Relationship with New Secretary of State

Canada will have to fight for attention of new U.S. secretary of state

This week, several potential candidates for the job of top diplomat were discussed as the transition team of president-elect Trump scrambled to build a cabinet that will proceed with foreign-policy initiatives championed during a bruising campaign, some of them highly contentious.

Two front-runners could not be more opposite within the sphere of Mr. Trump – Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor and unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate, and Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and unsuccessful 2012 candidate

Globe editorial: A frightening triad: Trump, Putin, Assad

Read more: Early signals: The nascent shape of the Donald Trump administration

Mr. Giuliani’s support for Mr. Trump has been ardent, unshakeable, at times bordering on outrageous, while Mr. Romney famously denounced Mr. Trump during the campaign, asserting he was unfit for the presidency. Now, one of them (or even another, such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley) could be selected to carry out the administration’s global diplomatic tasks.

The trick for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, will be winning air time with the new administration after a U.S. election campaign that seldom mentioned Canada. The administrations of Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama are closely aligned on such issues as trade and climate, and the new U.S. government appears set to veer off.

“We’re talking about potentially a huge transition from the John Kerry-Hillary Clinton era at the State Department,” said Barry Rabe, senior fellow, governance studies, at Washington-based Brookings Institution. “That said, this is an administration that is going to be looking for friends anywhere in the world that it can find, given the level of alienation.”

Among top campaign issues were restricting immigration, taking a tougher stand in the fight against Islamic State and renegotiating trade deals like the North American free-trade agreement. Although Canada is a signatory to NAFTA, its huge trade relationship with the United States – worth $2.4-billion per day – did not factor in a lot of the talk.

“The Canadian relationship has clearly been overlooked. In North America, the issue right now is Mexico. It’s a hot-button issue and it’s likely to continue,” Mr. Rabe said.

One cross-border exception is the Republicans’ aim to resurrect TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Canadian officials have expressed fear about a new protectionist ethos in the United States. These were stoked by a memo obtained by CNN showing Canada’s softwood-lumber and livestock producers are being targeted by Mr. Trump’s transition team, which aims to extract more favourable terms in a renegotiation of NAFTA.

This is in keeping with the president-elect’s speeches, which hammered away at the theme that the U.S. is shortchanged in trade deals at the cost of jobs and economic growth.

Whether Mr. Giuliani gets the nod as secretary of state, he is expected to have a key role in the administration, given his close relationship with Mr. Trump. Like the president-elect, his roots are outside the Washington Republican establishment, as represented by chief of staff Reince Priebus, who’s been RNC chairman.

The former mayor and one-time U.S. attorney and associate attorney-general is known for an international perspective that is shaped by his experience after the 9/11 attacks, according to a recent New York Times profile. He was praised for his leadership during the crisis, which helped rescue his reputation in the wake of several controversial and unpopular moves during his tenure as mayor.

Since leaving civic office, he has worked the speaking circuit and has been advising foreign governments as well as the private sector on dealing with terrorism and security. His main focus has not been Canada, though he has sharply criticized its health-care system.

“My understanding is that he’s been to Canada, he knows Canada, he has an appreciation and probably positive feelings toward Canada for a couple of reasons. Our response to 9/11, and the trade and the tourism between Canada and New York. So we’re not an unknown factor to Rudy Giuliani,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who had consulate postings in New York and Los Angeles.

Mr. Giuliani’s road to the State Department could be complicated by his business dealings.

His work with governments is receiving the most scrutiny. But Mr. Giuliani’s consulting for TransCanada in 2007 on its plan to store liquefied natural gas on the Long Island Sound is also getting notice. If appointed secretary of state, Mr. Giuliani would have a major say in whether to green light a resubmitted proposal for the controversial Keystone XL project. In Calgary, TransCanada would not comment on Mr. Giuliani’s work for the pipeline company.

Mr. Robertson said the secretary of state will be very much a proxy for the new president, regardless of who the choice is.

“In my experience, the tone comes from the top. Whether it was Hillary Clinton or John Kerry, or Condi Rice or Colin Powell, the personal relationships have all been uniformly good. We make an effort, they make an effort,” he said.

That sentiment is echoed by Gary Doer, who was Canada’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 until last March.

“We’re their biggest customer and a person like Donald Trump is a business person who understands that you take care of your best customers first,” Mr. Doer said.

