This time last year, when Paul Martin was poised to replace Jean Chretien, he pledged a new style of Liberal government in Ottawa. He promised that Canada would be governed with more respect for democracy and your tax dollars, and he committed to safeguard the Canadian economy through new improved relations with our closest ally and largest trading partner, the United States.
Yet just as the cronyism and patronage continue today with the appointment of Liberal loyalists, so too does the strained relationship between Ottawa and Washington that began to deteriorate under Jean Chretien.
Far from the era of constructive negotiations in trade, foreign affairs and security issues that Mr. Martin promised, his mismanagement of our relationship with the U.S. at the highest levels remains stilted to almost non-existent.
On the very day he became Prime Minister, Mr. Martin announced publicly that he was prepared to replace our current ambassador to the U.S., Michael Kergin, with his former Liberal leadership rival, John Manley. Mr. Manley turned it down, but could you blame Americans for being left with the impression that Paul Martin places little importance on the position nor confidence in Mr. Kergin, who remains at his post in Washington?
The Prime Minister also turned down the American?s invitation for an early meeting with U.S. President George Bush, a snub which the PMO proudly leaked to the media.
Then began the ?anti-American? pre-election and election campaigns. The senior political administrations of two countries cannot negotiate and cooperative effectively when our Prime Minister stakes his job on speeches and television ads casting the U.S., its culture and its political and social policies as disastrous outcomes to be feared by Canadian voters.
It?s generally accepted in both Washington and Ottawa that Mr. Martin is waiting for the November U.S. election in the hopes that President Bush will be replaced by Democratic presidential-hopeful John Kerry.
But what happens if Mr. Bush wins? Does Paul Martin expect him to simply forgive and forget the snubs and criticisms and start anew? And what about John Kerry? How much will his policies on issues that affect Canada really differ from those of Mr. Bush? And why should you care about any of this?
The reason Mr. Martin shouldn?t be playing petty personal politics with Washington is the same explanation I give to those advocating that Canada respond to the U.S. softwood and beef politics with some form of retaliation ? Canada will be the one to lose.
Mr. Martin is literally gambling with the livelihoods of Canadian beef farmers, forestry and mill workers, steel workers, truckers and the jobs of so many others. Neither country wants to get into a trade war, but it will hurt Canada far more than it would hurt the U.S.
Canada and the U.S. are two very different countries. The best way to retain our sovereignty, our independence and our jobs, is to establish a relationship that respects both our similarities AND our differences.
Mr. Martin must also respect the best interests of Canada and Canadians and put his own personal political preferences aside.