CIDA Integration into DFAIT

Excerptedd from Embassy

How to avoid merger mishaps

Ally Foster Wednesday, 05/29/2013

Foreign affairs experts speaking to the House foreign affairs and international development committee on May 23 said they support the Canadian government’s plan to merge the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, but with a few caveats.

“Reorganizations are dangerous,” cautioned Paul Chapin, a retired civil servant with more than 30 years experience at DFAIT-. “They aspire to improving matters, but the disruption they produce, and the productivity losses that they cause make a shambles of the great majority of reorganizations.”

The success of the CIDA-DFAIT merger, which is included in the 2013 budget implementation bill, hinges on several stipulations, the witnesses said.

The foreign affairs and development committee was tasked with studying the merger part of the legislation in two sessions, on May 21 and 23, and can now make recommendations to the House finance committee.

The witnesses expressed hope and optimism that the amalgamation would go more smoothly than in the past, when international trade was re-merged with foreign affairs in 2006.

Colin Robertson, who was a Canadian foreign service officer for more than 30 years until 2010, told the committee that the 2006 re-integration of the divorced departments was a move that “sapped energy,” because, “the best talent was devoted not to advancing the national interest, but moving boxes around in what was a rather painful, and draining bureaucratic odyssey.”

To avoid a repeat of past merger mishaps and mismanagement, the three witnesses—which also included Lucien Bradet, president and CEO of the Canadian Council on Africa—made several key recommendations including that Canada is in dire need of a cohesive and clear foreign policy strategy.

Foreign policy plan needed

“If this is to work, I think the government needs to articulate, at least in broad terms, what it’s hoping to achieve—not necessarily with the restructuring, but in its international agenda,” said Mr. Chapin.

“We need to do a much better job of exploring big trends in places like Africa and Latin America, and others, then select the ones that matter to Canadians,” he added. “There is a Canadian interest here. The Canadian taxpayers are shelling out this money, so they’re entitled to know that there’s something in it for Canada, and it’s not entirely altruism.”

Mr. Robertson, who is currently a Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute senior fellow and vice-president, raised similar concerns.

“It’s one thing to say we’re going to align development to foreign policy interests, but in doing so are you de facto reviewing your foreign policy?” he questioned.

Policy formation is a key role of the department, said Mr. Robertson, who added that it is the committee’s responsibility to bring in policy experts from DFAIT to present current trends and priorities.

During the meeting, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar also questioned how international development priorities could possibly be aligned with the rest of Canadian foreign policy, when he argued there isn’t one.

“You’ll hear [in] speeches…comments like, ‘We’re in favour of freedom and democracy,’ as if anyone isn’t,” he said.

“I would challenge anyone around this table to tell us exactly where you go and find [on the] Foreign Affairs…website anywhere, what is our foreign policy.”

In response, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Co-operation Lois Brown wrote in an email to Embassy that “Canada’s foreign policy rests on the Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Our foreign minister consistently keeps Canadians up to date.”

Media reports have detailed that the Conservative government started working on creating a foreign policy plan after John Baird was named foreign minister in 2011. The Canadian Press later reported on a draft plan that indicated that China is key among more than a dozen priority countries, as well as India, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, North Korea, and South Africa.

Silo-breaking is key

Mr. Robertson raised another question that still hasn’t been answered: where the physical fusion will take place—or will it?

Mr. Robertson recommended that CIDA employees not be left isolated across the river at the agency’s current headquarters in Gatineau, Que. DFAIT’s headquarters is on Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

He suggested that employees working on the trade, development, and diplomatic files for a certain country or region should all share a common workspace so they can collaborate.

Mr. Robertson said he has seen this done in the past, and “it meant that you lunch together, and it meant that when you walked down the hall, you talked together. The worst thing we can do in this integration would be to leave the silos.”

“I think that’s an extremely important point,” said Hélène Laverdière, the NDP critic for international development and a former DFAIT employee, in a later interview.

“So many issues are solved around the coffee machine or in the corridors.”

Mr. Robertson stressed that there needs to be a clearer outline of how the move will actually work, in terms of combining priorities, administration, staff, physical space, and policies.

Ms. Laverdière said she also found this suggestion extremely important. She lamented what she said was a lack of details coming from the government.

But Ms. Brown wrote, “The budget is simply the signalling of the start of the amalgamation process, to comment on timeframes would be premature at this point.” She added that all options, including changes to physical space, are being examined to find an effective and efficient structure for the new department.

Mr. Chapin also stressed the need to maximize people-potential in the new department.

“It’s going to be people who make this work,” he said. “Structure and reorganization is not going to cut it by itself.”

And bringing the right people around the table is what makes the merger a good idea, added Mr. Bradet. The ministers and top officials for all three files related to foreign affairs need to sit around the same table regularly and talk, he argued.

Building a fence around budgets

The last issue raised by the witnesses was a lack of clarity in the legislation on how the new department will deal with doling out money.

“It’s a question of appropriation and budgetary allocations,” said Mr. Bradet. “I’m nervous about that.”

Mr. Bradet questioned whether there would be a fence around each portfolio’s budget at the new department.

“I think Canadians will want to be assured that in the new department, there are no grey zones when it comes to the use of funds for international development,” he said.

Ms. Laverdière said outlining the protocol in legislation for this is difficult, but that there needs to be a discussion about creating a framework for budgets and transparency for spending.

Mr. Robertson also raised an eyebrow at how the new department will handle the influx of money.

“With an extra $4 billion of the [Canadian] people’s money in its wallet, will the new Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Development Department’s culture be up to the task?”

He pointed out that “CIDA has embraced results-based reporting and open data,” and asked, “will the new department embrace this approach?”

Embassy Photo: Ally Foster
Former DFAIT official Paul Chapin, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute vice-president Colin Robertson, and Canadian Council on Africa president Lucien Bradet, at their committee appearance May 23.

Comments Off on CIDA Integration into DFAIT

On Ship Procurement Project

Excerpted from The Hill Times

Heavy lifting just beginning on $33-billion ship procurement deal

Monday, 05/27/2013

The heavy lifting is just beginning on the procurement of new military and civilian vessels as the government prepares to pick the winning design for the first planned replacement ships this summer.