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US Election with Ambassadors Gary Doer and Gordon Giffin

A panel discussion is held in Ottawa entitled The US Election – A Wild Ride Ahead for Canada? The discussion features Gary Doer (former Canadian Ambassador to the United States), Gordon Giffin (senior advisor to the Clinton campaign and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada) and Colin Robertson (Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute) discussing the upcoming US election and what impact it will have on the Canada-US relationship. (October 25)


Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 9.49.23 AM

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North America: States, Provinces and Territories

Why we shouldn’t put provinces in the corner

Later this week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will host the first-ever summit of North American governors and premiers in Colorado Springs.

Mexican governors will have the best attendance, reflecting that, for now, Mexico is the most enthusiastic about North American collaboration. Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski and Ambassador Gary Doer will lead the Canadians.

The summit agenda focuses on trade and economics with sessions on innovative infrastructure investment, economic innovation, jobs and investment.

Knowing governors matters. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto previously served as a governor. This year’s American presidential aspirants include Governor John Kasich and former governor Jeb Bush. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all served as governors.

Regional collaboration with governors is well developed. Atlantic premiers have met regularly with their New England counterparts since 1973. The Council of the Great Lakes Region, formed in 2011, focuses on the economy and ecosystem. Western governors and premiers attend each others’ annual meetings. As Manitoba premier, Gary Doer included U.S. and Mexican governors at a 2006 Gimli Western Premiers Conference. They joined in the ultimately successful push to use “smart” drivers’ licences for cross-border travel.

Constitutions vest provinces, states and territories with responsibility for schooling, health care, roads and infrastructure. In Canada, the provinces own their natural resources. They share responsibility for trade and immigration with the national government.

Budgetary pressures oblige innovation by provinces, states and territories. They have become the incubators and outliers on policies and programs, good and bad. Medicare was pioneered in Saskatchewan. Current emissions standards on Canadian and U.S. cars and trucks began in California.

Collaboration in practical environmental management is long-standing. Bombardier “Super Scoopers” are shared during forest fire season. Line workers from state and provincial utilities help each other out when ice storms and hurricanes put out the lights.

During the past decade, most Canadian innovation on climate change occurred at the provincial level. When prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau meets with the premiers, in anticipation of next month’s Paris climate summit, provincial achievements inevitably will form the basis for a constructive Canadian position on carbon pricing and innovation.

British Columbia’s carbon tax, now seven years old, works. Ontario has joined Quebec in a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions which is also aligned with California. Alberta plans to double its current carbon levy. Last year, Saskatchewan launched the first commercial carbon capture-and-storage project at a coal-fired plant in Estevan.

Hydropower utilities in Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia provide 63 per cent of Canadian electricity and they are world leaders in this renewable resource. Oil-sands companies now share 814 technologies worth almost $13-billion. Mining companies used 30 per cent less water from the Athabasca River in 2014 compared with 2012. Alberta’s energy regulator is sharing its best practices with Mexico.

During the years when the Harper government put China in the ice-box, the premiers kept alive the vital official ties necessary for Asian business. Jean Chrétien recognized the value of including the premiers in Team Canada trade missions. It’s a practice that Mr. Trudeau should revive, starting with Mexico, our third-largest trading partner.

President Pena Nieto was the first international leader to congratulate Mr. Trudeau, tweeting “let’s start a new chapter.” In June, Mr. Trudeau spoke of Mexico’s “fundamental impact” on Canada-U.S. relations and called for lifting the visa requirement imposed by the Harper government.

Lifting the visa should be Mr. Trudeau’s first initiative. Seeing Mr. Pena Nieto in Mexico City, before meeting President Barack Obama in Washington, will underline Mr. Trudeau’s personal commitment to a “new chapter” with Mexico. Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu is ready to visit Ottawa. Talking about climate and competitiveness will also demonstrate to the White House that Mr. Trudeau appreciates the North American neighbourhood.

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership and separate trade deals with the European Union coming together, trilateral co-operation can make North America a competitive platform. The practicalities of getting our goods to market – roads, rail and bridges, ports and terminals, grids and pipelines – must involve premiers and governors. This week’s Colorado Springs meeting can advance this agenda.

The premiers’ and governors’ summit should become a regular event with NASCO, the trilateral network for North American trade competitiveness, as its secretariat.

Provinces, states and territories are often dismissed, inaccurately, as a secondary, inferior level of government. Yet it is their work that most affects the everyday life of citizens.

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Pasloski lone premier to attend North American leaders summit in Colorado What if they held a summit and no one came?

National Governors Association Photo
Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski at the Summit of North American Governors and Premiers, Oct. 31.

Peter Mazereeuw
Published: Wednesday, 11/04/2015 12:00 am EST

Canada’s premiers may have missed the memo from incoming prime minister Justin Trudeau about boosting ties with Canada’s southern neighbours.

