Canada-US Security Relationship CDAI Conference

On February 24th and 25th, 2011, the CDA Institute and the Conference of Defence Associations held the 2011 Ottawa Conference on Defence and Security on CPAC.
In the first panel discussion, moderator Colin Robertson discusses with Michael Wilson, former Canadian ambassador to the United States, Lt.-Gen. Frank Grass, deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, James Blanchard, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, discussed Canada-US security interests 10 years after the 9/11 attacks.

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Expatriate Power: connect2canada

A hockey fan in Germany holds a Canadian flag. Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images - A hockey fan in Germany holds a Canadian flag. | Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images

Hill, Podlasly and Robertson

Let’s tap into our ‘global Canadians’

KYLE HILL, MARK PODLASLY and COLIN ROBERTSON

Globe and Mail Update  Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011

Globalization and shifting patterns of trade are a wakeup call for Canadians. In emerging giants such as China and India, our share of the import market has not kept pace with economic growth, or with our competitors. Our national prosperity and livelihood depends on our ability to do business abroad and we need to employ all our assets toward this end.

Let’s start with our biggest and best asset – our expatriates. An estimated three million Canadians live and work abroad. Highly educated, multi-skilled and well-connected, their personal and professional networks can benefit Canadian businesses seeking advice and a toehold overseas.

Our expatriate ranks already include an abundance of global leaders, including Nokia CEO Stephen Elop (Finland), McKinsey & Co. managing director Dominic Barton (Britain), and former Trader Classified Media founder and CEO John McCall MacBain (Switzerland). Canada also boasts academic leaders such as Lap-Chee Tsui, the vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, and entertainers like Mark Rowswell, known as Dashan to his adoring Chinese fans.

For Canadian businesses and governments that seek to expand trade and promote business development, global Canadians are in a position to make connections, broker deals and offer advice to these businesses and governments where their interests align.

Countries such as Scotland and Australia are already demonstrating the value of global networking. In 2001, Scotland created a powerful network of citizens abroad called GlobalScot and, as of 2011, more than 1,000 GlobalScots give freely of their time and expertise to assist with business deals, leverage finance and establish contacts. Australia’s global network, Advance, has forged connections with the one million Australian expatriates since 2002, drawing on their experience and networks to open doors and opportunities for Australia and Australians around the globe. What began in Scotland and Australia has now expanded to at least four other countries – Mexico, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand – all of which have built vibrant networks of their high-profile expats.

India has gone a step further. In 2002, a full-fledged Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs was created to manage the country’s substantial diaspora. To recognize and connect with their most successful expatriates, the ministry created the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award to honour exceptional Indians abroad. The president of India bestows the prestigious award upon 12 Indian expatriates each year.

Technology now makes it possible to more easily track expatriate Canadians. Let’s reach out to them and establish a global Canadian network of advisers and supporters who will open doors, broker deals and build connections for Canadians at home and abroad.

Some outreach to Canadian expatriates has already begun. In networks like the U.S.-wide connect2canada or Silicon Valley-based Digital Moose Lounge and the C100 group of venture capitalists, these connections have already proved their worth. But more can and should be done to create network of global Canadians who would advance Canada’s economic interests abroad.

Let Canadian expatriates give back to their country. Give Canadian business the connections they need to go global. In an age of digital networks – Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube – the network motto can be summed up in that iconic phrase: “I am Canadian!”

Kyle Hill and Mark Podlasly are members of the Action Canada Task Force on Expatriate Engagement. Colin Robertson is a former diplomat and president of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch.

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Tax on Canadian travellers to the US

Chris Sands and Colin Roberston on Powerplay with Don Martin February 17, 2010
The U.S. may be setting a $5.50 fee to Canadian visitors. Chris Sands, a senior associate from CSIS says the U.S. is looking for any opportunity to gain funds. Colin Robertson, a former diplomat says this is just a law of ‘unintended consequences.’

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A new tax on air travel?

Excerpted from Ottawa Citizen U.S. ponders $5.50 entry tax for Canadian air, marine travellers

By Ian MacLeod, Ottawa Citizen February 17, 201

The Obama administration wants Canadians to pay to enter the United States to help ease that country’s desperate financial crunch.A proposed “passenger inspection” fee is outlined in the draft 2012 U.S. federal budget that has been sent to Congress. If adopted, the charge is expected to be levied against millions of commercial air and marine travellers from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, the only nations now exempt from the fee, and generate $110 million annually. The fee would not apply to automobile traffic.