There should be sufficient funding set aside for unexpected costs and building quality ships, said Mr. Perry and Colin Robertson, a fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Since no designs have been finalized, it’s too early to tell whether the money allocated is enough, said Mr. Perry.

“Until that’s done, there’s no way of assessing if the way the project money allocated is good, bad, or ugly,” he said.

There is also a cost premium for building the ships in Canada, noted the PBO, because of the relatively inexperienced shipbuilding industry.

“We have chosen to rebuild our ship industry. This is a conscious policy decision. You can buy these things abroad at a lot less money. But when you build it in your country you create a whole bunch of jobs,” said Mr. Robertson.

The government estimates the shipbuilding could contribute as much as $2-billion to the economy and 15,000 jobs over 30 years.

“Some have raised the suggestion or the criticism that these ships could have been built cheaper or purchased perhaps offshore in other countries. We disagree. We feel it’s important to support the Canadian shipbuilding industry, as well as giving the Royal Canadian Navy a ship that is up to the task,” said Mr. MacKay.

This project is the first major shipbuilding initiative in Canada since the 1990s. The industry is ramping up its skills and capacity. The Vancouver shipyard is currently investing $200-million in upgrades. On the East Coast, the provincial and federal governments are investing in skills training and other initiatives to make sure the region is ready.

“These are not skills you acquire in a day,” said Mr. Robertson.

He explained the industry would build its proficiency as it goes, and starting with the support ships, science vessels and icebreakers would allow them to work towards increasingly more complex vessels.

“We had this capacity during the Second World War. We were building a ship in 183 days,” said Mr. Robertson.

The PBO cited an industry survey of employee technical skills in the United Kingdom’s naval industry, which found it took workers between six and eight years to reach 90 per cent of their optimal productivity levels.

The PBO notes its estimate is only useful if the ships are started and finished on time, and any delay would affect the estimates.

Delays significantly drive up the cost of any military procurement, as military inflation can be as much as 10 per cent annually, noted Mr. Robertson.

A scheduling conflict with the icebreaker may cause the support ships to be delivered later. The projects are scheduled to be built simultaneously, but the Vancouver shipyard can only handle one at a time.

“We’re in very high level discussions about the sequencing. Clearly, we have a preference. The Department of National Defence would like to see our ships built as soon as possible given the importance of replenishment at sea,” said Mr. MacKay.

Unless there are clear advantages to building one before the other, ultimately, it will be a political decision, said Mr. Perry.

“Whether or not you would need refuellers first, or whether or not you need the ice breaking capacity first, … they both are urgent requirements so it’s going to be a tough call about which one gets into service ahead of the other,” he said.

The two keys to avoiding unnecessary delays are stick to the schedule and buy off-the-shelf as much as possible, said Mr. Robertson.

“Keeping to schedule is really vital. The problem comes when, and this is natural enough, the Navy says, we’ll, something new is out, we’d like to have that on the ship. We’ll, if you want to have that on the ship, it takes you longer to do it. If it takes you longer to do it, you’re going to have to pay a premium,” he said.

Comments Off on On Ship Procurement Project

On CIDA and DFAIT Statement before House Committee


Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mr. Colin Robertson (Vice-President and Senior Fellow, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute):

Thank you.

My name is Colin Robertson. I served in the Canadian foreign service for more than 32 years. I am currently vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor with McKenna Long & Aldridge, a Washington law firm. I work through them with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. My volunteer activities include sitting on the board of Canada World Youth, which is funded by CIDA.

That said, my remarks are personal and do not represent any of these organizations.

I support reintegration of CIDA and Foreign Affairs into International Trade because I believe by linking the three critical policy levers of diplomacy, trade, and development, we’ll get better policy coherence in advancing Canadian interests abroad and advancing our development outcomes. I think the nexus of development, diplomacy, and trade works very well, and that’s how we try to do policy back in Canada, but in the field my observation was that sometimes CIDA operated separately. In my view, this did not serve our international interests, and it often confused, particularly those with whom we were dealing.

The short-term problem, and Paul addressed this, is how we deal successfully with the integration of CIDA into DFAIT.

Past experience with reorganization is not encouraging. The severing and then reintegrating of the trade part of the department in the early 2000s sapped energy. The best talent was devoted not to advancing the national interest but to moving boxes around in what was a rather painful and draining bureaucratic odyssey.

Development that creates the conditions where development assistance is no longer needed is the outcome we seek to achieve. Closer collaboration with the private sector, always a central theme of our international policy objectives, should be reinforced with the reintegration of CIDA into DFAIT.

I’m going to put my questions to you around four baskets: accountability, foreign policy, trade, and values and interests.

In terms of accountability, will DFAIT be ready to administer a fivefold increase in its budget? That’s significant. I would refer you to work by Barry Carin and Gordon Smith, both formerly of the department and now working with CIGI at the University of Victoria, on the millennium development fund. They are looking at accountability standards as to how you ensure that you’re getting full value for aid broadly, and I think that’s something we need to pay attention to.

With an extra $4 billion of the people’s money in its wallets, will the new foreign affairs and international trade and development department’s culture be up to the task?

CIDA has embraced results-based reporting and open data. Will the new department embrace this approach?

The challenge of integration is getting it done without handicapping operations or shortchanging policy development, always a problem with any kind of integration. You, as members, need to get from the department a timetable, with benchmarks, for reintegration and clear communication as to who, what, when, and, most importantly, why this is all going to take place.

The second basket is foreign policy. It’s one thing to say we’re going to align development to foreign policy interests, but in doing so, are you de facto reviewing your foreign policy? An example is the information technology shops in the merging of the DFAIT system. In the DFAIT system, Africa missions are put at the bottom of the priority list in terms of upgrades and modernizations. For CIDA, the place is at the top, and appropriately so. So how do you fix that?

At the level of foreign policy, will integrating CIDA transform Canada’s foreign policy priorities geographically? Will Africa, for example, be at the centre of Canada’s next generation of global relationships? How, for example, do we now deal with China? China ceases to receive Canadian development, becoming a player itself. How are we going to work with China, having helped it to achieve a certain degree of development?

On the trade front, how will the new department handle private sector and capital flows? Will integration allow trade deals that enable people to earn more money and create new jobs by exporting to Canada?