Just one provincial leader attended the first-ever summit for the premiers and governors of Canada, the United States and Mexico on Oct. 30 and 31.

Six governors from each of Canada’s North American neighbours attended the summit in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to the National Governors Association, which represents US governors.

The summit was announced in February by the associations representing state and provincial leaders in each country, and was the first designed to include sub-national leaders from across all three countries.

Co-operation on the economy was the official focus of the summit, which did not produce any binding commitments, said Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, the only Canadian premier to attend.

The leaders mostly used the summit—which included breakfasts, lunches, dinners, receptions and a few panel discussions—for networking and sharing ideas, said Mr. Pasloski.

“It was a chance to build relationships amongst the leaders in all three countries,” he said.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau promised in his campaign platform to improve relations with Mexico and the United States. That included commitments to work with those countries towards a “continent-wide clean energy and environment agreement,” to host a summit for the three federal leaders and to “work to reduce the barriers that limit trade.”

Liberal Party spokesperson Dan Lauzon declined to comment on the premiers and governors summit, saying in an emailed statement that “our efforts are entirely focused on ensuring an orderly transition and on swearing-in the cabinet on November 4th.”

Yukon premier attends on behalf of Canada

The sub-federal leaders discussed infrastructure, broadband internet access, skills and training and international trade, and took in panel discussions on several of those subjects, said Mr. Pasloski.

The Yukon premier—who is taking over as chair of the Council of the Federation next year—will report on the summit to Canada’s other premiers during a meeting this winter, he said.

“What I heard across the table from everyone is that the number one focus was jobs, in all three countries,” he said.

The leaders who attended the summit in Colorado discussed planning another for 2017, though no details have yet been determined, he said.

The summit came at a difficult time of the year for most premiers, as most provincial legislatures are now in session, Mr. Pasloski said when asked why more premiers didn’t attend.

Canada’s Council of the Federation announced the summit in February alongside the NGA and Mexico’s National Conference of Governors.

The summit’s host, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, likely played a big role in determining the timing of the summit, Mr. Pasloski said.

Mr. Hickenlooper’s staff declined to accept an interview request.

Gary Doer, Canada’s outgoing ambassador to the United States, New Brunswick deputy premier Stephen Horsman and officials from across Canada also attended the governors and premiers summit, said Mr. Pasloski.

No ‘critical mass’ to draw attendance

The summit was a missed opportunity for Canada’s premiers to build upon their relationships with Mexico’s governors, said Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Federal leaders have handled most of the relationship between Canada and Mexico, she said.

“It would have been much better for Canada to have had a strong showing,” she said.

However, Canadian premiers and US governors often meet each other at regional gatherings, she said.

Quebec premier Philippe Couillard hosted a summit of state and provincial leaders from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence area in June, which was also attended by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and governors from eight states.

Ms. Wynne and Mr. Couillard also attended a summit of Great Lakes leaders in April 2014, as did then-federal transport minister Lisa Raitt.

Co-operation between US governors and Canadian premiers will be important as the Liberal government rolls out its infrastructure stimulus plan over the next couple of years, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who served in the United States.

States and provinces need to work together to ensure infrastructure projects designed to boost cross-border trade in Canada and the US complement each other, he said. 

Canada’s relations with Mexico and the United States likely won’t suffer from the poor attendance, said Mr. Robertson. The NGA, Council of the Federation and National Conference of Governors likely made each other aware of the planned attendance well in advance of the summit, avoiding any surprise no-shows that are more damaging to relations, he said.

The Council of the Federation identified Mr. Pasloski as the representative of Canada’s premiers in an Oct. 21 press release.

The relatively poor attendance for the summit was likely a result of failing to achieve a “critical mass” of leaders, said Mr. Robertson. Premiers and governors are more likely to make time for well-attended events where they can hash out issues with many of their counterparts at once, he said.

The governors and premiers may be wise to plan the next summit to coincide with the NGA winter meeting in Washington, which will guarantee attendance by a substantial number of US governors, he said. 

BC premier overseas

BC premier Christy Clark took part in a trade mission to China instead of attending the summit, her office confirmed. The mission was scheduled to run from Oct. 30 until Nov. 7.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis, the current Council of the Federation Chair, did not attend due to the election scheduled in that province at the end of November, council spokesperson Lindsay de Leeuw wrote in an emailed statement.

The Northwest Territories also have an election scheduled later this month.

