It is unfortunate, however, that many individuals, on both sides of the border, do not fully understand the importance and strength of this relationship. From the US perspective, while officials and the general public in most states along the border understand the nature of the relationship, the view that Canada is even noteworthy appears to fall away as the distance from the border increases. Since some 80 percent of Canadians live within 200 miles of the border, they understand the United States differently. At the same time, perhaps some trepidation is understandable given that Canada is a country with a small population face-to-face with the world’s major economic power.

Canada’s importance to the United States is not understood fully by many representatives in Washington. Some maintain that the image of Canada is driven by myth, misinformation and incorrect media reports. It is clear that a process of education, centered around a proper presentation of the historical and current ties that bind this important relationship, needs to be strengthened and re-invigorated at all levels.

At the same time, the United States must recognize that Canadian policies on some issues may differ. This is not due to any breakdown in the relationship. In fact, Canada, while having similar values to the United States, approaches many issues from a different perspective. The reasons may be complex—ranging from historical roots, a subdued national character, a multicultural society; to the nature of its economy—but these disagreements do not indicate any weakness in the overall close relationship. It only points out the need to continue to find ways to overcome disagreements in an equitable manner.

In most cases the two countries work very closely and effectively at all levels. In fact, despite having differences, Canada’s outstanding reputation in international affairs, alternative foreign policy approaches and advice may offer opportunities that the United States may choose to recognize as an advantage.

Suggested Background Reading

Ackleson, Jason and Justin Kastner. “The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 36, No. 2 (Summer 2006)., pp. 207-232.

Byers, Michael. Intent for a Nation: What is Canada For? A Relentlessly Optimistic Manifesto for Canada’s Role in the World. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2007.

Duchesne, Érick. “Lumbering On: The State of the Canada-US Trade Relationship.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 37, No. 1 (Spring 2007)., pp. 35-55.

Gattinger, Monica. “From Government to Governance in the Energy Sector: The States of the Canada-US Energy Relationship.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 35, No. 2 (Summer 2005)., pp. 321-352.

Jones, David T. and David Kilgour. Uneasy Neighbo(u)rs: Canada, The USA and the Dynamics of State, Industry and Culture. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2007.

Kasoff, Mark J. “East Meets West in the Canadian Oil Sands.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 37, No. 2 (Summer 2007)., pp. 177-183.

Keith, David W. Towards a Strategy for Implementing CO2 Capture and Storage in Canada. Ottawa: Environment Canada, 2002.

Lovecraft, Amy Lauren. “Transnational Environmental Management: US-Canadian Institutions at the Interlocal Scale.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 37, No. 2 (Summer 2007)., pp. 218-245.

Nord, Douglas C. “Searching for the North in North American Foreign Policies: Canada and the United States.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 37, No. 2 (Summer 2007)., pp. 207-217.

Rosenau, Pauline M. Vaillancourt. “US Newspaper Coverage of the Canadian Health System: A Case of Seriously Mistaken Identity?” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 36, No. 1 (Spring 2006)., pp. 27-58.

Stein, Janice Gross, et al. Uneasy Partners: Multiculturalism and Rights in Canada. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2007.

Young, Lisa. “Electoral Instability in Canada: Implications for the Canada-US Relationship.” American Review of Canadian Studies, Volume 37, No. 1 (Spring 2007)., pp. 7-21.


University Student Forum

On October 17, the Council delegation took part in a roundtable with student representatives from three Ottawa universities, organized and hosted by Keith Mines (Political Officer, US Embassy) at the US Embassy in Ottawa. The three participating institutions were Carleton University (the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs, or NPSIA); the University of Ottawa; and the Ottawa-based Laurentian Center of Trinity Western University (located in British Columbia). Ambassadors Brown, Gelb, Towell, Schechter, Sothiros and Stuart, along with Mrs. Lueza Gelb, author and former Professor of History and Creative Writing, Pace University and Marymount Manhattan College, participated for the Council.

The session began with a welcome to the embassy and the roundtable by Keith Mines. After introducing the members of the Council delegation, Ambassador Gelb explained to the students that their involvement was important since it would help the ambassadors gauge information regarding the concerns of Canadians about the Canada-US relationship, as well as provide understanding on other issues that might be of concern. He emphasized that the role of the Council was to listen, to engage in fact finding, and to provide a personalized approach to disseminating information about US policy and international issues in a nonpartisan and unofficial manner.

