Keystone XL : Time to move on

Keystone XL has sucked up too much energy; let’s move on

Colin Robertson Globe and Mail Tuesday, Mar. 03 2015

It’s time to put the controversy over the Keystone XL permit behind us.

For six years – half the life of the Harper government – Keystone XL has dominated Canada-U.S. relations. It has sucked up energies better devoted to advancing our regulatory and border co-operation initiatives, including those to ease pre-clearance and to set common standards.

XL cast a shadow over collaboration in the Arctic where we might have followed the example of the Nordic nations and shared with the Americans a four year co-chair of the Arctic Council.

Ironically, Canadian oil is flowing into the United States as never before at volumes almost 50 per cent greater than all OPEC countries combined. Most of it goes by pipeline – by far the safest mode of transport – by tanker, barge, road and, increasingly, by rail.

The “Go With Canada” arguments in favour of the pipeline remain sound. The geopolitical argument bears repeating: Why would you treat a reliable ally, sourcing your essential strategic commodity, worse than despotic regimes that fund and furnish Islamist terrorism? Alberta, Premier Jim Prentice observed, is also the only major foreign supplier of oil with a carbon-pricing scheme. And the vast majority of the refined product stays in the United States.

As President, Barack Obama stands singular in his failure to appreciate the strategic importance of Canada to the United States. The XL veto will solidify his position with environmentalists. Those with big wallets likely will open them to his presidential library. As another Chicago South Sider, the great (and fictional) Mr. Dooley, long ago observed “politics ain’t bean bag.”

If the Obama administration has been small in its treatment of Canada, too often the Harper government has behaved stupidly in its dealings with the United States.

It starts, as Brian Mulroney well understood, with the development of a strong personal relationship with the president. Unfortunately, both Stephen Harper and Barack Obama are “cat” persons – their relationship is not the camaraderie that characterized Reagan-Mulroney or Clinton-Chrétien.

Mr. Harper should have recognized that on the environment, President Obama has religion. Apparently oblivious to the signals around potential compromises on climate from U.S. Ambassadors David Jacobson and Bruce Heyman, the Harper government forgot that ours is an asymmetrical relationship: the United States matters more to Canada, than we do to them.

The U.S. pays us little attention not because they don’t like us – they do (more than we like them) – but because they bear global responsibilities. Our contentious issues – energy and environment, trade and economics – don’t have the same weight as war and peace.

With 9/11, we both invested in a North American security perimeter based on the principle of “inspected once, cleared twice.” Faster sea and land lanes mean that our West Coast ports – Vancouver and Prince Rupert, B.C. – benefit from in-transit trade.

But despite U.S. protests, we recently passed legislation specifically preventing in-transit inspection for counterfeit goods. Particularly galling to the Americans was Industry Minister James Moore’s declaration that “it’s a bit of stretch” to ask Canadians to act as a “border filter for all goods destined for the U.S. market.” Yet that is precisely what perimeter security and “inspected once, cleared twice” is all about.

The takeaway from these incidents is that when small meets stupid we both lose.

Accommodation on all of these issues is doable – something our ambassadors, premiers and governors understand and what business expects of government.

On climate, Gary Doer, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., has argued for establishing shared standards for emissions, fracking, hydro and the development of a North American energy portrait for strategic infrastructure investments.

To increase trade and investment, Ambassador Heyman has invited U.S. governors to visit and, in two weeks, he co-hosts a D.C. summit to increase joint investment.

Our premiers meet their American and Mexican counterparts this October in their first-ever summit. They will focus on the practical: infrastructure and supply-chain management, education and energy technology. The states and provinces are the best level to address procurement protectionism and to recognize professional accreditation, thus meeting North American labour-market needs.

The tensions afflicting our two national governments are but one level in the multidimensional chessboards of Canada-U.S. relations. We are allied on the increasingly big issues of peace and security. The only damper on the annual migration south of Canadian snowbirds is the plunging Canadian dollar.

Former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz often compares managing Canada-U.S. relations to carefully tending the garden. Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama both need lessons in gardening. Now let’s leave XL behind us and focus on making North America a sustainable, economic powerhouse.

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US Ambassador Bruce Heyman

Success of new U.S. ambassador to Canada depends on style, personality and initiative

The Globe and Mail Thursday, Mar. 13 2014

It’s taken a while, but Bruce Heyman is finally the U.S. ambassador to Canada. His nomination, leaked last April, announced in September, considered by committee in December, was confirmed Wednesday night by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. ambassador occupies a singular place in the Canadian establishment. More than first among equals in the diplomatic community, the position is closer to that of a senior member of the cabinet. Arguably, the ambassador is better known and recognized than most cabinet ministers or premiers.

The ambassador’s calls, even to the prime minister, will be quickly returned. Every pronouncement is pored over for meaning and reported by the media, and the U.S. envoy is one of a handful of diplomats to travel with RCMP security.

