I’m often asked: ”œWhat do Americans think of us?” The short answer is ”œthey don’t.” If we Canadians have an almost malevolent infatuation with our southern neigh- bours, Americans, for their part, have usually viewed us with benign neglect. Unless your district is close to the Canadian border, first-hand knowledge of us, especially if you’re a Republican legislator, might only be through a hunting or fishing expedition to Canada’s north. In that sense, the brand of ”œmountains, Mounties and maple syrup” can work to our advantage. Especially if the alternative is a North American edition of how FOX News described the Europeans during the Iraq War ”” ”œcheese-eating surrender monkeys.”
After nearly seven years as our ambassador during the Reagan administration, Allan Gotlieb eventually conclud- ed that benign neglect, indifference or ignorance was not such a bad thing. I agree. I keep at home and at the office a copy of his short memoir, I’ll Be with You in a Minute, Mr. Ambassador. I’ve recently added Derek Burney’s welcome memoir, Getting It Done, for its chapters dealing with the US. They are the best practitioners’ guides for a Canadian diplomat wanting to do business in Washington, especial- ly for what we do in the embassy’s Washington Advocacy Secretariat.
They sit beside a third book, Chris Matthew’s Hardball, because when in Washington you play by Washington rules, and that’s ”œhardball.” As my boss, Ambassador Frank McKenna, puts it, ”œWhen you go to a gunfight, don’t bring a knife.” As Tip O’Neill observed, ”œall politics is local,” so we daily pound the halls of Congress. We don’t have money or votes, the traditional tools of lobbyists, but we can talk jobs. We’ve created an elec- tronic map, called GoCART, which allows us to define Canadian business interests down to the district level. We can now go into an office and talk ”œlocal” with the names of our compa- nies and the jobs that they support. It’s politicking 101.
It’s also about being seen. And in the same news cycle. Actively respond- ing to the myths that continue to abound about the terrorists finding a home in Canada. And reminding Americans that while we are different ”” although ”œfire and ice” is probably extreme ”” we have more in common than not.
Margaret Atwood once described the Canada-US border as a ”œone-way mirror.” But this is chang- ing, and especially for Republican men (i.e. those in/with power) Cana- da has about it a question mark. Increasingly, we’re described as ”œEuropean,” and that’s Europe with- out the UK. And no, it’s not a com- pliment. America is at war. 9/11 remains the most profound event in America since Pearl Harbor. Every- thing we do has to be put through the litmus of the threat Americans believe is just a mistake away. Said Republican Congressman Peter King, new chair of the Homeland Security Committee: ”œIt’s like we live in two parallel existences. You know some- thing could happen, and yet you don’t want to alarm people constant- ly, or get too specific in your recommendations.”
The threat is personal. The implications are cultural and economic. It’s a Sputnik moment: one of those periodic alarms about some foreign economic menace. It was the Soviets in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Germans and the Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, and now it’s the Chinese and the Indians. ”œOutsourcing” is shorthand for the sense that maybe America can’t com- pete. There is a growing sense that fair- ness and social mobility has been sacrificed on the alter of ”œentrepreneur- ship” and ”œfreedom.” In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, race and poverty have been rediscovered as the American dilemma.
President Bush’s statement ”œyou’re either with us or not” cap- tures the mood. Disagreement is fine, but silly words wind up on FOX and feed the ”œCanuckistan” lobby. On borders, while we continue to differ- entiate between our border and the border America shares with Mexico, the bureaucratic inclination is to always apply the model they know best. And that’s the southern border, one characterized by the southern ”œwalls, wires and minutemen.”
Linked to this is the requirement to show a passport, or similar docu- mentation not yet determined, at the border by 2008. It is already hav- ing a chilling effect on travel. We have allies, especially among border states who rely on Canadian tourism and trade. We’re working with the northern border caucus as well as our own legislators to find some- thing that will respect security but not hamper access.
One challenge is the politics of not being seen to differentiate or dis- criminate against Mexico and the growing political weight of Latinos who, while less cohesive, now out-number blacks and, at 40 million, well out-number Canadians.
For Canada, we have to go beyond the headlines and begin to change the atmospherics by creating a better climate, especially on security. Otherwise, the risk is that the US will, as Ambassador McKenna puts it, ”œzip- per up the tent and we’ll be left outside.” And lest we be complacent, my boss also reminds me that ”œtoo often, we sail against yesterday’s wind.”
To help crew the course, during a visit to Washington in April 2004, Prime Minister Martin announced the creation of the Washington Secretariat, as an integral part of the Canadian embassy. The secretariat is the third child of the Canadian government’s response to 9/11. The secretariat was actually one of triplets. The first was the creation of a parliamentary secre- tary to the prime minister, responsible for US affairs ”” first Scott Brison, and then Marlene Jennings. The second was the creation of a Canada-US cabi- net committee, on which Ambassador McKenna participates, supported by a secretariat in the Privy Council Office.
