Monday, March 28, 2011

 

WITH ELECTIONS, IT'S BEST TO DIVE RIGHT IN.

-THAT COALITION THING: At the end of the day, Governor-General David Johnston will be hard-pressed to decline an opposition offer to form a two (or three) party coalition government if, as polls steadfastly suggest, another Conservative minority is elected on May second. In the early going, though the motive to take away as many seats as possible from the NDP and Bloc is strategic; Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is wrong to categorically rule-out a coalition. To their disadvantage, this issue is not going away, and will continue to haunt the Liberals right through the election campaign.

-A REFERENDUM ON LEADERSHIP: The election is an unprecedented fourth attempt by any Canadian national party leader to secure a majority number of seats in the House of Commons. It's testimony to Stephen Harper's tenacious iron-grip on his leadership of the Conservatives that he's still around considering just how we've gotten where we are: Though it can't be argued that Mr. Harper forced the first election as leader of the Reform/Alliance back in 2004...in 2005 it was Mr. Harper's own motion of non-confidence that upended the Paul Martin government, and in 2008 it was he who asked the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament on the eve of the "Great Recession", describing The House as dysfunctional. In this fourth go around Mr. Harper is the centrepiece of the campaign. - Winner to be declared by whichever of the main parties presents the most credible version of the "real" Stephen Harper.

- IT'S NOT A POLITICAL GAME: When his government collapsed on Friday last, Mr. Harper lamented from the foyer of the House of Commons that Canada's economy is not a political game. Of course he's right. That's why the Conservative strategy to paint themselves as guardian of Canada's economic strength will fail. Where it matters, in the world's economic markets - New York, London, Tokyo, Beijing...Hell! even in Toronto; global investors have far weightier issues on their minds than the outcome of yet another election in Canada. Three days into the campaign, Moody's Investors Services is already telling its significant players that any new budget, Conservative or Liberal, introduced after the election will continue to embrace the (national)..."consensus on the desirability of debt reduction." - Mr. Harper's Government in fact may be playing loose with some of it's own economic facts: Canada is NOT leading the global economic recovery. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says we're 10th amongst it's 17 member nations in 2010; and (to be fair) expected to move up to ninth by this year's end. Matter of fact, Australia and Sweden are at the top of the list.

As the saying (repeated ad nausea) goes - "In politics a week is an eternity" - Stay tuned?

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Friday, March 25, 2011

 

GIVE IT TO MIKEY...HE'LL EAT ANYTHING

I've been reminded of the breakfast cereal commercial - "Give it to Mikey" - on learning that a Canadian General has been handed command of the hot-potato of NATO's commitment in the Libyan civil war.

Doubtless high-five(s) all around at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa with the announcement that Chicoutimi native, General Charles Bouchard, has been designated by the partners in the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) to head the campaign to - Let me quote United-Nations Resolution 1973: "...enforce a no-fly zone, prevent the transport of arms and munitions into Libya and protect the country's civilian population from its unpredictable leader."

Let me be clear: On past occasions I have been accused of not supporting our troops. In fact I've lost a couple of FaceBook friends over the matter. - Nothing could be further from the truth. It's the troops' political masters whom I take issue with; in this Libyan case, particularly with what is right; and what is wrong with our foreign war commitment.

In just the past few days the United-States administration of President Barack Obama has come under increasing pressure to limit (if not altogether withdraw from) the aggressive military campaign along Africa's Mediterranean coast; and as Canadian politicians embark on a Federal Election campaign our "mission creep" into Libya is being expanded expeditiously. - Prompting the question at least on the pages of the 'Globe and Mail': What is Canada doing in Libya? The newspaper notes retired Major-General Lewis MacKenzie's concern..."Our troops went on a mission to rescue people in the line of fire, then to deliver aid, then to escort sorties. Now they're dropping bombs."

