Canadian News

Between friends: leave the worries until tomorrow

Ian Urquhart December 4 1978
Canadian News

Between friends: leave the worries until tomorrow

Ian Urquhart December 4 1978

Between friends: leave the worries until tomorrow

Canadian News

When United States Secretary of State Cyrus Vance visited Ottawa last week, Conservative leader Joe Clark turned down a chance to meet him because the Canadian government, which set the agenda, would only agree to a "courtesy call" of a few minutes. But Clark may have missed the point because the whole Vance visit, which lasted barely 24 hours,

Vance visit, which lasted barely 24 hours, was little more than a courtesy call on Canada. Much of Vance’s time was devoted to ceremonial events, and the highlight of the visit was the signing of a new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which was actually negotiated last spring.

That is not to say there are no unresolved issues between Canada and the U S. One—the so-called "Fish War" that began last year when both countries extended their coastal limits from 12 to 200

miles—attracted considerable attention from Vance and External Affairs Minister Don Jamieson. The two men agreed to set a year-end deadline for talks aimed at settling the dispute. It is possible the matter will have to be referred to a third party for arbitration, but Vance and Jamieson held out hope that that would not be necessary. Other issues discussed include:

• The proposed Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. Both governments favor construction of the pipeline, which would carry Alaskan gas across Canada to markets in the U.S. But the U.S. government is concerned that Canada wants to set too high a fee for carrying the gas, at the expense of American consumers. The Canadian government says the fee must be set sufficiently high to attract investors to the project.

• The Auto Pact. The 1965 agreement permitting free trade in automobiles across the border has resulted in large deficits for Canada in recent years and there is pressure on this side to renegotiate. Both sides have handed each other ammunition in the dispute this month. First the U.S. published a report that forecast a $ 10-billion deficit for Canada in automobile trade between the two countries over the next seven

years. Then the Canadian government released a report, written by former deputy finance minister Simon Reisman, recommending against renegotiation of the Auto Pact at this time (see page 46).

• The U.S. convention-tax law. Legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1976 sharply limited the deductions American taxpayers may claim for expenses incurred at conventions outside the country. The measure has been a heavy blow for Canadian hotels, which count on convention business to make a profit. The U.S. government has agreed to change the law to make an exception for conventions in Canada, but Congress has balked.

Those and other differences will require considerable negotiation over the coming months, but they are trifles compared to relations between Canada and the U.S. as a whole. Considering the two countries once fought a war against each other and relations were at a low ebb as recently as the 1973-75 period, when Canada undertook some moderately nationalist measures, the two countries are on extraordinarily good terms today. That is partly due to the change in administrations in the U.S. from Republican to Democratic in 1976; Liberal governments in Ottawa have tradi-

tionally gotten along better with Democratic administrations in Washington. It is also due to Canada’s domestic troubles, including the Cuebec situation—the country needed moral support from the U.S. after Cuebec voted for René Lévesque in 1976.

But it is no coincidence that relations have improved during Jamieson’s term as external affairs minister. An unabashed Yankeephile, Jamieson even campaigned for annexation of his native island, Newfoundland, by the U.S. before the province joined Canada in 1949. During the Vance visit, he delivered an after-dinner speech that was almost obsequious in its praise of the U.S. Said Jamieson: "Often around the world I see and hear glaring examples of man’s ingratitude, and of a widespread lack of comprehension of what the United States is seeking to accomplish. Those are times when it is my pleasure to seek to put the record straight, to say: ‘They’re our neighbors and they’re not like that at all.’ ” Vance returned the favor with a speech praising Canada and adding: "All of us hope that this great, rich country will remain united." For a beaming Jamieson, and the Trudeau government as a whole, those 12 words alone made Vance's courtesy call worthwhile. Ian Urquhart