Canada is an exporting nation, so three vital policies are necessary: trade promotion, trade policy aimed at trade liberalization, and trade negotiation.

+ -(1120)

We are underresourced on trade negotiation, just when the world is awash in trade negotiations, bilaterally, regionally, and globally. The Prime Minister, of course, is down in Cali today looking at a new trade negotiation, a Pacific alliance. Again, I think that’s a good thing, but we don’t have the capacity. Trade negotiating teams need constant input from the private sector, and this remains weak, unlike the free trade agreement and the NAFTA, which I worked on, where we had a very strong system of consultations with various sectors. The private sector, for its part, truly has to step up. It could do more on public-private partnerships. Bringing new ideas and best practices to the table in a practical sense is something the business community should be able to help us with, and I would encourage you to look, for example, at the work on the Pacific Century that’s being done right now by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

As we proceed with trade negotiations, our foreign aid should strengthen our industry position internationally, including the rights of local youth, women, and local governance. The case of Bangladesh and the garment industry is a case in point.

As for values and interests, which I think are important, but I put them last in my set of questions, the integration of CIDA tests whether our values are in fact interests in disguise. Take, for example, the condition of women and girls. Any state that does not address the condition of women and girls can be neither prosperous nor secure. Does the integration propel our non-geographic foreign policy interests more firmly in this direction? Does Canada now have any choice except to increase development assistance?

Look, for example, to Britain and Japan. Despite government cutbacks, each has increased foreign aid and support, particularly for youth organizations. Japan has developed new youth exchanges with 41 countries, including Canada. In my view, youth exchanges are the best form of soft power because they build a global brand for Canada among young people. We are, after all, a young country. It constitutes the front end, in my view, of building Canadian corporate trends and brands. To do this, I think we need to apply the “can do, own the podium” spirit that we saw exemplified during the 2010 Olympics.

The CIDA of the past perhaps relied too heavily on the voluntary sector to reflect Canadian values in the effort to reduce poverty worldwide. Their collaboration, however, particularly with the mining industry, proved that public-private sector projects can be a win-win for all sides.

Again, I think you need to task the new department to develop a branding approach so that these initiatives are not only coordinated at an execution level, but are also easily perceived and understood by and within the Canadian system. It is important that Canadians understand what we’re doing on aid. The Swedes do this well; Australia does this well; so do the Americans.

I think partnering with national companies and countries where we work makes sense. Look at the German model. We can and also should look to the EDC financing. It’s creatively Canadian.

In conclusion, the reintegration of CIDA into DFAIT makes sense in terms of better administrative coherence, but the sooner it is achieved, the sooner we can get on to policy development, which is the core purpose of Foreign Affairs. For now the focus needs to be on the administrative efficiency of the new department, and then on the effective delivery of programs that advance our values and reflect our national interests.

On foreign policy itself, that’s an issue for another day.

Thank you, sir.

Thank you very much.

I’d like to ask Mr. Robertson some questions.

In your letter to the Globe and Mail, you stated that the philosophical shift that’s being proposed here is not unique to Canada. You mentioned other international countries, such as Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other European countries, that are moving toward the same objective.

Could you give us a view of what international thinkers, such as Dambisa Moyo or William Easterly, are saying about the future of international aid, and how this amalgamation ties into some of the things that are being talked about among international academia on this subject?

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Certainly. There has been a sort of rethink about development assistance. We’ve put close to $1 trillion into it, and the results are not what we intended. So we began to have people ask what’s not working.

Dambisa Moyo, Paul Collier, William Easterly, and others began to say it wasn’t good enough to just send money into a place. What you’re trying to do is develop skills and what I would call “sustainable jobs”.

The argument is that the private sector has to play a bigger role in this. We have a lot of foreign investment in Canada that creates jobs, and we should be doing the same in Africa. The private sector is now moving in that direction—the jobs that provide the sustainable development that we seek to achieve are largely being driven by foreign investment, working with the government at home. It’s not the pure development as we saw it in the past.

That’s a philosophical shift in thinking on how we’ve done aid for the past 50 years. We have a lot of opportunity. Think of our mining companies, which are extremely active. The Prime Minister just announced today in Peru—and he’s going on to Colombia—that we have opportunities.

We have an actual place and standing if we choose to use it. This takes us into social corporate responsibility. There are areas like labour, the environment, and respect for women in which we can make a shift in things. It is harder to do, but it is doable.

I want to make one last comment on integration. I have a very practical suggestion. Do not leave CIDA “siloized” on the other side of the river. My view would be to take the African bureaus and put them all together. Take the trade, the policy…. In my experience—and Paul lived through this as well—when you put the two together, cheek by jowl, and we did this in the early 1980s, it means that you lunch together, you walk down the hall and you talk together. The worst thing we can do in this integration is to leave the silos.
Mr. Colin Robertson:

Trade follows the flag in many cases. In this case, in Africa, trade is now ahead, so I think we’re going to be back in for all the reasons that Lucien has given.

previous intervention

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Robertson, we may give you the opportunity to pursue that.

I just want to first be very clear, for the committee and for people who may be reading this, that there is a distinct difference between what we do in humanitarian aid and what we do in development. I just want to read the Prime Minister’s quote when he said:

But when the need is great and the cause is just, Canadians are always there.And we will always be. Because that is what Canadians do.

We have stepped up to the plate with the Sahel, with the East African drought relief, with Syria, with Haiti. With innumerable humanitarian situations, Canada has been there. We will continue.

I want to posit a slightly different theory, though, and I ask for your comment on this. Canada has had enormous contributions. In fact, we are one of the largest contributors to the Global Fund. The reduction of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS is significant around the world. Our contribution in the reduction of polio has been enormous, and we are seeing such success there it’s almost astounding. We have put money into the World Food Programme, and again we’re one of the largest contributors. The maternal, newborn, and child health initiative, which is a signature project for Canada, is saving moms and babies all over Africa, in particular. What we’re seeing is reduced mortality rates, increased numbers of babies who are surviving and reaching five years of age.

Does it not mean that we need to restructure our development because we actually have a reclaimed generation? For the long run, what are we looking at? We’re not just dealing with getting food in the mouths anymore. We need to look at what the long run looks like in skills training and job opportunities, because we have a new generation, thank God, of young people who are alive and need hope and a future.