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna did not attend the summit because the Nunavut legislature is currently in session, and the premier of Nunavut does not travel during that time, said spokesperson Yasmina Pepa.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger did not attend the summit “due to the fact our House is in session and the premier is required to attend Question Period and Estimates,” spokesperson Naline Rampersad wrote in an emailed statement.

Ms. Wynne—perhaps Mr. Trudeau’s closest provincial ally—announced that she planned to attend the summit in a July press release. Ms. Wynne’s office confirmed that she would not be attending in the days before the summit, but did not respond when asked why.

Mr. Couillard did not attend the summit because of a scheduling conflict, wrote spokesperson Harold Fortin in an emailed statement.  The premier’s office declined to say what Mr. Couillard would be doing instead.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil did not attend the summit because of his crowded schedule and preperations for the opening of the legislature next week, spokesperson Laurel Munroe said in an emailed statement.

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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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Buffett criticizes Keystone XL delay, says U.S. thumbing nose at Canada

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Midterm Elections 2014

The top task for Canadian politicians: Get to know the new U.S. legislators

Globe and Mail Tuesday, Nov. 11 2014

The United States’ political players and their priorities shifted last week. We need to digest the changes and get to know the new players. Because Canadian interests remain the same, we also need to remember that, in the crowded American political arena, if we want something, we have to go after it.

Three observations from the exit polls stand out:

First, it was more about mood than specific issues. Two-thirds of Americans believe that their country is headed in the wrong direction. Only 20 per cent trust Washington. The Republicans cannot be cocky: The electorate likes neither their party nor their leadership.

Second, the buck does stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. President Barack Obama declared his policies were on the ballot and he lost this referendum. But presidents are at a disadvantage in midterms because they measure the incumbent against themselves, rather than their adversaries. Mr. Obama fared as badly as most of his recent two-term predecessors: George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower (Bill Clinton is the exception).

Third, you win by getting out the vote. The turnout (36.4 per cent) was the lowest since 1942, but the Republicans did the better job. The GOP is now the dominant governing party in Congress and in the states. The demographics are mostly unchanged: Republicans won 60 per cent of the white vote, Democrats won 89 per cent of the black vote and 62 per cent of the Latino vote.

The results matter for Canada.

In listing their priorities, the Republican leadership included legislative approval of the Keystone XL pipeline because it means “lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers.”

Passage of XL is not a slam-dunk. There is still an outstanding Nebraska court case to be resolved and, in the event of a presidential veto, Republicans would have to muster at least a dozen Democrat senators to achieve the two-thirds necessary for a veto override.

There is no ambiguity about where Canada stands on the XL in Washington, but we should leave the public politicking to the Republicans. Instead, we should focus on other priorities, like ensuring Canadian hydro qualifies under the renewable energy standards. In Washington, no one knows the energy and environment file better than our Ambassador, Gary Doer, armed with his formidable Rolodex.

The Republicans also promise to pass the Trade Promotion Authority that will give “up or down” congressional approval to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (the U.S. version of the Canada and European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

This should galvanize efforts to conclude the TPP, assuming that the 12 partner nations are ready for the end game. It will oblige deals and concessions to achieve the high standard agreement to which all are pledged.

The key will be Japan and the United States resolving their differences on agriculture and autos. If this happens, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will face a decision on the necessary and overdue reform of supply management.

In the meantime, our legislators – federal and provincial – need to get to know the new legislators in the Congress and state houses.

When federal ministers travel south to see their counterparts, they should also meet the congressional chairs and ranking members, especially those in the Senate.

Premiers should send representatives to the gubernatorial inaugurations. Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and John Kasich (Ohio), for example, could well be 2016 GOP presidential contenders.

The premiers should develop an agenda on shared concerns – border infrastructure, securing our electrical grids and pipelines, North American supply chains, invasive species like the zebra mussels – then journey to Washington for the National Governors Association February meeting.

The re-emergence of geopolitics – Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine and Middle East turmoil – reminds us that the values that unite Canada and the United States are vastly more important than our divisions on trade. The relationship between Barack Obama and Stephen Harper is not the camaraderie enjoyed by Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush or Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton, but they share common cause in face of shared threats.

We have a good partner in U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman. Acting on the message that we were feeling ignored, he has brought to Canada Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry and various agency heads. Next month, a senior congressional delegation will be at the Halifax International Security Forum, one of the Harper government’s smarter initiatives.

Divided government between a Republican Congress and a lame-duck Obama administration will be the norm for the next two years. But we can still get things done.

Neil Young says he doesn't care if speaking out against proposed pipelines and the Alberta oilsands affects sales of his records. The music icon performed in the national Blue Dot Tour fronted by activist and scientist David Suzuki.

