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What a Harper/Obama deal might look like


 

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, has laid out in some detail what a new Canada-US deal on the border and beyond might look like in his paper, Now for the Hard Part.

The whole thing is worth reading. He also gives advice for Canada on dealing with the US.

My favourite anecdote — the case of the beauty lotion for cats:

Robertson writes:

Shortly after my arrival in Washington I began the first of more than 300 calls on Capitol Hill, pushing and promoting, explaining and defending, what we loosely define as ‘Canadian interests’ to whoever would listen.  The initial call was instructive. I was sitting in a waiting room awaiting the summons of a chief of staff for a Congressman on the Ways and Means committee. The waiting rooms are cramped, but they have the advantage of having at least one, and often two television sets, one broadcasting the proceedings of the Senate or House on C-SPAN (the US equivalent of CPAC) and theother usually tuned to cable news. In most cases, even in Democratic offices, the main news source was FOX. Upstart, right-leaning, and opinionated, it continues to dominate cable news networks and thus helps to prime the American political agenda. It is essential viewing. I never did see the chief of staff. Instead a young staffer emerged to tell me his boss was ‘preoccupied’ and that I could make my pitch to him. And so I pressed the case of the day: to reopen the border to Canadian exports of live cattle. He listened politely to my ‘beef,’ asking a couple of questions:  first, ‘How did it affect their district?’; second, ‘What did I want them to do?’  To the first I spoke about the importance of Canada-US relations – a ‘bland of generalities’ that failed to impress. The second was easy – ‘open the border’. He smiled and thanked me for taking the time to call. While leaving I met the ‘preoccupation’. They were a clean-cut trio dressed in the standard lobbyist uniform of dark blue suit and red tie. They had come to lobby for the inclusion of an ‘earmark’, a special financial provision in an ‘appropriations’ or money bill. ‘What do you want’, I asked? Funding, by means of an ‘earmark’ – the special inserts into appropriations measures that are define clout and power on Capitol Hill. In their case, they wanted funding to widen the entrance to the company’s plant and soimprove access for six-wheeler trucks. Their product was a beauty lotion for America’s cats.  They succeeded and it would become one of the 13, 997 earmarks catalogued in the Citizens Against Government Waste 2005 Congressional Pig Book. The total cost of these ‘projects’ – 27.3 billion dollars. “

 


 
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What a Harper/Obama deal might look like

  1. O. M. G.

    Where do I get this lotion?

  2. O. M. G.

    Where do I get this lotion?

  3. Clearly Mr. Robertson has the diplomatic chops to craft such a proposal but to my civilian eye the entire paper is an interesting but internally contradictory read:

    – Robertson allows that the outside limit for government attention to large initiatives is 18 months but outlines a series of proposals that realistically could take many years to get thru the U.S. Congress.
    – While I accept that the paper suggests Canada's "asks", it's nearly totally silent on what our "gives" are apt to be. Sort of important going into a complex negotiation, no?
    – I guess one could make decent arguments that many of Robertson's trade asks have direct and indirect benefit for the U.S.. Still, I'm having trouble believing that the massive complexity of the U.S. congressional system — about which Robertson goes on at length — can be moved by the power of a decent argument. There has to be some equally massive political gains in the agreements for Obama, the Dems, Republicans and key individual Congressmen. I'm sure Robertson has insight on this but one does not find them in this paper.
    – The stark reality is that on security issues, the U.S. does not, will not and cannot (politically) rely on anyone else. Robertson suggests that we can harmonize and co-manage customs and border security. That could only work for the Americans if they were to control those functions for Canada. Can you say "political suicide", PMSH?
    – Robertson uses NORAD as an example of joint security management. I'm not buying. NORAD is run by the U.S. with Canadian participation. It's clear who is in charge. It my be a nominally joint command by it's not shared.

    That said, Robertson's paper was informative and fun to read. I'm sure it will be even more fun to compare with what PMSH drops on us.

  4. Clearly Mr. Robertson has the diplomatic chops to craft such a proposal but to my civilian eye the entire paper is an interesting but internally contradictory read:

    – Robertson allows that the outside limit for government attention to large initiatives is 18 months but outlines a series of proposals that realistically could take many years to get thru the U.S. Congress.
    – While I accept that the paper suggests Canada's "asks", it's nearly totally silent on what our "gives" are apt to be. Sort of important going into a complex negotiation, no?
    – I guess one could make decent arguments that many of Robertson's trade asks have direct and indirect benefit for the U.S.. Still, I'm having trouble believing that the massive complexity of the U.S. congressional system — about which Robertson goes on at length — can be moved by the power of a decent argument. There has to be some equally massive political gains in the agreements for Obama, the Dems, Republicans and key individual Congressmen. I'm sure Robertson has insight on this but one does not find them in this paper.
    – The stark reality is that on security issues, the U.S. does not, will not and cannot (politically) rely on anyone else. Robertson suggests that we can harmonize and co-manage customs and border security. That could only work for the Americans if they were to control those functions for Canada. Can you say "political suicide", PMSH?
    – Robertson uses NORAD as an example of joint security management. I'm not buying. NORAD is run by the U.S. with Canadian participation. It's clear who is in charge. It my be a nominally joint command by it's not shared.

    That said, Robertson's paper was informative and fun to read. I'm sure it will be even more fun to compare with what PMSH drops on us.

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