Do you have comments on that, gentlemen?

+ -(1200)

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Yes, we’ve always had instant, immediate relief to places that have had disasters, and that’s always been a key part, but at the same time, there’s the whole idea of development designed to basically take us to the point where you don’t have to provide development. We use all sorts of policy levers to do that.

You talked particularly about Africa and the things we do. I know that Madame Laverdière has a very good proposal she put forward some time ago in terms of providing drugs. I think that’s the kind of thing that sometimes deserves a re-examination, particularly in light of, as you described it, the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to maternal health and child care developments and improvements, and the real, personal commitment he has made with the President of Tanzania through the United Nations.
previous intervention

Thanks to our witnesses who have offered us interesting comments.

To underline, I think what they demonstrated in their testimony today, Chair, is the fact that this process we’re engaged in right now is not sufficient. When you look at what other countries have done and the way they’ve done it, they’ve taken the time to do it right. I want to make that point again, as I have in previous committee hearings on this. We have an omnibus bill in Finance; we don’t touch it at all. We have no ability to change or to hear from people like you to influence it. Hopefully they’ll hear over there when they’re having hearings at Finance.

And I say that because some of the points you’ve made…you have to do this right. It is about people, but it is about structure. I appreciate the fact that you mentioned that people make things work, but you can also have structures in the way of people doing good work.

I’ll start with you, Mr. Robertson, and I think, Mr. Chapin, you talked about this as well. When you have this kind of approach that we’ve seen in the U.K., certainly with the model I know, aligning your development aspirations with your foreign policy, is it not absolutely critical to have a foreign policy that people can understand? I say that because I think that’s the dilemma right now. I say this without prejudice, believe it or not. After we lost our seat on the Security Council, one of the things I put forward at the foreign affairs committee was to let this committee have a conversation with Canadians about what our foreign policy should be. I would challenge anyone around this table to tell us exactly what our foreign policy is. Where do you find this anywhere on the Foreign Affairs website? You’ll hear speeches, you’ll hear comments like we’re in favour of freedom and democracy, as if anyone isn’t.

What is the challenge if you don’t get your foreign policy articulated first in this equation, because if you don’t have an articulated foreign policy, will it not disrupt this approach and undermine all the good things we can see out of this model?

+ -(1205)

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

I’m reminded of a phrase of Lester Pearson, whom I greatly admired. He inspired me to join the foreign service. His view was, don’t spend a lot of time studying foreign policy—this was in the context of the Trudeau review—do it. But remember, he built on a whole career and a great knowledge of foreign policy.

Certainly you have to have a combination…. Developments go on all the time. I think you as a committee have a responsibility to bring forward the policy experts from Foreign Affairs to inform you of the trends so you can make the necessary policy judgments. You don’t want to gridlock our foreign affairs department in a reorganization over the next couple of years when what they should be doing at this critical time…. The world continues to evolve, as you just alluded to in other developments, China and things. You want to have the best minds—and I think you’ve still got a lot of very good minds at Foreign Affairs—to give you that advice so you can make the informed decisions you need.

On development, I’m not fussed by Foreign Affairs coming out…. I think that’s a very healthy thing for Foreign Affairs now, because I think development concerns have not always been considered. We’ve heard this at the table. I think now that they’re going to be an essential piece at the table, I wouldn’t be afraid of this. This is what I tell my friends in development. Don’t be afraid. You have a real opportunity to have a huge influence.

I lived in Hong Kong for five years. We just heard about China. The influence that Hong Kong has had on the rest of China…. The ideas are powerful. You’re dealing with an ideas department, particularly Foreign Affairs. It’s all about ideas. It’s not so much about delivery; that’s what CIDA is about. It’s about ideas. I think getting all those ideas in one place: development, trade, and foreign policy are absolutely vital to…. You need members of Parliament, and particularly members of this committee, to act as stewards of the Canadian people, in a sense, to ensure that foreign policy reflects the values and interests of the Canadian people.

previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Yes, but it’s based on experience and talking with people in the private sector, particularly in the field, going into our offices. I’ll use Africa as an example and to a degree Latin America, where companies were going in and trying to seek assistance from CIDA to help them get a better sense of the projects and also tell them what they’re doing. CIDA felt constrained, for whatever reason, not really working with Canadian companies. The trade commissioners thought this was an opportunity where we could actually bring together development and trade. I think Lucien has seen this often.

This is one thing I hope the integration does, because you had a philosophical difference, which did not serve Canadian interests. Again I come back to long-term development. It depends on sustainable jobs, which then create the conditions by which we can eventually move development on to other things. Canadians win as well because we trade with these countries. That’s part of what the Prime Minister is doing.

So that part of the mindset needs to change. That’s why I favour the development side. I can give you specific examples, but I think you’ve got the general sense.

I will say that Export Development Canada should not be ignored in this, because it plays a very constructive role in helping Canadian companies work abroad. I think that also has to fit into the development mix, because that’s a big chunk of money, more than $4 billion, and it’s also helping the Canadian presence abroad in a major way. It’s looking at Canadian interests as a whole and the whole Canadian side.

That’s why I don’t want to handicap the foreign affairs department with moving boxes around. We should be thinking of broad policy at this critical time.

+ -(1215)

previous intervention

Thank you. I’m going to share my time with Madame Péclet.

I just wanted to nail something down. Mr. Robertson, I think I’ll put it to you.

We had witness testimony at the last committee hearing about the concerns right now of the concentration of power within the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ office, and we’ve certainly seen that in announcements, etc.

The concern you’ve mentioned around making sure we still have that voice for international development is certainly aligned, and we all get that with our foreign policy. But in the legislation as you see it, we have “the minister”, and that’s the foreign affairs minister, and then “additional duties”. I certainly get and agree with this idea of putting people together and thrashing things out, but my concern is right now what we have is a very concentrated office, and we have a structure that’s going to bring in another office.

You were underlining the concern around development dollars and where are they going to go. How do you see managing…we’ll call it creative tension? Some others might have other words for it, but how do you ensure that things aren’t going to be swallowed up by one minister? I think that’s a fair concern, and certainly when you see the legislation structured the way it is, how is this going to happen? Who’s wagging the dog, so to speak?

