Wednesday, March 2, 2011



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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