What a Harper/Obama deal might look like - Macleans.ca

What a Harper/Obama deal might look like

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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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