The Elephant Vs. The Mouse

America is 2 years away from electing its next President, number 44 to be precise, and already, there’s rampant speculation as to who the leading candidates will be.  It is in this climate that I present this previously unseen opinion piece.
It was written in late 2004, just after the last election which saw President Bush win his second term.  I conceived it for The New York Times Op-Ed Page but they weren’t interested.  It’s been hiding in my archives ever since.
The title is a reference to a famous remark Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made in 1969 during an official visit with President Nixon:  “America should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced.  We’re different people from you and we’re different people because of you.  Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant.  No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and groan.”
Nixon detested Trudeau and famously called him an “asshole”.  The ever-quotable Trudeau famously retorted, “I’ve been called worse things by better people.”
The Elephant Vs. The Mouse was my attempt to discuss the then-recent deterioration of Canada/US relations strictly from a Canadian perspective.  Some of it is dated now.  Carolyn Parrish is long out of politics and Paul Martin is no longer the Prime Minister.  Things have improved a bit since Stephen Harper won the federal election almost a year ago.  But inevitably, there have been disagreements. 
In the new year, it will be interesting to see if the Americans finally wise up and admit they were just as wrong about Maher Arar as we were.  If they don’t do the right thing, will our government have the balls to force them to change their malicious position?  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, enjoy my piece.
By Dennis Earl

HAMILTON, Ontario – In my country, American Presidential Elections are always closely observed, and this latest one was no exception. Although Canada (and the rest of the world) would’ve preferred Senator John Kerry as the next commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush remains the leader of the free world. Both our countries need to spend some quality time together in order to have a serious discussion about our dysfunctional relationship.

Relations between Canada and America haven’t been this bad in decades. Not since the War of 1812 and much of the Pierre Trudeau era, anyway. What happened to this historic friendship?

It all began during the Presidential campaign of 2000 when the ruling Liberals, led by Prime Minister Jean Chretien, openly stated their preference for Vice President Al Gore over then-Governor Bush.

In December 2002, during a NATO conference in Prague, Chretien’s secretary, Francois Ducros, unintentionally ignited a firestorm when it was reported that she had privately called the President a “moron”. She later resigned.

The Bush Administration, so fond of nicknames, referred to our then-PM as “Dino”.

Then came the buildup to the war in Iraq. Although publicly the Liberal Government was opposed to the war (despite supporting former President Clinton’s similar Iraq policies), privately they authorized the deployment of naval ships in the Persian Gulf. In March 2003, Ambassador Paul Celucci remarked ironically, “The Canadian naval vessels will provide more support to this war in Iraq than most of the 46 countries that are fully supporting our effort there.”

As the war progressed, we were ignored in Mr. Bush’s State Of The Union addresses and initially cut out of any reconstruction projects in Iraq. (The Administration eventually relented on the latter.)

Meanwhile, after taking questions during a press scrum, renegade Liberal politician Carolyn Parrish, not realizing that a camera was still rolling as she was walking past with a smile, made this infamous declaration: “Damn Americans. I hate those bastards.”

But she didn’t stop there. Earlier this year, she declared during an outdoor press conference that she refused to join the “coalition of the idiots” who supported America’s proposed missile defense shield. She was joining “the coalition of the wise,” who were against it. Despite public criticisms by Prime Minister Paul Martin, she remains unrepentant and continues to speak out.

When Senator Kerry publicly supported the importation of cheap, Canadian drugs to the United States, it was argued by some that if that policy became a reality there would not be enough drugs for Canadians, let alone our friends to the south. That hasn’t stopped some Americans, particularly senior citizens, from coming here and finding some deals. None of this would be an issue if drug companies didn’t have such a stranglehold on the American political system and continuously gouge its consumers with ridiculously high prices.

Besides Iraq, prescription drugs and unhelpful public outbursts, 2 more issues need to be addressed by our two countries: marijuana and beef. Recently, the Liberals have reintroduced their bill to decriminalize marijuana, despite harsh criticism from both sides of the debate. The Bush Administration believes in maintaining the status quo which has proven to be tragically unsuccessful. A compromise has to be made. But can one be made by a states-rights Administration who in 2002 arrested a number of ill people in California for using legal medicinal marijuana? (Medicinal marijuana is legal in Canada, also.)

America’s banning of Alberta beef is probably the only issue that can easily be resolved at this time. Since only one cow tested positive for mad cow disease, the ban was unnecessary and remains foolishly misguided. It is needlessly hurting both our economies.

There’s been some talk here of President Bush coming to Canada to meet Prime Minister Martin and in a show of goodwill, leaving for America with his own Alberta cow. While that smacks of a rather hokey photo-op, it would be preferable if Bush cancelled the ban and allowed for the resumption of Canadian beef exports.

Prime Minister Martin is considered more conservative than his predecessor, Mr. Chretien. His years as finance minister helped eliminate the national deficit. President Bush could heed his advice on that.

Now is the time to get the President in this country long enough to have serious discussions about our differences and make some headway on those issues where, potentially, our paths could lead to common ground.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 28, 2006
10:14 p.m.
Published in: on December 28, 2006 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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