No doubt that President Obama is happy to have handed deFacto command to his trusted Canadian ally. Somewhat unlike General MacKenzie's rhetoric, increasingly the pointed questions being asked of the military and the administration in the United States is whether the battle for Libya is (as we've been led to believe) the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it just fundamentally a tribal civil war in a country where tribes and sects have been held together by a succession of iron fisted dictators.

In the 'New York Times', journalist Thomas Friedman put the issue more succinctly: " It is no accident that the Mideast democracy rebellions began in three of the real countries, Iran, Egypt and Tunisia, where the populations are modern, with big homogeneous majorities that put the nation first before sect or tribe...but as these revolutions have spread to the more tribal/sectarian societies, it becomes difficult to discern where the quest for democracy stops and the desire that my tribe take over from your tribe begins."

So as political unrest seemingly spreads across North Africa and into the Persian Gulf; into Libya, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia we may be witnessing a series of moral and even strategic dilemmas whether to intervene in support of emerging serious democratic movements; or simply ignore another outbreak of the traditional tribal conflicts and wars which have tormented the region for centuries.

It's an important debate which is being muted in Canada because there is an election about to get underway which will focus on domestic issues rather than our international commitments. But in the absence of an election in their homeland, and doubtless with gratitude for Canada's decision to take a leadership role in the volatile Libyan civil war, Americans are being far more cautious than their Canadian allies in trying to determine whether the clashes in Libya truly signal an honest democracy movement led by tribes; rather than opposing tribes merely exploiting the language of democracy.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

 

WATER WARS

A nearby neighbour here in central Florida was perplexed by my response to a suggestion water from the Great Lakes would resolve drought issues along the American south.

He thought building a pipeline pumping water from the lakes to the parched south would be a great American economic stimulus project which, in addition to creating thousands of jobs, would eventually alleviate environmental concerns about America's water shortages. He'd just never considered that Canada, which shares the Great Lakes with the United States, might want to have a say in the matter.

Lost amongst the hoopla of the Parliamentary debate in Ottawa this week, there's been a three-day conference in Toronto that kicked-off "World Water Day" on Tuesday. There is real growing potential for violent conflict to erupt over fresh water as the global population grows amidst a backdrop of climate change and over-population. And, the Great Lakes represent as much as a quarter of all of the world's surface fresh water, and 95% of the entire North American supply.

The three day conference held at the prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs of the University of Toronto, has been looking at the prospect of future wars being fought over water. The planet's population will top 9-Billion people by mid-century. Combined with climate change caused by global warming, and the growing impact of natural disasters they add-up to what one expert described as a "hydro-climatic bomb" which has already started to tick. A very recent case in point - Tokyo's tap water has been deemed unsafe for infants because of radio-active emissions from those crippled nuclear reactors which are several hundred miles from the city.

As Canadians edge ever closer to a spring Federal Election, the former Prime-Minister Jean Chretien, is unlikely to get much political support for proposing that we should not be afraid of a national debate about exporting some of our vast water resources. Mr. Chretien told the Toronto conference he believes a new national discussion is needed. During Mr. Chretien's term as Prime Minister in the 1990's intense public backlash derailed plans at both ends of the country (in British-Columbia and in Newfoundland) as well as Ontario to export fresh water to the United States and by tanker elsewhere overseas; as we do oil and natural gas.

Be that as it may, Mr. Chretien's suggestion was swiftly rebuked by the Council of Canadians. The 1985 creation of Alberta publisher Mel Hurtig and author Pierre Berton, the "council" has substantially expanded its mandate since Ottawa activist Maude Barlow became the national chairperson. Ms Barlow is the author of: "Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Rights of Water". Ms Barlow says it's disconcerting that the former Prime Minister is opening the door to a water-trade debate. She told the "Globe and Mail" the country would lose control of the resource if it begins providing it to customers south of the border and beyond. Five years ago the Great Lakes Commission, a partnership of the US States and Canadian Provinces which border the lakes, estimated that communities around the basin of the Great Lakes already were pumping 850-Billion gallons of water out of the system every day. That free flow of fresh water is unlikely to have diminished in subsequent years.