Colin Robertson, a member of the team that negotiated the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and later helped implement the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), believes more U.S. cash grabs are coming.

“They will be looking everywhere to find money, so it wouldn’t surprise me that our exemption is being lifted,” said Robertson, a fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

“Do I think we can succeed in pushing back? Probably not given the desperate financial situation the States is in. But, obviously, we should make our best efforts.

“This is one where we should make a joint cause with Mexico. The push back (also) has to come through the airline industry and though the travel agencies in the States.”

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Climate Reform in the United States: A lesson in politicking

Excerpted from Policy Options, February 2011 Obama and climate policy reform: A continuing education in American politicking by Colin Robertson

The strange death of climate reform legislation is a cautionary tale in American politicking. It is a reminder that the will and weight of the presidency can be thwarted by the counterweights of region, money and public indifference. Until we make a technological breakthrough, we face a ‘grand mess’ of federal regulation, litigation and continuing incrementalism at the state level. Canadians should pay heed. How America manages its grids and pipelines and prices carbon all have a direct effect on Canadian interests. We need to leverage our  our partnership to be, not an American clone, but ‘compatibly Canadian’.


…Obama is learning the congressional horse-trading that Lyndon Johnson understood so well but, on climate reform, he has yet to persuade Americans on the urgency for action. The percentage of Americans that believe global warming should be a top priority began falling even as Obama began his presidential bid. Today, global warming ranks near the bottom of public priorities. Americans are unconvinced of the need for action, especially when they are asked to pay for it.

Salience is what makes politicians pay attention and the public focus is on jobs and the economy. Attitudinal change is hard. Since Richard Nixon, administrations have sought to deal with the energy problem but failed. In his 1979 “malaise” speech, Jimmy Carter got to the heart of the issue when he argued that to face up to the energy crisis Americans first had to face up to the crisis in their own values and “the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.” And of course, he lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan, by a landslide.

De-carbonizing the global energy system is an epic challenge. The late Nobel laureate Stephen Snyder argued that sequencing is vital, starting with demonstrable steps on a clean power plant and then building support for broader, grander structures like a carbon tax. In reaffirming that the environment remains one of his top priorities, Obama told Rolling Stone last October that he would roll out new policy “in chunks” rather than “some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation.” He promised to “stay on this because it is good for our economy, it’s good for our national security, and, ultimately, it’s good for our environment.”  Climate reform is unlikely to be accomplished in one presidency. Doing it in ‘chunks’ recognizes the realities of regionalism, polarization and the requirement for attitudinal change.

Curtailing America’s largest source of carbon emissions – coal-fired electricity,  will also be driven by other factors.  Many of the most carbon-intensive plants are nearing end-of-life. A host of other factors, including the impending EPA regulations on mercury and other air pollutants and access to reserves of natural gas, may hasten conversion to cleaner burning fuels even in the absence of carbon regulation.

A necessary step will be to re-frame the debate from that of a pollution problem to an innovation opportunity. We don’t yet have the technology to give us clean energy on a large scale, but the US is well positioned to drive the demand for it. There is a growing chorus within industry and the environmental movement calling for an energy revolution. Alternatives – solar panels, biomass, wind mills and tidal power – are part of the solution. So is conservation.

State-inspired process, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the North-East and the Western Climate Initiative that also involves four Canadian provinces will continue to innovate and reform. Environmentalists look to California, where an oil industry- inspired initiative to roll back climate change legislation failed in the November mid-terms.  The counter-effort rallied Democrats and Republicans, including former Secretary of State George Shultz. In December, the California Air Resources Board voted to adopt the cap and trade regulations for California’s global warming law. Other states are moving forward through legislation and regulation. Technology funds for clean energy development are growing in popularity.

Arguably, Obama has already accomplished part of what he set out to achieve. The stimulus and other financial measures are putting close to a hundred billion dollars into research and development. Why not take on the mantle of energy innovator and with support from the Pentagon and industry frame it as an issue of national security?  America is still highly dependent on energy imports, but what if that could be balanced by new export opportunities for cleaner energy technologies, products and services?