We had someone else who said trade could learn a lot from those in CIDA who are doing good CSR work.

The Kofi Annan report just on Africa, which I’m sure gained a lot of attention for you, is something that is a lesson. You can’t just look at GDP and exports; look at results. And that usually comes from a sensibility of those who are in international development. How do we make sure we’re not, within the structure, losing that important voice?

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Leaving personalities aside, the legislation as I read it now makes this a significant part of the portfolio of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has overall responsibility, which I think is a good thing. You do need a single point of contact.

I think in adding that to the minister’s portfolio, that minister, by definition, with responsibility to cabinet and to you as members of Parliament, has to take that into account. That becomes an additional part. In the past, when I go back to the eighties and the nineties, when we jiggled the chair slightly and added to the Minister of Foreign Affairs…there was no question in the early eighties, for example, when we did this that the then Minister of External Affairs, Allan MacEachen, spoke with greater authority because that was part of his portfolio.

I have no doubt that the current minister, Mr. Baird, should take…. He has, not entirely elaborated as yet, a dignity agenda, which goes into a lot of the things that are absolutely vital to development—women, girls, the disadvantaged groups.

I think the CIDA addition should play a major role, because it needs to be remembered—and I go back to Lloyd Axworthy, who also had things changed when he was there, and his whole sort of soft power. He took into account all of the facets of foreign affairs. In a sense you’re arming the foreign minister. Again, to use the example of other countries, the foreign minister in Britain, the foreign minister in many of the European countries, Hillary Clinton, what she did—you added aid to Hillary Clinton and she significantly increased what she was able to do and with devotion to a couple of areas, in particular women, as you know, as a key piece of it.

So my argument would be that the foreign minister will have this because it is now part of their responsibility, and in a sense we’re going to get a better—
previous intervention

Actually, in your three presentations, you said explicitly that the policies of these three departments worked perfectly together. We agree, however, that the role of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is to promote Canada’s interests abroad, while the role of international development is not quite the same. It is not to promote Canada’s interests abroad but, rather, to promote respect for human rights and to reduce poverty, indeed to eliminate it. There are some subtle differences. One wonders how these policies are actually going to work together. In your eyes, everything is fine, it is a done deal and working perfectly, but that remains to be seen.

Mr. Robertson, you talked about corporate social responsibility. It is important to know that corporate social responsibility is necessary in the eyes of the Department of International Trade, but it is not mandatory. In fact, we are committed to international standards, but they are not mandatory in Canada. When it comes to international development, though, respect for human rights is key to CIDA.

How can we make sure that corporate social responsibility will be observed and promoted as a Canadian international development policy?

+ -(1225)


next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Robertson, very quickly, please. We’re over time.

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:
If I could use the phrase “corporate social responsibility”, companies now realize that’s how you do business. Corporate responsibility covers things like women and girls. This is good business practice. This is now becoming part of the culture of companies. They do this, not because they have to do it, but because they see it as good for their business.
previous intervention

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I’d like to go back to you, Mr. Robertson. We were speaking earlier about what other international countries have done. Can you share with us any insights you may have on the experience of those other countries in the way they’ve integrated foreign policy and development policy, and anything that Canada can learn from those experiences?

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

There’s a whole series of best practices. I know the departments are going to be looking at this. They should provide you with this information as to what are the best practices. I talked about the who, what, when, where, why. These are all questions you have to ask. We have a department—

next intervention previous intervention

Can you think of anything that wasn’t done well in one of those other countries, a pitfall we could avoid?

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

There have been a lot of bad experiences that we can talk about, but I would look to the more positive. It’s what you learn in these things. Every case is a little bit different, but I do think the road we’re going down is the right one. After all, we talk about trade and development. What we should be saying is trade is development.

previous intervention

Should anybody in the NGO community in Canada be surprised by this?

next intervention previous intervention

Mr. Colin Robertson:

I think this has been talked about for a long time. I go back. The external aid office was part of Foreign Affairs. We did the Colombo Plan under the old external affairs department. It’s not as though this wasn’t a piece of it and then it was taken out. Again, we’re talking about the boxes.

From the time I joined as well, this has always been a continuing debate, including within the development community itself. It’s just asking, how do we get, bluntly, the best bang for our buck, and how do we ensure that foreign policy integrates all the various strands?

This is overdue and highly sensible, as long as we get through the integration quickly and then get onto the policy side.

next intervention previous intervention

Comments Off on On CIDA and DFAIT Statement before House Committee

Canada should join the Pacific Alliance

It’s time for Canada to join the ‘second NAFTA’ of the Pacific

Colin Robertson

Special to The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, May. 21 2013

During his trip to Peru and Colombia this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend the Pacific Alliance Leaders’ Summit in Cali, Colombia. Launched in April, 2011, the Alliance is a free-trade bloc made up of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

Last year, Canada became an observer to the Alliance. Why? Because it represents what we are trying to achieve through our Americas strategy.

More Related to this Story

The Americas strategy – announced in 2007 as a major foreign policy initiative of the ‘new’ Harper Government – is designed to revive and expand Canadian political and economic engagement in the Americas.

Interpreted by some as an effort to distinguish itself from previous governments’ focus on Africa, progress on the Americas strategy has been more tortoise than hare.

At the outset, attention to the Americas was diverted by the global economic mess that demanded all hands on deck. Then the government reopened the door to China, and public attention shifted to the Pacific.

At the same time there is the promise, still unrealized, of the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement. And, as always, there is the United States and the eternal quest around secure access for our goods, people and services.

All of this left little time for the rest of the Americas. There remains some skepticism about our ability to sustain relationships. It takes two to tango and our overtures were not always met with enthusiasm. There were problems, not all of our own making.

Mexico, with whom we should have the strongest partnership, was preoccupied with the existential war with the drug cartels.

Brazil, now the world’s seventh-largest economy, has global aspirations. Notwithstanding our long commercial ties, especially in resource development, we have had our differences over beef and Bombardier.

Canada recently began negotiations with Mercosur – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela, but it’s complicated. Argentina doesn’t like our policy on the Falklands and we don’t like its protectionism. Cuban admission to Mercosur – the Brazillian goal – presents problems.

Still, there has been progress on the strategy.