Research presented at the Toronto conference suggests that 25% or more of the world's water(related)conflicts over the past 5000 years have occurred in the 11 years since the start of the 21st Century. That's likely just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. R.W. Stanford, a Canadian with the "United Nations International Water For Life Decade" says the global water situation is changing so rapidly that it may soon no longer resemble anything that's existed on the planet before.

Humans of the future may adapt to life without the benefits of oil, natural gas and gasoline. We can't survive without fresh water. When it starts to run out. That is when things will get really ugly.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

 

PARADISE FORECLOSED

Amidst a surprising litany of political scandals on Parliament Hill, some reaching practically all the way into the inner sanctum of the Office of the Prime Minister; Mr. Harper has travelled to Europe to a hastily convened meeting over Libya's civil war. A calculated effort to bolster the illusion that, just as it did in the Great Wars of the Twentieth Century, Canada can still affect the course of human history.

Marching into war, even if it's only with a token force of six ageing jet fighters, is the cost we'll be paying for the Conservatives to show (at least if you believe their barrage of TV advertising) the Prime Minister's firm grip on the tiller of power - As was the case when he (single handily) rescued the planet's battered economy a couple of years back.

To no one's surprise, to proffer an illusion on the eve of tabling next Tuesday's Federal Budget confirms it almost seems, despite rhetoric to the contrary, that the Conservatives are preparing to launch into a national election campaign by week's end. It becomes thus safe to conclude that Tuesday's budget will itself be an illusion, without hope of passage, designed to springboard Mr. Harper's ruling party into the election ahead of their competitors.(see: Abusing Power - March 16/11)

But beware! Dark economic clouds may be gathering once again as the list of crises grows; not the least of which is Libya's civil war; to nip the world's recovery at its roots, and set the stage for another meltdown.

For the first time in more than 10 years, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank intervened in currency markets on Friday as a direct result of the twin disasters of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which have brought the world's third largest economy to its knees. There are fears of runaway inflation with the developing economies of China and India; geopolitical uprisings and potential oil disruptions in the Middle East and North Africa; debt crises in Europe (most recently in Portugal); and pretty much a stalled recovery in the United States.

And (Alas!) Canada is stuck with the economy of its closest neighbour and very largest trading partner. The news south of the border is somewhat gloomy:
Unemployment in the United-States remains about 9%; growth is slow; States are slashing spending to balance budgets; investment is shaky; the Federal budget proposed by President Obama is a disaster with little prospects of American politicians doing anything constructive about it. The American Dream of owning a home has evaporated...the Census Bureau says that a staggering 12.1% of all residences (18,394,000 homes) are vacant mainly as the result of Foreclosures by lenders and their subsequent repossession by the sheriff. In short, the net worth of America is about $54-Trillion, still 23% below the pre-recession peak of $65.8-Trillion.

Mr. Harper's handlers wish to convey his skillful handling of the last recession and his decisive grasp of erupting world crises as we are quite obviously perched on the edge of another Canadian Federal Election. Budget illusions and voodoo war making on a grand scale ultimately may not serve any of us very well.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

 

ABUSING POWER - PARLIAMENT PARALYZED BY CHILDLIKE BEHAVIOUR

I've got to admit about being all set to weigh-in heavily on Canada's parliamentary paralysis over this business of a Federal election in the aftermath of the national budget which will be tabled on Tuesday next.

I still will. But, it may tempered by President Barack Obama's "time-out" to record his College Basketball picks on America's national sports network ESPN, at a time when many believe that the most powerful political leader on earth should really otherwise be occupied with matters of much more urgent nature.

Really, I don't think President Obama needs me to remind him of those current event issues that really matter...Though I find it hard to locate "March (basketball) Madness" near the top of the list.

