What Mike wants to discuss with Mac: nothing very serious
PRIME MINISTER PEARSON'S announcement that he would make a visit here to repair, as he put it, relations between Canada and Britain raised an interesting question: what exactly are the points of difference that have caused all the stress and strain?
Undeniably our relations lately have not been good. If any further proof of this were needed it was supplied by the British press reaction to the Diefenbaker defeat — the more Conservative the newspaper, the louder its sigh of relief at the departure of Canada's Conservative government. The Spectator, a weekly owned and published by a Tory MP, was the most waspish of all; it said the new government in Ottawa was bound to do better than the old for the simple reason that it couldn't do worse. The Times, visibly determined to
say nothing but good of the dead, said "the Diefenbaker Period” will he remembered for many useful reforms and for “the attractive, mesmeric, almost heroic personality which gives it its name,” and concluded that "failure to size up reality rather than administrative incompetence constituted the basic error.” 1 his damningly faint praise appeared under the heading THE TIGHT THAT FAILED.
THE TRIVIA WE’RE STILL SQUABBLING OVER
But when you turn from the general to the particular and ask just what the British want the Pearson government to do differently, the answers are unexpectedly faint. Partly this is because some of the difficulties were purely personal. Prime Ministers Macmillan and Diefenbaker “didn't speak quite the same language” said a man who has witnessed several of their confrontations. In the policy field, the greatest single bone of contention vanished when Britain was refused entry to the European Common Market.
What’s left is mostly an array of trivia, some of them unfortunately magnified out ol all proportion. For example, there has been a great hullabaloo here about a change in Canadian shipping law which would bar British ships from carrying cargo between Canadian inland ports, mainly those recently opened up on the St. Lawrence Seaway. No one would ever realize from the angry questions in the British parliament, or even from the British governments replies thereto, that in tact this bit ot legislation has not yet been enacted. Whether it's ever again put before Canada’s parliament will be something for the new government to decide.
Another case was the unilateral announcement two years ago by the former transport minister, Leon Balcer. that Canada was “designating" Canadian Pacific Airlines as carrier on a new Vancouver-Edmonton-Gander-London route "pursuant to our bilateral air agreement“ with Britain. This statement to the press was the first the British air authorities had heard about it. and they were annoyed. They said in effect, “Wait a minute, let's have another look at that air agreement.” They’ve been having their other look ever since, and no C PA aircraft has yet landed a passenger in London, nor is likely to do so.
WE WON’T GO TO WAR OVER ATOMIC REACTORS
A third frivolous argument cropped up recently when one of the Sunday papers breathlessly revealed a dispute between Canada and Britain over rights to build an atomic reactor of the heavy-water type developed at Chalk River. Canada House was mildly embarrassed by this story because nobody there had ever
heard of the alleged international dispute. On inquiry it turned out to be partly a squabble between two British agencies, the Atomic Energy Authority and the Electricity Generation Board, with Atomic Energy of Canada I imited arguing commercial terms with both of them. Hardly the sort of quarrel that’s likely to lead to war.
The real difficulties that lie ahead arc more likely to come up at the Commonwealth trade ministers’ meeting in mid-May than in con-
versations between two prime ministers at the dinner table. Britain has not yet really tackled the problems of export expansion that were created by the breakdown of her Common Market talks. Obviously she will have to turn elsewhere for new markets, and the most obvious place to turn is the Commonwealth. Britain will be looking for trade concessions rather than handing them out, and will certainly want a quid for every quo.
Another and perhaps graver problem will be British imports of farm products, especially food. Britain’s subsidy to her own farmers,
which plugs the gap between the world price and the British farmer’s production cost, is growing too heavy for the British taxpayer to bear. The British government intends to narrow that gap, and therefore decrease the subsidy, by putting some kind of restriction on the imports of cheap food from the Commonwealth. Just how this will be done has not yet been decided, but no matter what method is chosen it’s unlikely to be very popular with Canadian farmers. To make it as painless as possible may be the first test of the new government’s skill at international bargaining.
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