On the democracy front, we have participated in 47 OAS electoral observation missions in 17 countries since 2009, and Canadians played a lead role in brokering the peace in Honduras. But promoting democracy is a work in progress. Even post-Chavez, populist authoritarianism continues to cast its seductive spell.

We play a growing role in security through targetted development and assistance programs aimed at strengthening policing and the judiciary. Our warships patrol the waters on both sides of the Isthmus of Panama to preserve maritime order and stem the drug trade.

In the last four years we have concluded free-trade agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia and Honduras.

With more than 2,500 Canadian companies active in the region, our overall trade since 2007 has increased by a third. Canadian interests account for 60 per cent of the region’s international mining investment. This map visibly demonstrates the network of our development and investment initiatives.

But we need to do more if we are to realize the opportunities for our goods and services. Latin America’s middle class now numbers 50 million – it grew by 50 per cent during the past decade.

As a first step we need to look at how we market ourselves. Investment flows are mostly one direction – from Canada to the Americas. Latinos look askance at our closed telecommunications sector. Our labour costs are a comparative disincentive to investment in manufacturing, except as part of supply chain dynamics.

Secondly, we need to apply the creativity we have demonstrated in our immigration policy to our visitor visa program.

Having fixed the loopholes in our refugee policy, we should lift the visa requirement on Mexico that has cut visitors by more than a third since its imposition in 2009.

During a meeting with Mexican president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto in November, Mr. Harper said he’d like to see visa-free travel. Why not announce it in Cali? We could also establish a fast-track a Nexus-standard visa for Alliance members.

And, as a third step, let’s take a chance on the Pacific Alliance and seek full membership.

It would give Canada a “second NAFTA”, argues Latin scholar Carlo Dade, and complement the Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently into its 17th round of negotiations in Lima. With Japan’s inclusion, the TPP will cover nearly 40 per cent of global economic output and one-third of all world trade.

The Pacific Alliance is smaller but the degree of trade liberalization is more ambitious. It aims at an integrated stock exchange, labor mobility and a single window for all moving goods. In its look at the Pacific Alliance, the Economist sensed a “hard-nosed business deal, rather than the usual gassy rhetoric of Latin American summitry.”

Its member countries are four of the fastest growing economies representing one-third of the population of Latin America. Collectively it constitutes the world’s ninth biggest economy.

We have FTAs with each member. We risk losing the advantage of those agreements if we continue to sit as an observer.

Importantly, they want us. “Canada is a natural fit” said Mexico’s Foreign Affairs vice-minister Sergio Alcocer last week.

They recognize in us a like-minded country with a deep democratic tradition that is serious about liberalizing trade and investment. From our perspective, we have more pull with them than alone.

Built around western-style free markets, the rule of law and democratic politics – the essence of our America’s strategy – it’s time to move beyond observer status in the Pacific Alliance. Our place should be at the main table.

See also:

Canada not joining Pacific Alliance trade bloc yet

Andres Oppenheimer: While Pacific Alliance thrives, Mercosur withers

Pacific Alliance: the most exciting thing going on in LatAm these days

Guest post: LatAm’s Pacific Pumas, beyondbrics
Guest post: the Pacific Alliance and why it matters, beyondbrics

Comments Off on Canada should join the Pacific Alliance

Canada-US trade: Much ado about labelling

Canada should punish the U.S. over labelling, but does it justify a trade war?
Special to The Globe and Mail Published Friday, May 17 2013,
What’s in a label? In the case of Canada’s export of cattle and hogs, constrained by the impact of U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL), about $1-billion in potential retaliation.
It is a scenario that we need to avoid.
The May 23 deadline is fast approaching for U.S. compliance with a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found U.S. labelling laws constitute an unfair trade barrier.
Unless the U.S. makes changes, Canada (and Mexico) will seek authorization to take retaliatory trade action. In our case, this is estimated at a billion dollars on U.S. products coming into Canada.
Today, especially in the case of commerce with the United States, we don’t so much trade as make things together ranging from soup to cereal and especially in the case of trains, planes and automobiles.
Beef and pork products aren’t that much different.
We breed weanlings in Manitoba and truck them south to fatten on Iowa corn. Heifers born in Wyoming are shipped to Alberta’s feedlot alley, then back across the border for slaughter in Washington state, Colorado or Nebraska. Some of the cuts return for sale in Canada, making us America’s top market for beef exports.
It works well unless you are a pig farmer in North Dakota or a rancher in Montana imagining your profit margin erode as Canadian competition is trucked south.
Like most trade disputes, COOL has elements of both high policy and low politics.
At first glance, the case for country labelling seems reasonable. Why shouldn’t consumers know what they’re eating and from where it came, especially with tales of toxic toys and tainted dog food from China? And why can’t we turn Canadian produce into a premium brand like Kobe beef or New Zealand lamb?
The problem is labelling.
A cow is processed into 300 different bits. Think of 3000 or 5000 cattle – a day’s slaughter in some packing houses – as though they were packs of cards and then separate them from deuce to ace for labelling purposes. For products like ground beef and sausages it is an impossible task.
To avoid this, packing plants will ‘Buy America,’ even though cutting off the Canadian supply will cost jobs in feed yards and perhaps shutter some U.S. slaughter houses.
Over the last decade – WTO trade litigation moves glacially – Canada and Mexico argued that the U.S. action constitutes an unfair trade practice. We won, but the U.S. Congress, in refusing to amend the original farm legislation, has put the Obama Administration in a tough spot. It needs to craft a way forward by May 23 that satisfies both U.S. law and the WTO ruling.
For now, in tandem with Mexico and our U.S. allies, we will push the U.S. to achieve a legislative fix through Congress, perhaps when the Farm Bill comes up for renewal this fall.
At the same time, we will develop and then submit to the WTO those goods on which we will seek to apply retaliatory tariffs. This process will take months.
Developing a list of U.S. goods to impose retaliatory duties is hard. What can we choose that won’t potentially damage Canadian consumers and manufacturers? So much of what we produce we make together.
Throw in the additional complication of targeting our list to have maximum impact on constituents of the dozen or so members of Congress behind COOL. But we can’t make it personal. An adversary on one file is an ally on the next.
We’ve been through retaliatory process over softwood lumber. After much effort – consultations with the provinces and industry – we put a duty on aquarium fish imported from the U.S. It was an elephantine process that gave birth to a minnow.
We have right on our side, but does it justify a trade war? A billion dollars is about half a day’s trade in what continues to be the world’s biggest bilateral trading relationship. Our agricultural trade is estimated at $38-billion annually.
As for the U.S., how does this help President Obama to double U.S. exports as part of his jobs recovery prescription? How does antagonizing the next-door neighbours secure a Trans-Pacific Partnership designed to renovate the NAFTA?
COOL comes at a time when we are deep into efforts to both ease passage for goods, people and services at the border and to eliminate silly regulatory differences. When we are done we will have set, once again, the standard for innovative trade negotiation.
The dispute does underline the need to develop alternative markets. It’s another reason to hang tough in the European trade deal negotiations around better access for our pork and beef.