Okay; that said: Back to Canadian politics. We may wanna be; but unlike the USA it's plenty clear that we're nowhere near the top of any one's list of the planet's influential powers. Regardless, it seems that our Parliamentary democracy has been hijacked, overwhelmed and paralyzed by this illogical death desire to plunge us into a two or three hundred million dollar Federal election which every public poll known to man suggests won't change a damned thing.



The implied suggestion that Her Majesty's loyal opposition thinks, repugnant as it is, that the ethical sludge seeping-out of Parliament Hill is a strategy for winning the election is seriously flawed. Clearly the top-of-mind issue is, and will remain through an election, the nation's economic performance.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been criticised for telling an audience in British Columbia that Japan's unfolding disaster is a reminder of the fragility of the global economy; subsequently adding that the fallout from the devastating earthquake means now is not the time for an election. Few would argue with the Prime Minister's conclusion. But actions speak louder than pious words. His party and his government continue feverish unabated preparations for securing the elusive Parliamentary majority which has eluded the Conservatives since taking office in January of 2006.

When the dust settles following next Tuesday's Federal budget, and if the Government is ultimately defeated in Parliament, the Conservatives will go into the election on the strenght of all of the wonderful things which would (or could) have resulted from what in effect will have been an imaginary budget. It's plenty obvious that is not the frame nor context within which Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals want to campaign. Clearly the Conservatives are vulnerable on their promises to clean-house in the aftermath of the last decade's advertising scandal. It's just that at this juncture the timing appears quite wrong.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

 

OH SAY, CAN'T YOU SEE?

Mid-March and spring breakers are flocking to the beaches of the State of Florida. Numbers released just recently covering 2010, estimated that more than 3.1 Million Canadians visited the "Sunshine State".

If the Florida tourism marketing numbers are accurate, that would be an increase of 16% over 2009. One delighted state official explained the surprising increase: "In times when people are challenged financially they tend to fall back on things that are comfortable and reliable and trusted; and to a lot of Canadians Florida is that kind of destination."



The United States needs spring breakers and snowbirds as never before. The strong Canadian currency obviously combined with the related spending south of the border these recent winter months are critical in helping hard pressed sunbelt communities to regain their footing. The south's economic numbers, Florida's especially, are staggering: More than 80% (81% to be exact) of all mortgages exceed the value of the home by an average of 138%. As many as half of mortgage loans are two-months (or more) delinquent, and the State's rate of unemployment remains above 11%.

Worldwide competition for Canada's tourism dollars abroad is increasingly aggressive. Cuba, Mexico, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain have been specifically targeting Canadian winter visitors to their shores.

Citizens of the Great White North have been less than enthusiastic embracing the Federal Government's proposal to soften America's terrorism-paranoia fueled thickening of our mutual border with a so-called "Perimeter Security" arrangement touted by Prime-Minister Harper and President Obama at the end of January. Canadians have been particularly miffed by the Obama Administration's subsequent effort to impose a duty on Canadians crossing the border by air (and/or sea)as a means of financing additional Homeland Security measures. The Obama proposal followed within days of the Prime Minister's visit to Washington.

In addition to the shorter more "active" vacation trips south across our International border, as many as half-a-million Canadian "snowbirds" spend three months or more each winter season in the States of Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. Each is an important underpinning in the economy of those respective states.

They say good fences make good neighbours. Though it's natural for occasional tensions to surface; we're blessed to share the North American Continent. In the course of our history together over more than two centuries we have developed the strongest trading partnership and one of the best international friendships on the planet.