The roundtable proved to be engaging and covered a range of issues; in fact, the time set aside proved in the end too short. The group of students demonstrated a strong depth of engagement that many of the ambassadors remarked upon afterwards, as well as a deep interest in questions relative to US policy, Canada-US relations and other international issues both current and emerging. Most of the session involved the ambassadors presenting their views on US policy interests in answer to student questions.

In the first part, during questioning from students, discussion tended to be in-depth. The following, therefore, covers only the main salient points and therefore is not inclusive of all comments.

Question: What is the future of US-China relations?

Ambassador Brown began by relating the experience of being in China on September 11, 2001. He stated that there was much kindness displayed to the Council delegation at all the locations it visited during the mission. He did note, however, that a few officials were fixated on the issue of US support of Taiwan. He acknowledged that more serious issues will likely arise as the country grows, particularly in relation to trade, the yuan and the environment, and expressed the view that many currently seem insurmountable. Ambassador Schechter added that China is a most interesting area of study, noting that the country has great poverty and growing environmental problems that will have to be addressed. Ambassador Towell acknowledged that, from a US standpoint, China is tricky to deal with. Ambassador Gelb gave a personal perspective on China at the end of WWII versus now, referring to the country’s growth as “a miracle.” He noted that it is now a large country with a well-educated and creative young population, at least in part. As an aside, he noted that China’s transformation has actually hurt the growth of the Mexican economy and job market, having taken away many jobs as envisaged originally in the NAFTA agreement. He added that it is important to understand how China’s growth impacts all three NAFTA countries. He also mentioned the defense build-up in China, noting it will likely become a major power player in the future. He concluded by bringing to the students’ attention that the world was changing distinctly into a multi-polar situation that will require renewed and creative diplomatic efforts. Ambassador Brown added that it is key to understand the anomaly that is China, i.e. a communist country with an elite that is both rich and essentially capitalist.

Question: How do you feel about NAFTA and the SPP and can you comment on whether they erode sovereignty?

Ambassador Schechter stated that there was indeed controversy over the issue. He noted, however, that even he was surprised to learn in discussions earlier with a Canadian minister that SPP issues were largely technical. He gave his opinion that there is a need to return to the original concepts of NAFTA, such as worker retraining, which got off track, and the fact that some top jobs have moved offshore to countries not in North America. He went on to explain that, for the United States, Canada and Mexico, the results of NAFTA have been good, but the perception is often harmed due to misinformation.

Question: Is the Canadian-American relationship really American “integration by stealth”?

Ambassador Brown took up this question by commenting that NAFTA had been successful for the United States, Canada and Mexico, and was therefore a positive. Ambassador Gelb followed on with this, noting that perspectives presented in film (eg. Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me”) and the media give the impression of the deal as negative. This is true in all three countries, he added. Ambassador Gelb countered this impression by noting that for the last 49 consecutive months there have been increasing numbers of jobs. He also made reference to speeches by Prime Minister Harper that have referenced NAFTA as having been good for Canada. Ambassador Sothiros broadened the discussion by expressing the opinion that, in the future, regional trading blocks (eg. North America, the EU, Asia) would be engaging in “commercial wars” and dictated, therefore, that member countries would have to be aligned strongly in search of markets around the world. He emphasized the opinion that the future challenges will be commercial.

At this point, Ambassador Gelb “turned the tables” and asked a question of the students. His query dealt with environmental concerns.

One student pointed out the importance of air and water quality and suggested most Canadians are environmentally conscious (“We want to save the planet.”), although not fully understanding the cost issues behind the effort. Another mentioned the emerging issue in Canada of Arctic sovereignty and the polar ice melt and definitions of international waters. Another brought up oil sands development in Alberta, noting there is a tension between the important energy requirements and environmental agendas. When Ambassador Gelb asked whether the oil sands issue was important all across Canada, one student expressed the opinion that the issue was uneven in interest—in the east it would be lower in importance while in Alberta it would be highly relevant. Finally, to sum up, another student expressed the view that most Canadians want action to be taken on the environment, but felt the government was not acting in the best interest of Canadian industry. Therefore, other countries were moving ahead in the area of environmental leadership.

Question: What is the future direction of US environmental policy?

