The Canadian Press reports, “Former prime minister Brian Mulroney predicts the Harper government will have to make tough decisions in order to loosen up the Canada-U.S. border. …He urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the opposition parties to take the controversial steps necessary to get a deal done. …'(Perimeter security) has to be dealt with and I think the government is going about it the right way,’ Mulroney said. ‘I can tell you right now, it is going to be unpopular.'”
“Speaking to a McGill University conference Thursday, Mulroney blamed tighter security measures at the frontier of extinguishing the benefits of free trade. It was Mulroney’s government who pushed through the free trade deal with the U.S. Mulroney said addressing tie-ups at the thickening border — including mandatory passports — is vital and overdue.”
This past December the Canadian Press reported, “Mulroney said he expects concerns over sovereignty to accelerate if a (perimeter security) deal is consummated, but added he is not worried that Canada will be any less independent. ‘I’ve seen this movie before,’ he said. ‘You are talking to a guy who was told in the House of Commons…that all I wanted was to make Canada the 51st state.’ …Mulroney says the worth of the agreements can (now) no longer be seriously questioned.” Last night, Mulroney dismissed further dismissed criticisms by saying, “You’re going to have all kinds of characters coming out of the woodwork opposing it…for no reason at all except that there’s a political advantage in it.”
Michael Wilson, Mulroney’s former minister of finance and minister of trade during the NAFTA negotiations, appears to be “coming out of the woodwork”, at least a little bit. The Canadian Press article notes, “Retired diplomat Michael Wilson recently said that this border agreement ‘does raise some very significant issues on sovereignty, on privacy, on the form of collaboration between both sides.’ Wilson, part of the Mulroney government, said that there must be a ‘general acceptance that there’s a trade off between privacy and sovereignty on the one hand, and security on the other.'”
AN ELECTION ISSUE?
In February, Globe and Mail writers John Ibbitson, Bill Curry and Paul Koring wrote, “Even before Friday’s (perimeter security) announcement (with US President Obama in Washington), speculation was rampant that the opposition parties would defeat the Conservative budget, to be presented in March, and force an election. If that happens, the proposed security perimeter and improved trade ties would be a key issue in the campaign.” So, where do the parties stand on perimeter security?
CONSERVATIVES: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, “The Canada-U.S. partnership on security and economic competitiveness must evolve continually if we are to stay strong and address future security and commercial concerns. This (border security) declaration sets the stage for more effective, long-term collaboration in these areas. It also respects the sovereignty of both countries and the privacy of our citizens.” Government House leader John Baird has stated, “(Conservatives) will always put Canada’s interests first… That means keeping our shared border open to trade, open to investment, and closed to security and terrorist threats.”
LIBERALS: Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has said, “We’re a country that has prided itself on welcoming immigrants and refugees from other countries. We have different standards, the Americans, on these questions. We have a right to do so. And if we get into a security perimeter deal that weakens Canadian sovereignty, we may end up betraying Canadian values.” He has also written that, “A negotiation of this magnitude demands transparency. Canadians need to know what is on the table. Instead, despite months of leaks, news stories and questions in Parliament, Mr. Harper has yet to utter the words ‘perimeter security’ in the House of Commons. The ministers of Public Safety, Foreign Affairs and International Trade have said even less.”
NEW DEMOCRATS: The Globe and Mail has reported that, “NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said his party will strongly oppose the talks because they raise a wide range of concerns over issues such as food safety and privacy.” Dewar has also commented, “the question is what is the cost and what effects will it have on Canadian sovereignty.” NDP leader Jack Layton has said, “We think that there should be a thorough discussion here about the extent to which he may be compromising our sovereignty. We of course want to work with our friends in the U.S. on issues. But we don’t want to compromise our ability to set our own policies.”
BLOC QUEBECOIS: “Bloc Quebecois house leader Pierre Paquette has said, “We are in favour of a security perimeter. We believe we need something like this to facilitate the mobility of people and goods, but we want it to be done through a transparent debate where there is a balance between security, trade and fundamental freedom.”
GREEN PARTY: Green Party leader Elizabeth May has stated, “The recent Washington meeting makes it clear the Security and Prosperity Partnership is alive and well, repackaged and moving ahead on steroids. …Not only are the details of this new security agreement not being made public, but there seems to be no intention to bring this issue to parliament for debate. Harper continues to subvert democracy on all fronts.”
The Canadian Press article is at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/03/24/mulroney-canada-us.html.