The U.S. Embassy, now on Sussex Drive, once faced Parliament (its empty shell was to house our stillborn Portrait Gallery). The U.S. residence, in elegant Rockcliffe Park, overlooks the confluence of the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers. The ambassador’s Fourth of July party – the yards can accommodate several thousand – is the social event of the season.

Mr. Heyman succeeds fellow Chicagoan David Jacobson. Like Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Heyman raised a lot of money for President Obama. He is not a professional diplomat but rather a friend of the president, like his predecessors.

From a Canadian perspective this is a good thing. Whatever knowledge U.S. ambassadors lack in the niceties of protocol, they quickly learn and more than make up for in political acumen and access.

We want an ambassador who can pick up the phone and get an answer in the White House. Mr. Heyman’s predecessors – Governors Jim Blanchard and Paul Cellucci, South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins, Gordon Giffin, and David Jacobson all had that capacity. They were also problem solvers.

They best developed a strategic approach – the Canada-U.S. Partnership (CUSP), for example, that was aimed at greater integration while acknowledging two very different sovereignties. It provided the intellectual base for the Smart Border Accord. Today’s Beyond-the-Border finds its roots in CUSP.

Success depended on a low-key style, mastering the files and consummate networking. This means regular trips across Canada. Ottawa, like Washington, operates in a bubble and is not representative of the country.

Another rule for success: Spend time with the premiers. In the Canadian system, they combine the role of both governor and senator. The first ‘défi’ for a new ambassador: read President Clinton’s speech on federalism.

When personalities click, as with Mr. Jacobson and Gary Doer, the two ambassadors are our quarterbacks in the field. Their playbooks are different but their goal is same: good relations with no surprises.

The U.S. ambassador’s in-tray is always full. Work falls mostly into two baskets: security (always the U.S. priority) and economics – trade, investment. energy and the environment.

In his December congressional hearing Mr. Heyman said his “number one mission” in Canada is to expand the U.S. “economic footprint.” He promised to make IP a priority, declaring that “American ingenuity is our special sauce … the core of what American institutions depend on to compete globally.”

The Keystone XL pipeline “process,” as Mr. Heyman termed it, dominates and poisons the relationship. The six-year “process” may well be punted again because of the November midterms. Meanwhile, the oil flows south – by truck, train and existing pipelines.

Mr. Heyman acknowledged there is “still much work to do” around the beyond-the-border and regulatory reform initiatives. Both need a boost from leaders if they are not to slide into irrelevance.

While much of the agenda is set, there is opportunity for personal initiative. For example:

• Address the border fees that undermine the spirit of free trade, delays travellers and turns border guards into cashiers. U.S. fees mostly on agricultural products, are 10 times those of Canada. The Obama budget proposals go the wrong way, adding new border fees to pay for more inspectors, ostensibly to clear border congestion. Negotiate a standstill on future fees.

• Secure the funds for the Detroit customs plaza. How serious is the Obama Administration if, in a $3.9-trillion dollar budget, it can find $216-million for modernization of San Ysidro, the busiest U.S. commercial port of entry, but not $250-million for Detroit – the busiest trade corridor in the world?

• Revitalize the Canada-U.S. energy dialogue. Take up Prime Minister Harper’s offer, reiterated in Ambassador Doer’s letter, to “work with the United States on a regulatory regime that will bring our emissions down.” Keystone XL has sucked too much oxygen and chilled the relationship.

After he presents his credentials to Governor General Johnston, Ambassador Heyman will have position and place to influence the course of Canada-U.S. relations. Performance will determine his standing.

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Canada US Relations: Flashpoints

Harper, Obama need to keep up with the speed of business

The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Nov. 26 2013

Colin Robertson

No drama. In the conduct of Canada-U.S. relations it has been the modus operandi of both Stephen Harper and Barack Obama.

They are in alignment on the big issues of peace and security, economics and trade. Differences on climate change have not interfered with getting things done.

Their big joint initiative – easing border congestion and introducing closer regulatory co-operation – is moving forward despite the countervailing forces of sequester and budget cuts. The security perimeter, necessary for U.S. confidence, has been achieved. Regulatory collaboration is working.

But business wants to see results.

We need measurable progress on getting people, goods and services quickly and efficiently across the border. Canada created a cabinet secretariat that should be made permanent and matched by the United States. As the initiative approaches its second anniversary, both leaders need to give it another personal boost.

Transactional business – problems around bridges and pipelines, roads, rail and seaways – has been handled quietly and efficiently by our ambassadors. As a team, David Jacobson and Gary Doer were especially effective. Unfortunately, the designated new U.S. ambassador, Bruce Heyman, is stuck in limbo, a victim of various senatorial holds on presidential nominations.

Not having a U.S. ambassador in Canada handicaps both countries, especially as there are some potential flashpoints ahead:

– The interim Iranian nuclear deal should be a cause for celebration. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called it an “historic mistake” and Foreign Minister John Baird said he was “deeply skeptical.” Our sanctions will remain in place until there is “verifiable implementation”. Will we break with the U.S.?

