God bless us little ones! Prime Minister Harper travels to the centre of the known universe to bargain from an increasingly weakened hand with President Barack Obama over trade issues...
Pundits, commentators, journalists and politicians from the Great White North are all over themselves about Mr. Harper's three (or so) hour long visit to Washington where, but for Canadians, hardly anyone else will notice...certainly not the American media.
Writing in the "Toronto Star" earlier in the week, columnist James Travers notes..."Canadians are delusional if they believe commerce will again flow freely across the border without significant security compromises."
Precisely why President Obama's adversaries have been so vocal over the release just a few days back (On Tuesday) of an American Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which appears to highlight serious lapses of security along vast expanses of the Canada - United States border. Released just three days before Mr. Harper goes to Washington the GAO report feeds the generally held paranoia south of the 49th parallel of the myth that crazies from Canada were responsible for the attacks of 9/11; and may yet be ready to strike once more if given the right opportunity.
As long as our American partners remain edgy, they are going to keep coming-up with new ideas to "thicken-up" their side of the border. The world's largest trading partnership which is worth more than $1-million every two minutes 24/7 is, as Jim Travers notes..."far more important to us than to them." Given the prevailing paranoia since the events of September 2001 the cross-border test of interests has condensed (in Travers' description) into a bumper sticker: "Security trumps trade."
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny speaks with an admittedly partisan bias; but he is not wrong to claim that any demand on the Obama administration to ease restrictions on Canadian goods, services and visitors entering the United-States will fall on deaf ears unless the Americans are somehow convinced that Canada is spending a whole whack more on intelligence, front-line border inspectors and electronic screening.
From Canada's perspective that likely means difficult, perhaps tough, compromises on matters of personal privacy and civil liberties; as well as loosening-up national rights of sovereignty at the same time that our country attempts to preserve its claims over the resources of the arctic and Canada's ownership of the northwest passage. Both of which are also of considerable interest to our American neighbours.
That is why the very best Mr. Harper will achieve over his brief visit with the President is a compromise comprehensive shared review of our borders' security to be carried-out by a mid-level working group over the next 6 months or so. Since Canadians are just about the only ones who care about the issue; in the event an of eventual spring Federal Election at home, Mr. Harper has thus bought time to once more "back-burner" the issue, while he bids to sell his partisan supporters on what may be one more flawed attempt to appease America's pursuit of destiny.