Operational since September 2004, the secretariat is designed to advance Canadian interests on Capitol Hill, and is charged with serving Canadian legislators from all levels of government and giving the premiers and provinces a single window into the embassy. We also connect to our offices throughout the US and work with the media, business, and learning and research communities. We reflect back into Canada using the Web.
The first and most important child of 9/11 was the Smart Border initiative launched in December, 2001, by then deputy PM and foreign minister John Manley and homeland security direc- tor (and later secretary) Tom ridge. Through cooperation and the applica- tion of technology, it is expediting pas- sage at the border for goods and people, while meeting the security considerations imposed in the post 9/11 world.
The second child was what bureaucrats have named the ”œEnhanced Representation Initiative.” It will see a threefold expansion of our offices in the United States from 13 to 41 over the next couple of years. When I was consul general in Los Angeles, we used the occasion of four visiting Canadian warships to launch our new office in San Diego. We also opened offices in Tucson and Phoenix. Like many of the other new offices ”” Denver, Dallas, Raleigh ”” we will now have a greater presence in ”œred state” America.
A main focus of the secretariat is Capitol Hill. After making more than 150 calls on Capitol Hill, here follow some observations after making the Canadian case to reopen the bor- der to cattle, to prevent pollution from Devils Lake getting into the Red River, and around the ongoing softwood lumber dispute.
First: Make it local ”” the most effec- tive way to fight a special interest in the USistofindaUSally.
American lobbyists can do three things really well (including some for- eign governments can’t do):
Get the message out to our primary supporters to weigh in on the Byrd duties
Do fundraisers for those we want to influence. As California Speaker Jesse Unruh famously observed, ”œmoney is the moth- er’s milk of politics.” We’re play- ing hardball and this is how it works down here
Reach the grass ”œroots” and grass ”˜tips’ through their existing net- work
In our continuing battles to remove the duty on lumber we have the support of a made-in-America coalition: the American Consumers for Affordable Homes. It consists of Homebuilders, Home Depot, even the folks who make mattresses. While it took a judicial decision by the Ninth Circuit court, on appeal by the administration, to reopen the border to our cattle trade, there is no doubt the confidence with which the administration approached the appeal was bolstered by the active support of the US National Cattlemen and Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Meat Institute. They became involved, not because they like Canada, but because of self-inter- est. The slaughterhouses and packing plants represented by AMI were losing jobs. Driving the NCBA was the inability to send their cattle north to ”œfeedlot” alley in Alberta.
Second: Legislators have interests, not friends.
Canadians assume because they think that they have more in com- mon with Democrats than Republicans that Democrats must be our friends. Wrong. In the battle to open the border, one of our best allies turned out to be conservative senator Wayne Allard of Colorado, a veterinarian, who argued publicly (including an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times) that science, not politics, should decide the border re-opening. As he put it, ”œSound science is critical, because it separates fact from myth and ignores ”˜mad cow’ hysterics.” His Democrat counterpart from Colorado sided with R-CALF. Indeed, most of our toughest adversaries on beef, as on lumber and Devils Lake, were Democrats. It’s not that they don’t like us; rather, as one staffer put it, ”œthat’s politics.”
Unless we can make it local or find a local interest, we’re pushing uphill. I’ve also learnt that when an issue reaches Washington, we face difficult odds. Nip problems locally using local interests. And so I tell premiers and legislators, federal and provincial, to actively cultivate their American coun- terparts, especially those directly across the border. Legislators count, and it will always be incumbent on us to take the initiative and make even greater use of cross-border and region- al connections.
Look at the big flashpoints of the past year: beef, lumber and Devils Lake. They originated in three small border states: Montana and the Dakotas. While each has only one member-at-large, they each have a pair of senators, several of whom have sen- iority and count. At Frank McKenna’s initiative we’ve begun a ”œcharm offen- sive,” which will rely on our con- sulates in Denver and Minneapolis, but will only succeed if the provinces take the lead with the local business community. For example, working with Alberta and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, we’ll be tar- geting meetings of local farm bureaus to talk about the interdependence of our agricultural trade.
Third: Advocacy is as much about getting attention as getting your message across. Get attention and your message follows.
And so, in the wake of Katrina, we argued strenuously that besides lending a helping hand being the right thing to do, the neighbourly thing to do, it was also crucially important to inform Americans of what we were doing.
Canadians were justly proud of how we responded to 9/11: letting the 233 aircraft land and giving a home to the 33,000 stranded passengers; the national outpouring of grief across Canada including the 100,000 who turned out on Parliament Hill. But very little of this penetrated the American consciousness because the medium through which it passes ”” television ”” didn’t cover it.