– Country of Origin Labelling (COOL). Our leading trade dispute with the USA has been quietly simmering but has taken on new urgency with the new rules now in effect. The dispute is at the World Trade Organization, where, with Mexico, we seek rescinding of the labeling rule that is upsetting century-old cross-border trade in pork and beef. How will this be resolved?

– Keystone XL Pipeline. It has been more than five years since the original application for a presidential permit. With the completion of the second environmental assessment, there was an expectation that the decision would be made this year. Will it happen?

– Windsor-Detroit second crossing. Canada and Ontario are putting up $500-million to finance the U.S.-Michigan share of this necessary bridge. The presidential permit was issued in April but without the money to build the U.S. customs plaza. When will we see the money?

All these issues require careful handling.

On Iran, reaction from the Sunni Arab nations and U.S. domestic politics has yet to play out. We can keep faith with Israel but be constructive. Re-opening our Embassy in Teheran would be a start to help assist in on-site verification.

On the Keystone XL pipeline, keep our sangfroid. The oil is flowing by rail. We will open new markets overseas through east-west pipelines.

The issue is now as much, if not more, a debate within the U.S. rather than a Canada-U.S. dispute. New EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently said of Keystone, “If there’s oil there, someone will find it and use it.”

We have a lot of allies – in industry, labour, and governors and legislators in the states through which the pipeline passes. With the House of Representatives onside, gaining the support of Senate Democrats is key.

On COOL, we have allies among producers. We need to convince consumers. Efforts by a team of federal and provincial legislators, working with allies in Congress, may obtain redress in the U.S. Farm Bill – but this would be a stretch. More likely, we will have to work the WTO process.

Meanwhile, with new access in Europe (through CETA) and opportunities in Asia, we should seek foreign investment (like China’s Shuanghui) to process in Canada.

On the bridge, the funding is the equivalent of the value of a couple of days commercial traffic through the Windsor-Detroit gateway. Keep working on Congress with our ally, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Meantime, look at border management using the NORAD model. Why not a joint, binational customs plaza?

These trade disputes are frustrating but we are in it for the long haul. Build on the support we already have in the US.

In the American system, as long as there is a countervailing interest, there is friction and debate. We need to better understand their system, its rules and conventions.

Identify our U.S. allies and work with them. Avoid drama. And remember, it’s a permanent campaign.

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Awaiting a US Envoy to Canada

U.S. Envoy To Canada: Nomination In Limbo As Obama Weighs Keystone

CBC |  Posted: 08/07/2013

The fate of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which has become a thorny issue in Canada-U.S. relations, could be holding up U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision for the next U.S. envoy to Canada.

Obama may be holding off on a nomination because he doesn’t want to have the U.S. Senate “hold that candidate hostage,” Colin Robertson, a former diplomat, now working as the vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute told CBC News.

While the nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, U.S. senators can place a hold on presidential nominations, a practice that can be used as a tactic to advance policy or political goals regardless of party lines.

Diplomat Richard Sanders will mend the gap and serve as the newest American representative to Canada until a new ambassador is confirmed, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa announced last week.

Sanders, who arrived in Canada on July 22, will act as chargé d’affaires in the interim as a matter of due course, following the departure of outgoing U.S. ambassador David Jacobson, whose term ended on July 15.

According to Robertson, Jacobson’s own nomination was delayed when then Democrat Senator Chris Dodd put a hold on it because he was unhappy with another appointment.

In this case, it may very well be that Obama doesn’t want any U.S. senator to hold his next ambassador to Canada as leverage to force his hand on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Robertson said.

“This isn’t a slight against Canada, it’s U.S. politics.”

Keystone XL the ‘dominant issue’

CBC News reported in April that Obama had picked Bruce Heyman, a partner from the investment firm of Goldman Sachs in Chicago, for the Canadian post.

Heyman, one of Obama’s top fundraisers, was set to be vetted and nominated for the job, but four months later there is still no word on Obama’s nomination.

It’s possible Heyman backed out of the nomination of his own accord before the vetting process was complete, but even if Obama had made Heyman’s nomination official, any hope that a new U.S. envoy could get the nod this summer evaporated last week when Congress headed into a five-week summer break pushing all confirmations to the fall.

A decision over the controversial pipeline could also come this fall.

Uncertainty over the fate of the pipeline project may be affecting other aspects of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

TransCanada’s $7-billion proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry Alberta’s crude south to refineries in Texas, is “the dominant issue” between the two countries right now, said a former U.S. ambassador to Canada.

In an interview with CBC News, David Wilkins, Jacobson’s predecessor, said Keystone XL has “sort of sucked the air out of the room.”

The former ambassador, appointed by George W. Bush, is now a partner at the U.S. firm of Nelson Mullins, where he chairs the public policy and international law practice group. Its primary focus is on representing businesses on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.

“It’s imperative the U.S. go ahead and make a decision on that.”

Otherwise, “it’s tough to tackle other issues,” Wilkins said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated last Friday the Canadian government’s assertion that the proposed pipeline would boost employment “on both sides of the border.”

