Foul-weather friends

ROBERT LEWIS February 21 1977

Foul-weather friends

ROBERT LEWIS February 21 1977

Foul-weather friends



In the middle of the severe cold wave that gripped the eastern and midwestern United States last month, Energy Minister Alastair Gillespie was listening to the radio one Friday night and picked up reports of more U.S. school closings and more factory shutdowns because of a shortage of energy. Gillespie immediately phoned U.S. Ambassador Thomas' Enders: Can ada was already dealing on an urgent basis with requests from U.S. companies for ex cess Canadian gas and oil but, Gillespie wanted to know, was there anything else we could do? Enders got in touch with James Schlesinger, Jimmy Carter's energy boss in Washington, and was back to Gil lespie within the hour with appeals for more natural gas and propane. Under Gil lespie's direction, officials of the National Energy Board worked through the week end with their counterparts at the Federal

Power Commission arranging deliveries.*

The prompt action and a letter to Pierre Trudeau from Carter the next day expressing “deep appreciation” for the series of decisions underlined a new spirit of cooperation that currently characterizes official dealings between the two capitals. The neighborliness by Ottawa, in part a response to the public mood in Canada, served as tangible evidence of Trudeau’s desire to score well during a formal visit to Washington February 21-23 for talks with Carter and an address to a joint session of Congress, the first ever delivered by a Canadian Prime Minister. The bilateral bonhomie is also a direct response to the Quebec election. In both Ottawa and Washington there was a firm desire to make the first Trudeau-Carter encounter a stylistic success that would enhance Trudeau’s stature back home. “The Americans,” notes Professor Roger Swanson of Johns Hopkins University’s Canadian studies centre, “really perceive it to be in their interest to have a united Canada.”

That is a profound shift from Carter’s preinaugural mood. When asked if he planned to see British Prime Minister James Callaghan first, Carter replied: “Somebody told me that as a matter of protocol, I have to see the Canadians and the Mexicans first.” The atmosphere surrounding Trudeau’s visit, which was to follow that of Mexico’s President Jose Lopez Portillo, did not suggest that Canada will now command any greater attention in Carter’s overall design. But there is a greater awareness in Washington now of Canada’s problems in the wake of René Lévesque’s election and his much publicized speech in New York outlining his scenario for Quebec independence. “The possible breakup of Canada must be incredibly important not only in Washington but in all capitals of the world,” says Trudeau. “One would be naïve to think President Carter isn’t informed and concerned about this.”

Anticipating the interest, Trudeau not only called on his foreign policy adviser, Ivan Head, for speech notes; Gordon Robertson, who is in charge of federal-provincial relations in the Privy Council Office, also contributed research. With an eye on domestic coverage of the speech in Congress, Trudeau and his aides were also debating whether or not to include some remarks in French. While he had no intention of “answering Lévesque,” Trudeau was expected to make his views clear by allusion.

Since Trudeau and Carter are both short on small talk, the exercise in sizing each other up will very likely begin promptly, with international issues expected to dominate two sessions of formal talks, since the new President is not yet thoroughly briefed

*By mid-February the NEB, processing requests within 24 hours, had approved shipments of 1.7 million barrels of oil, 25 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 2.8 million gallons of liquefied gas.

on a basketful of mutual concerns. The two men were also expected to explore world economic strategies and ways to coordinate stimulating the two closely linked economies. Trudeau could indicate his timing for the lifting of controls. They were also likely to share thoughts on ways to limit the export of uranium and to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Among the outstanding issues between the two countries—ranging from the auto pact and possible toll increases on the St. Lawrence Seaway system to the cleanup of the Great Lakes—Trudeau seemed to have room to make headway on one key environmental concern—the Garrison River diversion scheme in North Dakota.

A study for the International Joint Commission has confirmed Canadian fears that the irrigation project could cause serious ecological damage to the Souris and Red Rivers in Manitoba. There is a split in the U.S. administration on the question and Canadian officials hoped that Carter’s environmental concerns would bolster Canada’s case against the scheme.

Another important issue is the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline. A U.S. judge has given the edge to the joint CanadaU.S. proposal by Arctic Gas—it’s only an early stage in the U.S. decision-making process—over the scheme by El Paso of Texas to move north slope gas from Alaska to California by pipeline and tanker. While America-firsters lobby against the joint venture, the pressure will be on the NEB and Judge Thomas Berger to complete their inquiries into the Mackenzie line before summer, when Carter will be handed the U.S. studies.

Canada can expect at least a sympathetic hearing on most issues, if only because in recent months the Americans have won some major rounds on items they view as “irritants.” The Trudeau government has forced the CRTC to back down

on its policy of requiring cable companies to delete commercials from programs they carry from U.S. border stations, a response to a lobby mounted by powerful U.S. broadcasting interests and senators. In part because of U.S. protests, the Trudeau government has all but abandoned the Foreign Investment Review Agency as a meaningful screening mechanism.

Some issues of great concern to certain Canadians aren’t likely to be pushed by Trudeau. For instance, Canada has recently adopted an unaggressive posture on

the U.S. penchant for applying its laws to American subsidiaries in Canada. The prime example is the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, which require U.S. subsidiaries to obtain licenses before trading with Cuba, which is not against Canadian law. The Americans argue that the law is honored only in the breach, but there is no guarantee that subsidiaries of U.S. firms in fact have not been blocked from trading with Cuba. Says an External Affairs officer limply, “As a matter of principle, I guess it’s important.”

There is no doubt, given Canadian action to protect cultural institutions and to preserve energy supplies, that the U.S. is now far less presumptuous in its official dealings. “At least,” says one Trudeau minister, “they now know we’re here.” At the same time the government’s politically motivated passion for smooth relations with the United States opens up the prospect of less hearty defenses of Canadian positions. Ambassador Enders, who has traveled more than 50,000 miles in his first year in Ottawa, is an immensely capable advocate for his nation’s interests and has sometimes managed to generate almost as much informed support in Canada for his

views as in the United States. That is probably the reason why he sounds so contented these days about intergovernmental affairs. “If you add it all up,” he concludes, “and look at the higher level of contact we’ve had—Henry [Kissinger] and Alan [MacEachen] and Don [Jamieson]—it’s been a pretty good year.”