Sometimes the things we do as neighbours are perplexing: Imposing a "Homeland Security Tax" on Canadians travelling to the USA is one of those things. Another may be the Harper Government's proposal to earmark $100-Million from coast to coast next year for the bi-centennial of the War of 1812. Just as with Perimeter Security, Canadians may be somewhat lukewarm to spending so much tax money commemorating the event. I suspect our American neighbours won't be terribly happy to be reminded they were defeated, their Capital sacked and the White House burned to the ground during the war.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

 

THE DAY THE RUBBER HITS THE PAVEMENT

The major credit-rating agencies have been casting a watchful eye on the Province of New Brunswick, and they are unlikely to respond kindly unless the provincial budget later in the month moves significantly to stop the financial hemorrhaging.

Travis Shaw who speaks for Dominion Bond Rating told the Saint John Telegraph-Journal a few weeks back that New Brunswick's "challenging fiscal situation" has become a matter of serious concern. Unlike "Dominion", the two other top rating agencies, Standards & Poor's and Moody's Investor Services, haven't waited for the first budget from novice Premier David Alward: They've already downgraded the province's ratings outlook amid concerns for the amount of debt it's been accumulating.

New Brunswick's 700-thousand inhabitants have an accumulated provincial debt of about $9.5 - Billion on which they pay $600 - Million / year in interest alone. Little wonder the deficit for the current fiscal year is pegged at about $820 - Million. By the way, none of which includes the staggering $.4.5 - Billion debt of the provincial utility, N.B. Power.

Somewhat unlike the United-States; a country that puts its President on a pedestal on election night, only to spend the rest of his term tearing it down; Progressive-Conservative Premier Alward, elected late last September, has been enjoying a surprisingly good post election "honeymoon". A recently published eastern Canadian poll pegged him with a higher rating than during last fall's election.

The financial challenges facing New Brunswick are daunting. They run the gamut from weak revenues, a shrinking workforce, ageing population, rising health-care spending and increasing dependence and reliance on transfers from the central government in Ottawa. At a recent meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Alward walked away (he claims) with a commitment that the Federal Government would not reduce transfers to the province in the next fiscal year.

In cross-province public budget consultations the P.C. government indicated that everything was on the table, but there really isn't much wiggle room left short of raising taxes and selling provincial assets; Crown Corporations and properties. Of those, the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation (N.B. Liquor), with annual profits near $175 - Million, seems the most likely target. The previous government's attempt to sell another Crown, the debt laden N.B. Power, caused such a ruckus that burying the "liquor" headline is perhaps a compelling reason why Mr. Alward's government has scheduled the budget speech on the same day the Federal Minister of Finance is scheduled to deliver the national budget - March 22nd.

Selling liquor to Maritimers is a lucrative proposition; one that doesn't imply rocket-science. So, when N.B. Liquor goes up for sale, given New Brunswick's precarious fiscal situation, Mr. Alward's biggest problem may be to pass on the temptation to sell at a fire sale price. A significant concrete effort to pull the Province of New Brunswick out of its spiral into bankruptcy is potentially a first significant "bump" along the soft ride the Premier has been enjoying so far.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

 

MULTICULTURAL ETHNICITY

The United-States is now the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world; but as the language becomes more widely used and interacts with the more dominant English, the opportunities to mangle it are spreading like a virus.

Gerardo Pina-Rosales who heads the North American Academy of the Spanish Language encouraged educators in Miami just a few days ago to join with an unprecedented hemispheric wide effort to reach out to future generations of Hispanic Americans to embrace bilingualism and multiculturalism.

Of course to Canadians; and the many living or raised in or very near the French speaking province of Quebec; the debate evolving in the United-States sounds somewhat familiar to the issues widely discussed, debated and virtually fought-over by Canadians forty or fifty years ago.

History, and in particular the economic domination of the United-States through much of the 20th Century meant that America's linguistic and multicultural evolution stagnated behind that of its European, Asian and other overseas business partners. And, quite substantially behind that of its continental partner to the north where circumstances of history forced Canadians (perhaps earlier than most) to come to terms with their cultural duality.

While the current confrontations and unrest sweeping over the Middle East and in North Africa may be in large measure fueled by a greater desire for self-determination; they are also being coloured by elements and factions within the various diverse cultures and religious beliefs involved.