Harper’s comments came days after the U.S. president downplayed the number of jobs that might result from the building of the pipeline, citing vastly lower numbers than supplied by the U.S. State Department’s draft environmental analysis of Keystone XL.

Canada, eh?

Although Ottawa isn’t London or Paris, being appointed to serve in Canada does not appear to be a hard sell south of the border.

Gordon Giffin, who was appointed ambassador to Canada by president Bill Clinton, said that “to be U.S. ambassador to Canada is one of the premier opportunities any president can offer someone.”

In this country much is made about Ottawa’s reputation as a boring city, but in the U.S. a posting in Canada is “something that is sought and competed for,” Giffin said in an interview with CBC News.

According to Wilkins, about one-third of American ambassadors are political appointments. “That is, they generally have a relationship with the president, they are not career foreign service officers.”

Perhaps it’s not so surprising then, that Obama has consistently rewarded his top fundraisers with political appointments.

Whoever the next U.S. ambassador is, both Wilkins and Giffin agree it’s imperative that the next envoy have the ear of the president.

“Some of our ambassadors drink wine and hold cocktail parties for a living. In a Canada-U.S. dynamic, you have a full-time job. It’s not just a ceremonial position,” Giffin said.

Wilkins, who is from South Carolina, conceded that our Canadian winters “would be the only hesitancy somebody from the south may have about coming to Canada.”

Even Giffin, who grew up in Canada for 17 years before returning to the U.S., admitted “Ottawa was a little bit colder” than he expected.

The only way around that, Wilkins said, was to “embrace the weather, not the TV.” Wilkins said part of the Canadian experience was to skate on the Rideau Canal, even if it was just once a year.

“I stumbled around and looked pretty awful, but I got off without ever getting hurt.” If anything, it made for “good speech material,” Wilkins joked.

The Republican from South Carolina said he became “very familiar with Canadian maple syrup” and did try poutine at least “one time.”

Wilkins said the best thing he did was to visit Canada’s 13 provinces and territories during his first six months as ambassador, and he offered this simple advice to the next U.S. ambassador: “Get out from behind your desk, get out from the embassy.”

see also

U.S. envoy post to Canada in limbo as politicians duke it out over Keystone XL project

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Border tolls, Windsor-Detroit Bridge, Digital Diplomacy

A border-crossing fee is exactly what the U.S. and Canada do not need

Colin Robertson  Special to The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Apr. 24 2013

Margaret Atwood once remarked that if the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia.

But is paranoia towards the United States justified? Not usually. Take a closer look at reports of a new border-crossing fee that are creating a lot of noise.

This is not protectionism. Rather, the across-the-board budget cuts mandated by U.S. laws (the “sequester”) have obliged all departments to become more creative in funding. Within the 2014 Department of Homeland Security budget is a recommendation to conduct a study on whether to collect a fee from pedestrians and vehicles crossing between the United States and Canada by land.

The new revenue, Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress, would pay for the hiring of new customs and border officers. There might be something for us in the scheme as without new staff, the chances of getting pre-clearance at Toronto’s Island Airport are slim. But the first call will be to staff the southern border because enforcement will be a key part of any new immigration deal.

Unlike budgets in Canada, however, what goes into the congressional legislative process bears little resemblance to what comes out the other end. This is why the U.S. legislative process has famously been compared to sausage-making.

The checks and balances inherent in the U.S. system mean that regional and sectoral interests can also be counted on to block such initiatives.

A new toll “is the absolute last thing we should be doing if we want to grow the economies of Western New York and the U.S.,” warned Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins. “To slap travellers here with onerous fees is a bad idea,” argued New York Senator Chuck Schumer. “We don’t need a study to tell us that.”

There is also the practical problem.

An estimated 400,000 people and 140,000 cars cross our border daily. Does the U.S. really want to slow down traffic and turn the border agents into toll collectors when their primary task is to look for bad guys?

We need to distinguish between what is noise – the Homeland Security proposal – and what is important.

What is important is that the biggest infrastructure project at our largest border gateway – the new Detroit-Windsor bridge – was recently given a Presidential permit with the backing of nine D.C. agencies.

The bridge odyssey has taken 14 years and constant effort by our Detroit consulate and the Ontario and Canadian governments. We are fronting a half-billion dollars for its construction, which is also the estimated daily value of the goods that cross this vital gateway. There will be more bumps before the traffic flows, but we are at the beginning of the end.

The lesson we can draw from both the DHS kerfuffle and the bridge saga is that we need to wage a permanent campaign in the United States on behalf of Canadian interests.

We need a thousand points of contact to complement our embassy and our consulates. This means taking our game to the States because by the time a problem reaches Congress we are fire-fighting.

Recent budget paring in Canada has reduced our consulates in the United States to fifteen. Yet, what we need is representation in every state. We can do it, within budget, by doing diplomacy differently.

Recruit talent from the Canadian expatriates who are already living in each state. Let them practice digital-age diplomacy. Drop the black tie for a BlackBerry and a working knowledge of new media.