Video: Neil Young says he doesn’t care if his oil sands activism hurts record sales

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Keystone and Clean Energy

Why Canada wants to feel more love from the U.S.

Globe and Mail Tuesday, Jun. 24 2014 and in RealClearWorld June 25

Living beside the United States, remarked Pierre Trudeau, is like sleeping with an elephant: “No matter how friendly or temperate the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” The twitching is getting to the Harper government and it has responded with a series of pokes.

A trio of senior ministers – John Baird, Joe Oliver, Greg Rickford – travelled to New York this month to voice what Stephen Harper calls our “profound disappointment” over the delayed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline. Said Mr. Oliver: “This isn’t right, this isn’t fair.”

In Winnipeg, Agriculture Minister Gary Ritz accused the United States of behaving like a “schoolyard bully” over country-of-origin labelling.

Last week in Washington, Ambassador Gary Doer and MP Rob Merrifield delivered an invitation from House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer to Republican House Speaker John Boehner to visit Canada for discussions on KXL and other issues.

If the Obama administration wants further evidence that Canada deserves some attention it should watch the recent exchange between former ambassador Frank McKenna and U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman. “It’s like a marriage. It might be really good for you but I’ve got some problems,” said Mr. McKenna of Canadian frustration over KXL and financing the Windsor-Detroit customs plaza.

Canada-U.S. relations operate on three levels: international, intermestic and people-to-people.

Ours is a complex relationship that goes beyond the traditional diplomatic conventions. Supported by the hidden wiring of connections between provinces and states, business and civil society, it is usually a model for neighbourly relations.

In international summitry, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Harper are aligned on the big-ticket issues of peace and security, banking and finance, even if they differ on approaches to climate change.

The people-to-people relationship is solid. Americans like us more than we like them. We share much in common, at work and at play, although beating Team USA at hockey is now our main Olympic goal.

It’s on the transactional level of trade and commerce that we have problems, with KXL top of the list. For Canada, KXL is the problem with the partner. For the United States, KXL is a problem with a partner.

Hillary Clinton is right when in Toronto last week she told Mr. McKenna that KXL shouldn’t be a “proxy” for the relationship.

But KXL raises the question: Does the Obama administration have a strategic sense of Canada? We now supply more oil to the U.S. than OPEC. Increasingly, it travels by rail although, as the State Department acknowledged again this month, pipe is safer.

Ms. Clinton calls Canada an “indispensable partner,” but we aren’t feeling the love. Any serious White House study should result in renewed appreciation of Canada’s strategic importance. Pushing forward the border and regulatory initiatives would be welcomed.

Franklin Roosevelt set the framework through a series of trade and security agreements. This approach – Canada as a reliable ally; the U.S. as a trusted trade partner – has been followed by most subsequent administrations.

Its logic holds. The emerging international order is looking more like that of Roosevelt’s era – a multipolar system of sovereign states pursuing national interests. It will put a premium on reliable allies and trade partners.

Last month in Montreal, Ambassador Doer outlined a North American clean energy strategy, one that includes water. Water, says Mr. Doer, will make the debate about going from 85 to 86 pipelines “look silly.”

First: energy efficiency – sharing best practices on oil and gas, wind, solar and other alternatives. We’ve already adopted harmonized standards on tailpipe emissions for cars and trucks. Oil patch collaboration is improving environmental performance, especially on water.

We’ve three carbon-pricing experiments under way: British Columbia’s carbon tax; Alberta’s emissions reduction fund; Quebec’s cap-and-trade. Saskatchewan is experimenting with carbon capture and storage.

Second: energy reliability and renewability. Complete the hardening of our pipelines and electrical transmission grid systems and recognize hydropower within renewable energy standards.

Third: oil and gas development. Together, Canada and the U.S. produce more oil than any nation. Add natural gas and we’re positioning for a North American manufacturing renaissance.

Having led the world in shale development, North American energy ministers should develop continental fracking standards for next year’s leaders’ summit in Canada and then present them at the Paris climate talks.

Mr. Doer’s constructive approach underlines another lesson in managing Uncle Sam: We do best when, through initiatives advancing our shared interests, we make their agenda “our” agenda.

On becoming prime minister, Mr. Harper promised a “new tone” in the U.S. relationship, banishing the drama of the later years under Paul Martin.

Twitches and grunts notwithstanding, Mr. Harper’s initial instinct for a constructive approach to the United States is still sensible.

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

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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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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.

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Election season in the U.S.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson talks with Power Play’s Don Martin and says he believes it’s very important for the Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama to conclude the first phase of talks concerning perimeter security between the two countries.

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