The United-States is still caught-up in the depths of the economic crisis and because there are no Constitutional rights to guarantee the teaching of a second language, teachers of Spanish fear that language programs will be the first targeted when State Governments try to reign-in their spiralling expenses and debt. America's emerging debate over bilingualism and multiculturalism is surfacing at a time elsewhere, particularly in western Europe and just recently in Canada when multiculturalism as a national political objective is on the defensive and increasingly opposed and criticized.

There have been charges particularly in modern Europe that embracing multiculturalism has given rise to growing tensions and problems with immigrant arrivals, ironically many of whom immigrate from the Middle-East. The same neo-conservative movement which is sweeping the United-States and to a lesser degree Canada is already entrenched in Europe; and political leaders there; among them right-wing politicians French President Sakozy; German Chancellor Merkel and British Prime-Minister Cameron; have been critical of past practices. President Sarkozy said just last month that France's policies on multiculturalism have failed and that newcomers should..."accept to melt in a single society."

Canada has not been immune from the controversy. In Quebec the Provincial Government was forced to create a commission on "Reasonable Accommodation" in 2008 after several rural communities balked over the arrival of immigrants from cultures different from those of the original European settlers. The problem is exacerbated in Quebec because most new arrivals, somewhat like the Spanish and Latino arrivals to the United-States, choose to learn and to speak English. In fact a group of Quebec intellectuals recently proposed an alternative they described as "Interculturalism" which would take for granted the centrality of the French culture; and from there work to integrate minorities into a common public culture that respects diversity.

The value of being bilingual (or more) in an era of globalization should not be ignored. Though with the issue in the United-States seemingly in its infancy compared to Europe and to Canada; American politicians would be wise to draw valuable lessons from those who have been down this road before.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

 

BAD WINDS OF CHANGE

At the very height of the 2007 hurricane season the Director of the National Hurricane center based in Miami, Florida was forced out of his job. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina late in the 2005 season, Bill Proenza's mistake had been to publicly criticize the ageing satellite technology the world's foremost tropical storm / hurricane center depends on to predict land falling storms. Between 2004 and 2005, a total of 8 hurricanes and 3 (named) tropical storms had struck or brushed Florida. In fact. 2005 remains the most active hurricane season on record...



Hurricane Center Director Proenza is long gone; but the old technology he complained about almost 4 years ago still remains the only "go to" Earth-watching system in place. There are 13 Earth-observing satellites still in orbit and all of them are passed their "best before" date. Lest I digress: Perhaps in order to avoid Director Proenza's fate, scientists have taken to claiming the orbiting satellites are in "their sunset years."

In addition to ending the storied Space-Shuttle program later this year; years of belt tightening have left NASA's Earth-watching system in sorry shape. And, any money for new environmental satellites will have to survive Washington's budget cutting, the naysayers on global warming, and most recently increasing doubt in the United States about the competency of the space agency which put the first man on the moon more than four decades ago.

For the second time in two years at week's end a rocket glitch sent the latest $425-million weather watching probe to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Early on Friday, the Taurus XL rocket carrying NASA's "Glory" satellite lifted from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California and plummeted to the ocean's floor several minutes later. The same thing happened to another system named "OCO" in late February of 2009.

Back at the time of Bill Proenza's Miami demise in 2007, his concerns were echoed by a panel of the U.S. National Academies of Science which claimed that NASA's climate-monitoring system was at "risk of collapse". It's now feared that these recent back-to-back fiascoes could have serious political repercussions. It is feared that the Tea-Party backed newly elected Republican controlled American Congress and the climate-change skeptics who support them have just been handed more ammunition to question whether this is a good way to spend taxpayer dollars for rockets that fail and for purposes they claim to be suspect.