For Canadians, the American drama is more than a spectator sport. Our interests are huge. Decisions relating to ‘smart grids’, low-carbon fuels, pipelines and renewable energy standards for hydropower matter to our continuing prosperity. We’ve harmonized on tailpipe emissions, we partner on projects like carbon sequestration and through the Clean Energy Dialogue but with differences in our energy mix, our strategic goal must continue to be ‘compatibility Canadian’, rather than an American clone.

We possess intellectual power and ideas in places like the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy, through industry associations like the Canadian Council on Chief Executives and the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, the Canada School for Energy and the Environment and in our environmentalists, including the Pembina Institute and Pollution Probe. The Boreal Forest Agreement is proof that industry and the environment can be creatively productive. Take this talent on the road and let’s show the world that we can be a global ‘superpower’ in climate reform.

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Then and Now: Closer Economic Integration with the US 1985 and 2011

From Vancouver Sun, From Yukon to Yucatan, cross-border compatibility makes a lot of sense Life would be easier, more cost-efficient

By Colin Robertson, Special To Postmedia News February 5, 2011

As we begin negotiations to take economic integration between Canada and the United States to the next level, it is worth reflecting on what has changed between now and the last time we embarked along this path.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the acceptance by Canadians that freer trade works to our advantage.

In 1984-85, opinion was sharply divided. Brian Mulroney had been elected by taking the traditional Conservative approach in opposing free trade before deciding to take the free-trade leap of faith. About a quarter of Canadians were favourable to the idea and the same number opposed.

The majority recognized that the status quo — increasing American protectionism coupled with structural economic deficiencies including deficits and unemployment — wasn’t serving our interests. There were doubts about the Americans’ willingness to truly level the playing field, about our ability to compete internationally, and about our capacity to preserve our independence.

The 1988 election nearly turned on a successful debating performance by John Turner on the sovereignty issue and the opposition of then-Ontario premier David Peterson.

After a bitter couple of years of adjustment, we proved that we can compete internationally. A decade of trade-driven prosperity persuaded the provincial premiers. The Liberals came around after a leadership change and some cosmetic changes in NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).

As a result of program reviews, deregulation and an attitudinal change to deficits, we are the poster child for prudent and responsible government. The domestic give and take that will be required this time is not likely to be nearly as politically contentious.

Importantly, we can count on the premiers, whose intervention with their governor counterparts made the difference in securing the reciprocity agreement on procurement last year.

We enjoyed perimeter defence from the Ogdensburg Declaration in 1940 until 9-11, when the curtain came down on the 49th Parallel. Extending the Norad (North American Aerospace Defence Command) model of sharing and pooling of information and intelligence to the already-close working relationship between law enforcement, migration and intelligence communities makes sense.

Collaborative neighbourhood watch is necessary to persuade the Americans to lift the curtain for legitimate goods and travellers. In return, we must have assured access for people and goods. The interruption of just-in-time delivery is already affecting investment decisions. Coupled with our petro-dollar, the Canadian advantages begin to diminish.

We’ll preserve our separate migration regimes, including different visa practises, but the Americans will insist on biometrics.

This is the recommendation of the 9-11 Commission — but we’ve already recognized its utility in the Smart Border Accord. Those who refuse to give this information will have to accept delays and interrogation. Our Charter of Rights does not apply to those crossing into the United States.

Regulatory compatibility makes a lot of sense. Mexico and Europe are ahead of us in negotiations with the Americans. We need to catch up because nowhere is the narcissism of difference more profound and unnecessary. Differences in food regulations, for example, means fortified Cheerios must be produced with slightly different compositions in each of our countries.

As U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson observes: “Not once have I felt less healthy.”

The difference in standards leads to separate production runs, less efficient trade and higher costs for producers and consumers. It’s time to take a blowtorch to these differences.

Our economic interests also argue for a truly cooperative approach to managing the arteries of our economic success. Let us adopt policies of open skies and open roads and take the example of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority to stewardship of our gateways, rail and road links, ports and pipelines and the grids that power our society.