With some exceptions – our embassy’s prime location on Pennsylvania Avenue is crucial, and the Los Angeles consul-general’s residence is a second home for Canada’s entertainment industry – these diplomats can work from their homes or incubator offices to spot opportunities for trade and investment.

As U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson repeatedly reminds us, the most important thing the United States can do to help the Canadian economy is to get the U.S. economy back on track. For 35 American states, their principal export market is Canada.

This trade supports nearly eight million U.S. jobs, a fact not lost on President Barack Obama, who has promised to ‘export’ the U.S. back into prosperity. Last year U.S. exports to Canada exceeded total U.S. exports to China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore combined.

Canadian exports to the United States were almost three times greater than our combined total to the rest of the world. Trade with the United States represents almost half of our GDP.

A half century ago, Minister of Trade and Industry George Hees encouraged members of Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service to ‘bust your ass’ for Canada. The instruction stands.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP and vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.


Sen. Leahy wins ban on border fee as Senate Judiciary marks up immigration bill

Posted on May 9, 2013 by Nancy Remsen

Here’s the latest from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the immigration bill being worked on in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A news release from his office reads as follows:

On a bipartisan voice vote, Thursday approved legislation authored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and cosponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that blocks the creation of a land border crossing fee.

The amendment was Leahy’s first to file and be offered to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which the Judiciary Committee is currently considering. The amendment responds to a request by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the Obama Administration’s budget to study charging admission for pedestrians and passenger vehicles crossing land borders into the United States.

Leahy, who represents one of the ten states that border Canada, said such a fee would deflate thriving commerce that is important to all the Northern Border states, and it would limit cultural interchange.

“Canada is the United States’ number one trading partner. Some 300,000 Canadians cross into our country every day and spend nearly $235 million,” said Leahy, who earlier this week released a guest column on the issue. “Our nation has always had strong cultural and commercial ties to our neighboring countries, and my amendment would protect these important relationships.”

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Canada, Energy and the Environment

We need a national ecological strategy to match our energy ambitions

The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Mar. 13 2013

“There are an awful lot of folks who are trying to make up their minds, and trying to draw the right balance,” observed U.S. ambassador David Jacobson on the divide between the energy and security benefits of oil-sands imports and the environment. On the environment, he was emphatic: “There needs to be more progress.”

Sadly, wrongly, the Keystone XL pipeline debate has become the U.S. environmental movement’s litmus test for the Obama administration’s position on climate change. In reality, the American emissions challenge is not so much Canadian production as American consumption.

The columnist Fareed Zakaria wrote this week that Keystone XL is “a symbol of how emotion has taken the place of analysis and ideology now trumps science on both sides of the environmental debate.”

But Canada is capable of demonstrating the “progress” requested by ambassador Jacobson – and if we do so, the benefits to Canada can be even greater.

Start with the measurable climate-change achievements that can be met through provincial initiatives.

British Columbia has a working carbon tax. Alberta has a carbon compliance market. Saskatchewan has piloted carbon capture and storage, including collaborative projects with Montana and North Dakota and the US Department of Energy.

Leadership in getting out of coal-fired generation began in Ontario. Quebec has a cap on carbon. There are other projects – tidal power in the Bay of Fundy, alternative energy initiatives in biomass, wind and solar.

In terms of land claims and constructive collaboration with First Nations, Manitoba and Quebec lead the way in their development of hydroelectricity, including transmission lines.

Knit these initiatives together and look to the lessons learned in the negotiation of the Boreal Forest Accord. Its architect Avrim Lazar says the forest industry concluded that “our jobs and growth in the future will rest on making our environmental practices the highest in the world.”

Make our experience the base for further regional ‘green’ initiatives, especially those that focus on water use. These will also give us critical components of a national energy strategy that will put us ahead of our climate-change obligations. Many companies in the energy sector are already using shadow carbon pricing.

Draw on efforts taking place at the provincial level and by the premiers, who are working both Washington and their governor counterparts.

In so doing, we can also go a long way towards developing a national energy strategy, one that should also include getting our oil and gas to tidewater. The discussions launched by premiers Redford, Alward and Marois deserve further debate at the Council of the Federation when they meet this summer.

Trans-border environmental cooperation is well-entrenched. In 2009 Canada and the United States celebrated a century of co-operation protecting shared waters. Regional collaboration is especially strong at the premier and governor level.

Premiers Wall, Redford and Selinger were all working Washington recently, the latter pair at the recent National Governors Association. Premier Wall made a useful observation that Americans need to be constantly reminded of their northern partner because “like a long-lasting marriage, it’s important to have a date night.”

Premier Selinger argued that we also need to push the Americans to show some “progress” of their own on hydroelectricity, the cleanest energy in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions. Ambassador Doer is right when he decries US obfuscation in defining Canadian hydro under renewable-energy standards.

We are in alignment with the US on our Copenhagen commitments. Our vehicle emission standards are in tandem.