Meantime, there is a ‘cow pie’ called COOL. Let’s figure this one out.

See also:

Comments Off on Canada-US trade: Much ado about labelling

On Shipbullding & Sovereignty and the Royal Canadian Navy

Canada’s shipbuilding program is too important to run aground on poor planning

Colin Robertson

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, May. 08 2013, 7:18 AM EDT

Will we ever see steel cut on our promised new fleet of Arctic patrol craft and new warships for the Royal Canadian Navy?

Yes, but it will require continuing political will in holding to schedules and budgets and resolve in the face of relentless criticism.

Reports about the high cost for the design of the Arctic patrol craft come on the heels of the Parliamentary Budget Office warning that the new Navy supply ships are over budget and behind schedule. The Auditor General has announced he will investigate the entire procurement process.The bite of austerity also threatens that we will end up with both less ship and fewer ships.

With memories still fresh of the F-35 controversy, the government is seeking third-party expertise for the shipbuilding exercise.

It will need it if the multi-billion dollar project, designed to provide us with a new Navy and to re-create a Canadian shipbuilding industry, is to beat back the bean counters.

With three oceans at our back and the longest coastline in the world, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that Canada and its economy “float on salt water.” On any given day, one third of Canadian Tire’s inventory is at sea.

Our maritime interests fall into two baskets: advancing international law as surety for our sovereignty and preserving the freedom of the seas for our trade and commerce. Negotiation of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea is one of the greatest triumphs of Canadian diplomacy. Canadian jurisdiction was extended to the continental shelf, effectively doubling our ocean estate.

With 40 per cent of our landmass in our northern territories, and 25 per cent of the global Arctic, securing international recognition for Canada’s extended continental shelf is a priority. Later this month we retake the chair of the Arctic Council, although we still need to explicitly spell out how we will advance this agenda.

Our ability to enforce the law and guarantee safe passage depends on naval power.

For the last two centuries first the Royal Navy and then the United States Navy have preserved maritime order and secured our sea-lanes. Austerity and fiscal constraint is now straining the U.S. capacity and they have called on the Alliance to share the burden.

We need to do our part for reasons of self-interest and collective security.

Piracy, and the trafficking of guns, drugs and people, last year cost the global economy more than $6-billion. Our warships are part of the international force in the Persian Gulf actively stopping piracy. Last November, HMCS Ottawa participated in a major drug interdiction off the east coast of Costa Rica that netted more than 1,000 kilos of narcotics.

Our Halifax-class frigates are being refurbished and, after a troubled refit, all four of our Victoria-class submarines will soon be at sea.

But we need our new ships.

Made-in-Canada ships will cost more than buying off-the-shelf because the goal is to recreate a Canadian shipbuilding industry. The Jenkins Report argues that we can leverage our shipbuilding to develop key industrial capabilities.

Our model should be the revitalized Canadian aerospace industry. Ranked fifth in the world in overall aerospace production, it is third in civil aircraft production and is well integrated in global value chains.

But creating a world-class shipbuilding industry won’t be easy.

Much of the success of our aviation industry, as well as our resurrected auto industry, is because they are part of a North American integrated market. This is not the case for shipbuilding because the U.S., through its Jones Act, requires all U.S. internal shipping to be carried by U.S. ships built in the United States. This unabashedly protectionist legislation should be one of our prime targets in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

Seventy years ago, we were a central part of the Allied effort to win the Battle of the Atlantic. At the beginning of the war we possessed six warships and a complement of 3500.

Our shipyards employed more than 125,000 workers and built more than 4,000 vessels. Merchant ships were constructed in an average of 307 days.

Our warships and the more than 25,000 merchantmen that they escorted across the Atlantic were Britain’s lifeline. Winston Churchill would describe the Battle of the Atlantic as the “dominating factor all through the war…everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome.”

At war’s end the Royal Canadian Navy was the world’s third-largest, with a complement of 95,000 sailors and 270 warships. Today, our complement is less than 14,000 with 33 warships. We rank well back, even behind the Turks, Indonesians and Greeks. Yet our economy, increasingly, floats on salt water.

Let us keep faith with the sailors and shipyards that won the Battle of the Atlantic. Our national interest requires a strong Navy backed by a muscular shipbuilding industry.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and (Hon.) Captain, Royal Canadian Navy.

More Related to this Story



Video: Battle of the Atlantic commemorated in Halifax



Video: HMCS Toronto sets sail to fight terrorism in the Middle East

A towering white marble monument honouring Canada's navy was unveiled in Ottawa Thursday. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the navy's full story should be told and understood.


Video: New navy monument dedicated in Ottawa

Comments Off on On Shipbullding & Sovereignty and the Royal Canadian Navy

On ‘working’ the Canadian message in Washington

Canada’s Keystone XL pitch goes into overdrive

Officials have been averaging a trip to Washington every two weeks in 2013, but some insiders warn that they could be wearing out their welcome.

by CHRIS PLECASH |  The Hill
Last Updated: Wednesday, 05/01/2013 9:43 am EDT

Federal officials are stepping up efforts to make the case for the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington D.C., but some experts warn that the frequent public visits could be doing more harm than good.

Between federal Cabinet ministers and Western Canadian premiers, Canadian representatives have been averaging a trip to Washington every two weeks in 2013, with a focus on making the case for the Keystone XL pipeline and addressing concerns over Canada’s environmental record.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.) is the latest federal minister to make the trip. Mr. Oliver was in the U.S. capital on April 24 and 25 to speak at the Center for Strategic International Studies and meet with senior officials in the Obama Administration, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. State Department under secretary Robert Hormats, as well as the chairs of the House and Senate Energy and Commerce committees.