For more than a century we’ve taken a continental approach to our commons — the International Joint Commission is an international model for sensible trans-boundary water management. We’ve built on this model and collaboratively cleaned up the Great Lakes and rid our skies of acid rain. Climate reform and management of the Arctic is the logical next step in environmental stewardship.

Former U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s vision was of a “common market from the Yukon to the Yucatan.” His persuasiveness brought along both his administration and a divided Congress.

If Canadians have faith to go forward, can the same be said of the Americans? Harper can play a mean tune but will Obama sing along? The president knows his re-election will hinge on his capacity to create jobs.

America’s largest market, whether known or not, is Canada. If Obama is to double American exports, then Canada must figure in the equation.

The president told us that he loved us when he made his first trip to Ottawa. Now we will find out how much.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson is vice-president and senior research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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A Different Canada

Excerpted from John Ivison National Post Saturday, February 5, 2011 Canada could be a very different place

In his excellent new paper: “Now for the Hard Part: Renewing the Canadian-American Partnership,” former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson offered some advice for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on the eve of his departure for Washington to sign a new perimeter security deal with President Barack Obama.

He quoted Daniel Burnham, the great Chicago architect, who once said: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” Mr. Robertson suggested that Mr. Harper should think big.

The new shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness may not stir anyone’s blood, since it is in essence an agreement to seek future agreement. But make no mistake: The Beyond the Border declaration has the potential to take Canada to the next rung of economic integration with the United States.

The specifics revealed at the press conference in Washington were limited to bromides about the creation of a Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council, which has been charged with the task of investigating why Cheerios on either side of the border have to have a slightly different formulation. But this deal is not solely consumed with ending the “narcissism of small differences” around regulation — it has the potential to be transformative for travellers, businesses and consumers

in ways that will be hailed by some Canadians and deemed unwelcome by others.

Mr. Harper acknowledged that the Washington declaration is a “starting point” for “an ambitious agenda.” He played down fears about Canada’s sovereignty being trampled by saying the deal is in the national interest.

Yet there’s no disguising the fact that if the border deal is carried to its logical conclusion, Canada will be a very different place than it is now.

On migration policy — possibly the biggest sticking point — the declaration states that the two countries will work together “to establish and verify the identities of travellers and conduct screening at the earliest opportunity.”

The intention is that fingerprints and retinal scans will become routine, leading to the evolution of an integrated entry-exit system, where entry into one country serves to verify exit from the other. This would require an unprecedented exchange of personal information.

The two countries already share watch-lists and passenger manifest lists for flights crossing each other’s airspace. But public opinion in Canada, already hardened by the Maher Arar case, may not welcome the sharing of more and more personal information with the Americans.

There was little detail available on how a perimeter security arrangement might work in practice, beyond a reference to increased cooperation across “air, land and maritime domains, as well as space and cyberspace.” This suggests that the NORAD joint air defence model may be adopted on land and sea. One practical example may be the emergence of joint customs facilities .

What else will it mean on the ground? Will Canada sign up to the Ballistic Missile Defence program that Paul Martin’s Liberal government snubbed? Will American ships patrol the Northwest Passage, which the U.S. considers an international waterway but Canada claims as an internal strait? If so, what does that mean for Mr. Harper’s Arctic sovereignty strategy?

In the run-up to a potential election, you might wonder why Mr. Harper is willing to risk the inevitable assault from the Left that he has sold the country’s soul for American gold. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff foreshadowed his line of attack by saying the deal has the potential to “betray Canadian values.” But Mr. Harper’s motives are transparent: jobs.

When the Americans stepped up security at the border after 9/11, they exerted extreme pressure on Canada’s trade jugular. A look at the tourism statistics give some indication of the impact. In 2009, overnight visits from the U.S. totalled 11.7 million, down from more than 17 million in 2002.

On the business side, border congestion has interrupted just-in-time delivery for products manufactured on both sides of the border.

The Harper government finally resolved that it had to act and found a willing partner in Barack Obama, who has his own reasons for wanting trade to flow more freely, not least his stated ambition to double U.S. exports.

The potential for a deal was greatly improved by the comradeship apparent between the Prime Minister and the President, who have cooperated effectively on thorny issues ranging from the auto bailout to Afghanistan.