Ambassador Schechter conceded that the environment will likely place higher on the US agenda if the Democratic Party is elected in the 2008 election. He admitted that, in the end, the issue comes down to economic sense. Ambassador Schechter also pointed out that US emissions levels are about 17 percent above proposed Kyoto levels, comparing that to Canada’s performance, which currently stands at a significantly higher level, i.e. 33 percent. In sum, the United States is doing better than Canada. Ambassador Gelb acknowledged that, even if the Republican Party is elected in 2008, it would listen to the concerns of the average US citizen. In fact, he noted that it is difficult to separate the environmental issue along political lines and there are those who are pro and con in each party.

Question: How has the conduct of US diplomacy changed since September 11, 2001?

Ambassador Gelb commenced to tackle this, noting that overall, US policy has for years emphasized democracy and individual responsibility as key goals, tied in with a relatively small government that doesn’t overwhelm these points. He questioned aloud why, in this regard, so many segments of the world have such a negative view of the United States, even among countries with which it is friends. He made a passionate point about the existence of much myth and misinformation. Ambassador Brown expanded on this latter point, noting that, in Nicaragua, the Council had seen much negativity. However, he went on to say that there is much hypocrisy, repeating a comment heard there along the lines of “Yankee go home…but take me with you.” Ambassador Towell added to the understanding of foreign affairs by commenting on Canadian values, idealism versus realism, and the importance of balancing both when determining policy steps.

Question: In your opinion, is the international affairs situation shifting to counter-insurgency (COIN) and power politics and heading away from international coalitions?

On beginning to answer this question, Ambassador Gelb re-iterated the point about balance made in the previous discussion. He added that power politics would always exist. He suggested that the situation today has changed from past practice because there now exists a religious struggle with an aim to eliminate western culture due to the perception of being evil. The situation is difficult for the diplomatic approach because those on one side are not willing to sit down to discuss key concerns at the heart of the issue.

Due to time limitations, Ambassador Gelb asked students to provide a list of short questions that would be used to gain understanding of their concerns. These questions covered a range of topics including:

US support for the International Criminal Court (ICC);
The Doha round of trade talks and the future of agricultural subsidies;
US commitment to Taiwan;
The future direction of NAFTA;
US immigration policy;
President Putin’s Russia;
US policy in the Middle East.

The ambassadors touched briefly on a few of these, although reserving a more detailed explanation for policy experts to respond to at a later time.

Regarding the ICC, Ambassador Towell commented that the United States did not sign the accord and, in the foreseeable future, this would not be likely to happen for a range of reasons, pro and con.

The agricultural subsidy question was an intractable one in the United States, noted Ambassador Gelb. He suggested that it was unlikely to succeed at the moment due to much self-interest within the US Congress, although he recognized that this stance currently hurts many small countries and gave the opinion that it is not the right response.

Ambassador Gelb then provided a short overview of the situation in Russia. He noted the perspective that President Putin appeared to be moving closer to Iran; yet, despite this, President Putin had commented that an Iran with a nuclear industry could be a threat. Ambassador Schechter added that the situation would require strong diplomatic efforts. He noted the positive example of the process that resulted in an apparent resolution of the North Korean situation, emphasizing if the approach continues to be successful it should be used an example of what the diplomatic process can achieve, and it should enhance the prospects for increased focus on diplomacy in the future.

Ambassador Brown provided the closing thanks to the students for their participation and made note of their professionalism, quality of questions and future potential in the area of international affairs.

Mission Date(s)

Oct 15, 2007 - Oct 19, 2007

Delegation Members

  • Charles E. Cobb Jr.
    Ambassador to Iceland, 1989 - 1992
  • Sue McCourt Cobb
    Ambassador to Jamaica, 2001 - 2005
  • Richard M. Fairbanks III
    Ambassador-at-Large, 1984-1986
    Special Negotiator for the Middle East Peace Process, 1983-1983
  • Bruce S. Gelb
    Ambassador to Belgium, 1991 - 1993
    Ambassador to United States Information Agency, 1989 - 1991
  • Carolyn M. Gretzinger
    Executive Director, Council of American Ambassadors
  • Arthur L. Schechter
    Ambassador to Bahamas, The, 1998 - 2001
  • Timothy L. Towell
    Ambassador to Paraguay, 1988 - 1991
  • Leon J. Weil
    Ambassador to Nepal, 1984-1987


Wayne Saunders