We are ahead, although not pure, on national coal standards that will see the eventual phase-out of coal generation. Ontario will close its coal-burning plants by the end of this year. A decade ago, coal fired 25 per cent of its grid.

Our weak link is oil and gas regulations, now promised for mid-year.

Usually, we are the ones making ‘asks’ of the United States on environmental issues such as Acid Rain, the Devil’s Lake water diversion, Great Lakes clean-up, and preserving the sanctity of the Arctic. Brian Mulroney artfully demonstrated that on Acid Rain, when we clean up our own act, we can ‘shame’ the United States into action.

The perception that we are on the wrong side of the environmental fence doesn’t jibe with where Canadians tell pollsters they want their government to be.

At his namesake convention this past weekend, Preston Manning encouraged Canadian Conservatives to make the environment a ‘sword’ rather than ‘shield’ and become “more positive and proactive.”

We can meet or exceed Ambassador Jacobson’s expectations with a national ecological strategy that matches our energy strategy. To paraphrase Prime Minister Harper, we have within our capacity the ability not just to be an energy superpower, but to be an ‘eco-energy’ superpower

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On Ambassador Jacobson

Excerpted  Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News January 23, 2013 Obama to replace ambassador with ‘clout’

Jacobson handled border security issue

U.S. President Barack Obama will be sending a new ambassador to Canada this year, a move that could have ramifications for Canada-U.S. relations.

On Tuesday, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa said it’s expected Ambassador David Jacobson’s term will not be extended. Traditionally, they said, two-term presidents send a new ambassador to Ottawa for the second term. They added that no decision has been made on Jacobson’s successor, or exactly when that new ambassador will be appointed.

The departure of Jacobson, who arrived in Canada in October 2009, could leave a significant hole.

He is a former Chicago lawyer who was a senior fundraiser for Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, and has continued to have clout with the president.

Jacobson has been a leading player in helping Canada and the U.S. smooth over some bilateral irritants. Perhaps most significantly, he was a crucial force behind advocating for the Canada-U.S. border deal that tightens security while also speeding access at the border. He has also developed a strong personal rapport and working relationship with Gary Doer, Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who once worked at Canada’s Embassy in Washington, said in an interview Tuesday that the bilateral relationship benefited thanks to Jacobson.

Jacobson was unknown to most people when Obama won his first presidential election. He had been Obama’s deputy finance chairman during the campaign.

In the first few months of Obama’s presidency, he worked in the White House Personnel Office, helping the president fill dozens of diplomatic postings before his nomination as ambassador.

“Jacobson, because of the personal relationship, clearly had clout,” said Robertson. “You want an American ambassador who can pick up the phone and get through to the White House – to the president or the chief of staff. And Jacobson had those attributes.”

The major accomplishment during Jacobson’s term was the achievement of a “Beyond the Border” agreement signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Obama.

Under the deal, both governments are embarking on pilot projects to adopt a joint “perimeter security” approach to protect the border.

In addition to guarding against terrorism, the Canadian government hopes the agreement will ease cross-border traffic congestion so that the two countries can trade goods on time.

Robertson said he doesn’t think the deal would have been struck without Jacobson’s work behind the scenes.

“The prime minister was pushing it, and Jacobson intervened a couple of times with the White House.”…

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On the US Ambassador to Canada

Precedent says US envoy might soon be packing his bags

But don’t plan the farewell party yet, US Embassy warns.

Ally Foster
Published: Wednesday, 11/14/2012 12:00 EMBASSY

With the US election over and Barack Obama secure in the same job for another four years, US Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson might be packing his bags soon—if past precedent is any indication.

Despite Mr. Obama’s re-election as president on Nov. 6, US government procedure requires that Mr. Jacobson submit his resignation by Mr. Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

According to Steven Pike, a spokesperson for the US Embassy, “when the president is re-elected, political appointees by tradition are expected to offer to resign, and submit a resignation letter on the president’s desk.”

That resignation can either be accepted, or rejected, as all political appointees serve “at the pleasure of the president,” explained Mr. Pike, who added: “It is very rare for ambassadors to continue into the second term of the same president.”

But don’t start planning the farewell party yet, cautioned Mr. Pike, who explained that ambassadors often remain at their posting for some time while a replacement is found. He said the US Embassy has no idea when Mr. Jacobson might have to bid adieu.

Even still, since the 1990s, the longest US envoy posting to Ottawa has been four years.

A lawyer by trade, Mr. Jacobson was a Chicago-based Democratic fundraiser for Mr. Obama before being appointed to his current position. His appointment was slowed by a Senate hold, as a tool for pressing an unrelated issue, Embassy reported. Mr. Jacobson arrived in 2009 more than eight months after Mr. Obama’s inauguration.

And while Canada-US analysts Fen Hampson and Derek Burney published a piece in June 2012 that claimed that Mr. Obama had “lost Canada,” other US watchers say that Mr. Jacobson has been a critical player in improving relations over the past three years.