In the end, the enthusiasm on display in Washington Friday could quickly turn to ennui. The Security and Prosperity Partnership was launched with similar fanfare by George W. Bush, Mexican president Vicente Fox and then-prime minister Paul Martin in 2005. It was a similar, if more modest, package but did not survive the departure of its signatories.

Geoffrey Hale, a professor of political science at the University of Lethbridge, said that this declaration appears more substantive than anything we’ve seen in recent years. In his opinion, its success or failure will depend on whether Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama are truly committed to ensuring they get results from the various working groups charged with implementing the declaration. “The SPP died of analysis paralysis, administrative overload and the absence of political will,” he said.

The other hurdle to success will be convincing Canadians and Americans that the deal really is in their respective national interests. We already know that the opposition parties here are intent on debasing the debate to the level of partisan demagoguery.

But Mr. Ignatieff and his party would be well-advised to listen to one of their own before rushing to judgment.

As John Manley, the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and a former Liberal deputy prime minister, put it: “Sovereignty is enhanced when prosperity is enhanced.”

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Risk Management and Perimeter Security

February 4, 2011 Canada AM: Colin Robertson, former diplomat A former Canadian diplomat says Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama will work towards reintroducing risk management in attempt to balance preventing a terrorist attack and continue a steady flow of commerce.

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Breaking down borders

From Globe and Mail February 4, 2011 by John Ibbitson  Breaking down borders: Canada-U.S. trade and security

Much of the material used in this Folio comes from a draft paper written by retired diplomat Colin Robertson for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Canadian International Council. It is a look at what the agreements might look like once drawn up.

From Vancouver Sun February 4, 2011 by Barbara Yaffe Border-security talks politically dicey for PM

The Conservative government has released few details about the Washington meeting, the second such powwow between the two North American leaders.

Their discussions are expected to deal with a plan to “take economic integration between Canada and the U.S. to the next level,” reports former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Robertson, in an article released Thursday, predicts a draft agreement for a security perimeter deal will be in place by November.

He says the goal should be to turn the 49th parallel into “a boundary, not a barrier,” and calls for a reintroduction of the principle of risk management.

A deal could see both countries’ military forces becoming interoperable, writes Robertson. It would feature cooperative deals on trade and border management, and include harmonization of government regulations and more intelligence sharing.

It also could force biometric scanning for all Canadians crossing the border.

“Sharing migration information is likely to be the major public sticking point in Canada — and a key requirement for the U.S.,” he predicts.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, created after 9/11, now has 200,000 employees and spent $56.4 billion in 2010.

In a bit of unfortunate timing, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report Tuesday highlighting perceived security weaknesses along the northern border.

Connecticut Independent Senator Joe Lieberman declared the northern border “unacceptably ineffective,” noting: “Canadians do have more lenient asylum and immigration laws than we do here.”

Robertson, in an article released Thursday, predicts a draft agreement for a security perimeter deal will be in place by November.

He says the goal should be to turn the 49th parallel into “a boundary, not a barrier,” and calls for a reintroduction of the principle of risk management.

A deal could see both countries’ military forces becoming interoperable, writes Robertson. It would feature cooperative deals on trade and border management, and include harmonization of government regulations and more intelligence sharing.

It also could force biometric scanning for all Canadians crossing the border.

“Sharing migration information is likely to be the major public sticking point in Canada — and a key requirement for the U.S.,” he predicts.

Critics also fear the deal could force more restrictive immigration and refugee policies on Canada.

The project, politically, is dicey for the PM. While Obama remains popular in Canada and a sit-down with the president could enhance Harper’s own standing, there’s a downside, especially in advance of a possible election.

The Liberal Opposition issued a news release Thursday condemning Harper for holding “clandestine meetings with American officials.”

According to foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, “Mr. Harper is leaving Canadians in the dark about a major decision that will potentially affect every aspect of their lives.”

Robertson makes no prediction about the outcome of today’s session. “The president told us that he loved us when he made his first trip to Ottawa,” he recalled.

“Now we will find out how much.”

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Analysis on the upcoming Washington Meeting

Prime Time Politics with Peter Van Dusen February 3, 2011 Analysis on the Harper-Obama meeting from former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson and Luiza Savage, Washington correspondent for Maclean’s.

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