In a teleconference following his speech last week to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in which he accused former NASA climatologist James Hansen of “exaggerating” the impact of oilsands development on climate change, Mr. Oliver told media that part of the reason for his visit was to dispel “myths” about Canada’s environmental record.

“It’s important to be here because Washington is presenting an important opportunity to have a fact-based discussion about Keystone XL which will enhance national security and environmental cooperation, create jobs, and foster long-term economic prosperity,” he said.

Mr. Oliver’s trip came two weeks after Environment Minister Peter Kent (Thornhill, Ont.) was in Washington, D.C., to attend the Major Economies Forum on Climate and Energy and discuss Canada’s environmental record.

Two days before Mr. Kent’s visit, it was Alberta Premier Alison Redford, along with Environment Minister Diana McQueen and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Cal Dallas making the rounds in Washington.

Ms. Redford, who also attended the National Governors’ Association winter meeting in Washington in February, spoke at the Brookings Institute during her latest visit and more recently contributed an op-ed to Congressional newspaper Roll Call making the case for Keystone XL and highlighting her province’s commitment to sustainability.

“We await the State Department’s decision on the project, and we know approving the Keystone XL pipeline is the choice of reason,” Ms. Redford wrote.

Canadian officials have been going out of their way to get Washington’s ear on Keystone now that the U.S. election is over and the State Department’s Environmental Impact Assessment for the TransCanada project has been released.

While official visits are essential to diplomacy, it’s unclear whether the frequent appearances are helping or hurting the case for Keystone XL.

Retired diplomat Colin Robertson told The Hill Times that it is important for Canadian officials to maintain their presence in Washington and complement the work done by Canada’s diplomatic mission.

“If you’ve got a big issue, you have to play by Washington rules, not Canadian rules,” said Mr. Robertson, a former minister of Canada’s Washington Embassy and former consul general in Los Angeles. “That means being in Washington and being up on the Hill, going to the think tanks, being visible to make your case, and talking to editorial boards.”

Even if Keystone isn’t the primary reason for a ministerial visit to Washington, the project is still likely to be discussed informally, Mr. Robertson said.

“It may not be on the official agenda, but it certainly is our number one ask,” he said. “You’re never sure which intervention you make is actually going to be the one that persuades them.”

David Manning, who was appointed as Alberta’s Washington envoy in February, agreed that it is important for Canadian officials to be “incredibly active” with U.S. officials in making the case for Keystone XL, but also avoid getting caught up in U.S. domestic politics.

Mr. Manning, former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and a former deputy minister of energy for Alberta, said there’s been a conscious effort to keep Ms. Redford’s Washington meetings “bipartisan.”

“When [Premier Redford] came down, we were very careful that her meetings were bipartisan,” Mr. Manning said in an interview with The Hill Times. “Alberta thinks that a bipartisan approach is critically important. The issue has become somewhat partisan — this is Washington.”

U.S. politics has become intensely partisan in recent years and at points in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, Keystone XL risked becoming a serious campaign issue. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney went as far as saying that he would approve Keystone XL “on day one” of his administration.

President Obama turned down the initial Keystone XL proposal in January 2012, but TransCanada reapplied with an alternate route soon after. The President did approve TransCanada’s 780-km long Gulf Coast line from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast in March, 2012. Construction began last August and the line is expected to be in service later this year.

If approved, the 1,897-km keystone pipeline would have the capacity to deliver up to 800,000 barrels of western crude daily to Steele City, Nebraska where it would feed into existing pipeline infrastructure bound for the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The federal government made a deliberate effort throughout the U.S. election campaign to avoid making statements on Keystone that would be used as political fodder.

Mr. Oliver said that the government is going out of its way to be “respectful of the U.S. process.”

“They certainly have welcomed our involvement and in a number of cases have encouraged us to continue in that regard. I haven’t had any signals, direct or indirect, nor to my knowledge has anyone else in the government, that the advocacy on our part is unwelcome,” Mr. Oliver said.

However, one Washington-based consultant said on background that the Keystone XL debate has led numerous U.S. state and federal lawmakers to address “ill mannered letters” to President Obama, and that attacks by Keystone advocates in the U.S. have done little to help the project’s chances for approval.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall recently made a point of joining 10 U.S. governors in signing a letter to President Obama urging that Keystone XL be approved “swiftly” — a move that the source described as “not helpful.”

The source said that visits by federal and provincial officials are important, but they needed to be “measured” in their frequency and tone.

“You can only go to the well so many times and one has to be really careful,” the source said. “What’s really valuable is the visits by senior public servants who have come to Washington. They know the details, they know the science and the economics, and they’re speaking to counterparts who ministers aren’t talking to.”

The consultant is optimistic that Keystone XL would likely be approved, and added that in the meantime, Canadian officials need to continue to talk about their environmental efforts because the President “doesn’t want to be the guy making the case for Canadian environmental policy.”

“Every time the Prime Minister has talked to [President Obama] in a bilateral discussion or on the margins of an international meeting, the Prime Minister has been very direct on this and very straight and consistent in talking quietly to the President,” the source said. “The President gets it, but he doesn’t want to be the guy to defend [Keystone].”

One former diplomat was more blunt on the recent public push from Canadian officials.

“[F]amiliarity breeds contempt,” said the ex-foreign service officer. “Visitors from Canada constantly importuning Congress and the Executive Branch can be perceived as somewhat tiresome at best, counterproductive at worst.”

There is greater consensus over Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer’s ability to represent Canada’s interests in Washington.

Mr. Robertson said that the former Manitoba premier “gets it” when it comes to working with the U.S. on shared interests.

“[A]s premier he was constantly going south of the border,” said Mr. Robertson. “That’s paid off in spades because governors he got to know when he was premier are now people like [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, Agriculture Secretary [Tom Vilsack], and Health and Human Services Secretary [Kathleen Sebelius].”

Mr. Manning credited the ambassador for being “a strategic operator.”

“We have an ambassador that understands provincial issues, this is his background,” he said.

Comments Off on On ‘working’ the Canadian message in Washington