NASA's bruised ego, record and reputation surely are in desperate need of an image make-over. Perhaps sadly one which requires appealing to the somewhat baser instincts of American society. Among them the vast middle-class which has been crushed by mounting national debt and stagnant employment rates. All of which may just explain the Fox News "exclusive" this weekend claiming that a NASA Scientist, Richard Hoover, says he's uncovered evidence of Alien life on a rare class of meteorites, of which there are a total of nine known to have crashed to Earth.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

 

SON OF A PREACHERMAN

Canadians have not enthusiastically embraced Prime Minister Harper's proposal hashed-out with U.S. President Obama for a so-called "Perimeter Security Arrangement" which it seems would see Canada give-up some of its sovereignty, in return for the freer flow of goods between our two countries.

Of course, Mr. Obama's budget proposal to tax Canadians entering the USA which followed literally within hours of the Washington meeting with Harper has not helped the perception north of the border that regardless of its relationship with Canada...What America wants, America gets!

Mr. Harper's Conservatives may have planned to make the Perimeter Security deal a major plank of the expected national general election later this spring. Given the seemingly cool reception back home; it is quite unlikely the proposed arrangement with our American brethren will play a significant role along the campaign trail.

Though still rare; and strange at it may seem, relations have frequently been more cordial through less formal arrangements between Canadian provinces and their bordering U.S. States. Fact is that in recent years an American two-term Governor, Michigan's Jennifer Granholm, was Canadian born (Vancouver, 1959) and at least one current prominent U.S. Congressman from Kentucky, Geoff Davis, is Canadian born (Montreal 1958). And of course one of America's iconic Presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a very special relationship with New Brunswick's Campobello island, including the Canadian birth of his son, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Junior in 1914.

Reciprocally, (and he may be a first) New Brunswick's Progressive-Conservative Premier, David Alward elected last fall, is American born in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1959, and a graduate of Bryan College of Dayton, Tennessee. The new Premier spent several days late last week reconnecting with many of his compatriots attending the annual meetings of American Governors held in Washington D.C. In fact there he also discussed border security with the Senator from neighbouring Maine, Susan Collins. The prominent tea-Party supported Republican politician recently called for tighter security measures between our two countries claiming that a spike in drug smuggling from New Brunswick is leading to increased addiction to "Meth" in the State of Maine. To his credit, Mr. Alward pointed to her in return the problematic flow of handguns and heroin from Maine into New Brunswick.

Michigan Governor Granholm's Canadian ethnicity surely did not hurt in securing Canada's commitment by the Federal Transport Minister John Baird to lend her bankrupt state the billions of dollars needed to build a new international highway bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. Alas despite the commitment, the decade old project remains stalled largely due to the intransigence of the private owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit billionaire Manny Moroun...seemingly proving once more that moneyed business trumps goodwill: I digress!

As for New Brunswick's Premier David Alward, he will have an historic opportunity in mid-June when he and the provincial capital, Fredericton, host the business to business conference of the Southeastern United-States-Canadian Provinces Alliance. The group of Premiers, Governors, their officials and prominent business leaders was formed in 2007. It's described as a strategic trade and investment focused partnership between six southeastern U.S. States (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama) and seven Canadian provinces (Newfoundland/Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.)

The alliance of government and business officials has held previous meetings in Savannah, Georgia; St. John's, Newfoundland and Biloxi, Mississippi. It wants to advance the economic ties between the two eastern North American regions. As a CBC reporter, I covered the inaugural meeting of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Association at Sugarbush, Vermont - Though it seems like yesterday, I'm recently reminded that was 37 years ago. - Somewhat like this newer business alliance, it's the framework which, despite occasional tensions, has assisted the political leaders along the Northern Atlantic coast to understand their symbiotic relationship regardless of national differences. It meets next in Halifax in July.

National governments may not always share the same perspective. This time the frequently disadvantaged province of New Brunswick has a distinct advantage of new political leadership born and educated amongst our southern neighbours. Mr. Alward holds a strong hand. Everyone hopes he can play it right.

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