So we helped facilitate crews and coverage by FOX and CNN when our three warships, HMCS Athabaskan, Toronto and Ville de Quebec, left Halifax Harbour with a thousand sailors to bring relief and supplies to the Gulf. Meanwhile, at the embassy, Ambassador McKenna hosted a fundraising breakfast, lunch and pub dinner. We did it in collaboration with a local DC radio station, which adver- tised the event on the airwaves. We e-mailed and even handed out invita- tions at the local metro ”” one used by those who work on the Hill. A banner hangs from the Embassy proclaiming: ”œVictims of Katrina: You are in our thoughts and prayers. Vous é‚tes dans nos pensées et nos prié€res.” Not only did we raise money for the Red Cross, but we got attention and acknowl- edgement, including a call of grati- tude from one senator who’d seen the banner as he’d driven down Pennsylvania Avenue.
We’re also pumping up our advo- cacy efforts beyond the Beltway. It means using our growing network of offices across the United States: 23, up from 13 two years ago and to be 41 by 2007. My view is that our American interests are so impor- tant that we should have representa- tion in each American state by the next American presidential cycle. And we should be doing diplomacy differ- ently. Not necessarily with bricks and mortar, but by someone who can work from their home. In Tucson, we part- nered with the local chamber of com- merce to situate our staff in their offices, to use their boardroom and profit from their contacts.
And using the Canadian diaspora. Jeffrey Simpson wrote a book about the ”œstar-spangled” Canadians who live in the United States. I know how helpful the Canadians in California were to me in the four years I spent as consul gener- al there: the Digital Moose Lounge of smart young Canadian engineers and computer technicians living in San Jose opened doors for me and we drew on them to provide an audience, for exam- ple, when Premier Klein of Alberta and his ministers came to town. We devel- oped the same relationship with Canadians Abroad in Los Angeles, many of whom work in the entertainment industry, and who gave us a core audi- ence when, for example, we put the spotlight successively on Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia on Canada Day from 2000 to 2004.
Through another Frank McKenna initiative, we’re now systematically reaching out to the ”œstar-spangled” Canadians at www.connect2 canada.com. We want to mobilize them nationwide and so create a Canada lobby to be our eyes, ears and mouth. We launched connect2canada on Canada Day this year, and it’s already paying dividends.
We’ve already enrolled 20,000 members who can access 24/7 our ”œvir- tual embassy.” Our goal is 100,000 within a year. We’re working with our universities, for example, to target their alumni living in the United States.
Fourth: Access is everything.
And access comes in every form: Canadians studying in the United States and Americans studying in Canada. We can do a lot more to promote the latter. We’re looking at how we can improve our recruitment activity and increase the number of Americans studying in Canada. When American students spend three or four years in Canada, they learn about our culture, history, and life. They build a network of contacts that they can turn to in their professional careers when they return to the United States. And they will carry a special bond with Canada for the rest of their lives. I spent five years in Hong Kong when the British still ruled, and our access to government and business was hugely improved because so many had attended Canadian schools. The same still holds true through much of Asia. We should also support the creation of centres of American studies and establish exchanges with the leaders of tomorrow.
Fifth: On Capitol Hill an issue is never over as long as any interest feels they are hard done by and can find a receptive congressional ear.
In 1789, Massachusetts timber merchants in what is now Maine per- suaded the Washington administra- tion in the first year of its first term to impose a 5 percent tariff on imports of New Brunswick timber. Does this sound familiar? Since then, the US has imposed restrictions on Canadian lumber imports more than 30 times.
This takes me back to my first observation about the importance of local relationships and my conviction that legislator and province-state rela- tionships are the hidden wiring of Canada-US relationship. The Canada- US Interparliamentary Group has a long history of meeting, identifying and trying to find solutions to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Each province now trades more with America than with one another. The institutions that have developed around the province-state relationships should be encouraged and cultivated. When you are the smaller partner, insti- tutions matter, because they provide a regular forum for discussion and prob- lem-solving. The Pacific Northwest Economic Region of legislators, for example, is a working model. Western governors and premiers meet annually, as do eastern premiers and New England governors. The premier of Ontario has always had a special relationship with the governor of Michigan, as does the premier of Quebec with the governor of New York. At the legislative level the Pacific Northwest Economic region is perhaps the most comprehensive.
Sixth: Institutions count: it’s how ”œsmall” levels the playing field against ”œbig,” but what we always have to remember is that there also has to be a recognition by the ”œsmall” that ”œbig” some- times will exercise the right to the trap door. It’s not fair, but neither is life.
If the institutions mat- ter, even more important are the relationships that devel- op between the players. In the American system, Amer- ican legislators progress through that system. This is partly because of term limits and changes to seniority provisions but, unlike Cana- da, Americans seem to expect their leadership to do their apprenticeship at the local level. Four of the last six pres- idents were governors. There are ten former governors now sitting in the Senate. Fifty of the eighty new mem- bers in the current Congress served in local levels of government. Bringing more American legislators to Canada should be an ongoing project. And as they often remark when I’m on the Hill, ”œmake it fun,” show us Canada.
All of this activity and advocacy are means to an end ”” the advance- ment of Canadian interests through, for example, the Security and Prosperity Partnership Initiative. They complement and support the foundation that is our traditional diplomatic activity.