Goldy Hyder, general manager of the Ottawa arm of the public relations and lobbying firm Hill and Knowlton Strategies, said he is “cautiously hopeful and optimistic that [Mr. Jacobson] can stay a little bit longer.”

He added: “That would be great for Canada-US relations. But if not, I think he can leave with his head held high.”

Mr. Jacobson’s close connection with Mr. Obama has served as a benefit to Canada, Mr. Hyder said.

Sought win-win solutions

Mr. Jacobson has not only looked out for American interests in Canada, but also worked hard to find a win-win situation for both countries, he argued.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat in the US, agreed.

“He has the two things which I think every American ambassador has to have to be successful in Canada,” he said. “First, the confidence of the president and the ability to get to the president and members of the administration…Secondly, to truly understand what Canada is about and where we’re coming from.”

Mr. Jacobson has always looked for ways to “connect the dots” between American and Canadian interests, said Robertson.

Mr. Robertson said the Beyond the Border action plan has been executed effectively largely because Mr. Jacobson took a strong lead in Ottawa for the US government, and really pushed the issue.

Mr. Robertson also applauded Mr. Jacobson’s extensive travel in Canada.

Mr. Jacobson pledged to visit all 10 provinces in his first two months posted to Canada, and then made it his New Year’s resolution for 2010 to visit the territories.

Mr. Jacobson also does a good job of listening, said Mr. Robertson. He added that he has heard that Mr. Jacobson has a very close relationship with Canada’s ambassador to the US, Gary Doer.

“He’s got a superb network which he’s developed,” said Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Pike said it would be too premature for Mr. Jacobson to do goodbye interviews.

Mr. Jacobson wrote on his Oct. 2 blog post, on his three-year anniversary as Mr. Obama’s top man in Ottawa, that he has the best job in the American government.

“I have learned to cross country ski and curl,” he wrote. “I have rooted for your sports teams—unless they are playing ours,” he added.

“I have eaten your food and drunk your wine. I’ve come to love Tim Bits.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Jacobson is receiving the 2012 Sue M. Cobb Award For Exemplary Diplomatic Service on Nov. 14, the embassy confirmed.

The award is presented to a non-career diplomat each year to honour outstanding leadership and management skills having a significant effect on bilateral or multilateral relations.

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Why the Iowa caucuses and primaries matter to Canada

From January 2, 2012 What the caucuses and primaries have to do with Canada

Canadians often think that we know all about America, while Americans think that they know all they need to know about us. As U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson has observed, we are both wrong.

Ties of history, culture and geographic propinquity, which facilitate trade and investment, mean that the U.S. will always be primordial to Canadian interests. We always have an agenda with the United States and because of the asymmetries in our relative interests and global positioning, the responsibility for initiative and action lies with us.

When we get it right we advance not only our own interests, but we gain additional leverage from our ability to explain America to the rest of the world and, when we properly manage our international diplomatic network, the rest of the world to America.

The 2012 American election has already provided both entertainment and an education in the politics of our southern neighbour.

The occupant of the Oval Office is still the most powerful leader in the world and the person who will take the oath in January 2013 matters to Canada. We need to know all about that person and their administration.

The issue matrix is different depending on who controls the agenda. Democrats tend to be more protectionist and emphasize environmental issues (e.g., Waxman-Markey would have potentially assessed a surcharge on oil sands products) while the Republicans put a higher priority on security, (e.g., Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative which obliges a passport or a ‘smart’ driver’s licence for cross-border travel.)

In the 2008 primaries, both major Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, promised to renegotiate NAFTA because of labour and environmental concerns. The subsequent leak of a Canadian diplomatic dispatch reporting that Obama campaign adviser Austan Goolsbee suggested this was mere electioneering on the part of candidate Obama caused considerable embarrassment. Goolsbee later became chair of President Obama’s Economic Advisory Council,

Deepening economic integration, including the new border initiative and ongoing regulatory reform means that more and more of the decisions that count take place at the state level, underlining the need for a Canadian 50 state strategy to complement our congressional outreach. Most of our trade disputes (e.g., lumber, beef) originated at the local level or have a local dimension (e.g., the XL pipeline and the original route through the Nebraska Sandhills) before they developed into issues on Capitol Hill.

Another example of how a local interest can stymie a bilateral issue is the long-planned second crossing between Detroit and Windsor. The business owner of the Ambassador Bridge has blocked approval of the second crossing in the Michigan state legislature, notwithstanding the strong support of Governor Rick Snyder and the continuing efforts of Ontario and federal government authorities who have offered to fund Michigan’s $550-million share of the new bridge (with the money to be paid back through subsequent tolls). The thousands of trucks that cross the Ambassador Bridge each day carry about 25 percent of the annual merchandise trade between Canada and the United States.

The success of the new border initiative will require the collaborative efforts of the federal, state and province and municipal authorities on both sides of the border. The bailout and restructuring of Chrysler and General Motors, making possible the subsequent recovery of our auto industry, is a good example of tri-level and cross-border collaboration on the auto trade that dates back to the 1965 Autopact.

