Saturday, April 24, 2010

'An even keel is an ongoing challenge'

Kowtowing to the Hegemon
Two books look at the always complex Canada-US relationship

Literary Review of Canada: The back cover of In Roosevelt's Bright Shadow: Presidential Addresses about Canada from Taft to Obama... displays a picture of Peter Milliken, speaker of the House of Commons, presenting a special prepublication copy of the selfsame book to President Obama... when he visited Ottawa last year... The book contains the speeches given by American presidents in Canada and Canadian prime ministers in the United States...

From the American side, securing the homeland has always been the dominant and abiding concern... Contingency plans for an invasion of Canada were kept on file until early in the 20th century... A second theme in the presidential speeches is the ongoing encouragement for Canada to become more involved in the Americas... A third subject is the American delight in the big project, especially the big engineering project...

The Canadian speeches reveal a different pattern of interest. Trade and economic issues regarding access to the American market clearly dominate... A second theme from the Canadian prime ministers is encouragement for the Americans to partner in stewardship of our shared land and air and the effort to clean up the Great Lakes, to eliminate acid rain and to address the North... A third, and important, concern is our quest for binational and bilateral institutions -- beginning with the now century-old International Joint Commission -- to provide an agreed set of rules for procedure...

An even keel is an ongoing challenge, especially for Canada... avoiding the perception of being a follower but keeping close and connected enough to be relevant... How to manage the relationship with the US has perplexed and frustrated every Canadian government since Confederation. As successive prime ministers have observed, the American relationship and national unity are their abiding preoccupations.
Image source here.