In pursuit of Canadian interests in the U.S., the presidency is our main entry point into the American system, itself a spaghetti bowl of competing interests and factions.

These include the members of Congress and their staff, the administration and its agencies, the lobbyists (there are now more than 33,000 in Washington), the lawyers, the think-tanks, the media and the other special interests that are constantly shifting, aligning and realigning on and around Capitol Hill. The internet and the rise of YouTube, blogs, and tweets have further “democratized” and “atomized” the political process.

The American political process has become polarized and even more partisan. “It’s not just a tug of war between left and right”, writes New York Times columnist Charles Blow, “It’s a struggle between the mind and the heart, between evidence and emotions, between reason and anger, between what we know and what we believe.” American politics, observes the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein “increasingly resembles a kind of total war in which each party mobilizes every conceivable asset at its disposal against the other. Most Governors were once conscientious objectors in that struggle. No more.” Or Newt Gingrich told ABC News on the weekend before the Iowa caucuses, “”Politics has become a really nasty, vicious, negative business and I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s dishonest.”

Within this fractious and often confusing context, a foreign power is just another special interest and, without the tools of money or votes, not particularly special. Working this system has become even more complicated because of the continuing dispersal of power in the U.S. and the legions of special interests armed with cheque books.

It makes it more difficult to build the necessary coalitions of cross-party support that we usually require to either prevent passage of legislation contrary to our interests or support for an initiative. But it starts with an appreciation of the American system. The excitement and passion of this latest exercise in their democratic process provides an ideal daily education to learn and understand better the country that continues to matter the most to Canadians.

This column draws from the CDFAI’s “A Canadian Primer to the 2012 U.S. Primaries and Caucuses”.

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Looking to the Border Deal

From Global News/The West Block : Sunday, December 04, 2011 Border pact won’t compromise sovereignty: former diplomat
OTTAWA – Just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to Washington, D.C., ostensibly to sign a perimeter agreement with President Barack Obama, Canadians still have many questions.

The precise details of the agreement, which aims to ease trade and increase security in both countries, are still unknown.

With questions of potential privacy infringements and loss of sovereignty, the deal could be a tough sell in Canada.

One of the keys to a successful agreement will be balancing sovereignty and privacy with the need to increase efficiency at the border, said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who helped negotiate the FTA and NAFTA.

Canada should be confident, knowing it can hold its own in terms of trade with the U.S., he said, pointing to Canada’s ability to prosper and grow through the NAFTA deal – which some also feared would hurt Canadian sovereignty.

“Trade is what makes us Canadian,” he said. “It pays for our schools, pays for out health care, it’s our ability to trade not just with the United States, but with the rest of the world as well.”

The bi-lateral agreement is supposed to help trade flow easily between Canada and the United States – the countries that boast the largest trading partnership in the history of the world. But critics warn Canadians could be giving up their sovereignty and personal privacy for this economic gain.

The deal will likely include the following:

– Offering pre-clearance for trucks carrying commercial goods as they leave the factory gate.
– Expanding “fast pass” border-crossing privileges, such as the NEXUS pass.
– Using biometrics to track travelers in real time.
– Eliminating redundant inspections by means of harmonizing standards and equipment.
– Making regulations on a variety of goods more compatible.

Many in Canada, including the federal privacy czar, have raised red flags around the suggestion that Canadians will have to divulge personal information when crossing the border.

Gordon Giffin, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, acknowledged that several aspects took precedence over security when the details were being hammered out.

“I don’t mean to suggest that security is not very important here,” he said during an appearance on The West Block. “But the economy and jobs, and how we more efficiently manage our pocket book here has become almost equal to security.”

Americans remain concerned about security and privacy, said Giffin, who helped negotiate a pre-clearance agreement with Canada in 2001.

“It’s not as if we’re giving up everything in the United States to the government,” he said. “So I think that there’s probably more rhetoric on that subject than is necessary.”

Another key to ensuring the success of the agreement, Robertson said, will be getting players at all levels to work toward a common goal, and changing the attitudes of border staff.

Economically, the ties between the Canada and the U.S. are longer than the border that divides them.

In Michigan alone, bilateral trade with Canada in 2010 was worth $62.1 billion; trade with New York State accounted for $35.1 billion.

In total, trade between the two countries was worth $646 billion last year – that’s $1.7 billion a day, or more than $1 million every single minute.

Still, Canadian businesses have been losing billions of dollars every year since the borders were tightened following 9/11, causing long delays in getting goods across the border.

The border discussions between Harper and Obama represent the third effort since the terrorist attacks to reduce congestion at the border.

And although Harper and Obama officially launched the talks in February, Robertson suggests they date back to February 2009, when Obama made Ottawa his first foreign visit after becoming president.

“Obama recognized he’d have to double his exports if he’s going to bring America back to prosperity,” he said. “And his ambassador, David Jacobson, said ‘look, if you’re going to double your exports, you should start with what is your biggest export. And that is Canada.’”

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