Q&A

‘A HIGHLY EMOTIONAL TIME’

The deputy prime minister speaks out about Canada-U.S. relations

JOHN MANLEY April 14 2003
Q&A

‘A HIGHLY EMOTIONAL TIME’

The deputy prime minister speaks out about Canada-U.S. relations

JOHN MANLEY April 14 2003

‘A HIGHLY EMOTIONAL TIME’

The deputy prime minister speaks out about Canada-U.S. relations

Q&A

JOHN MANLEY

THESE ARE difficult days in the critical Canada-U.S. relationship. Insults are being hurled across the world’s longest undefended border. The American anthem was booed at an NHL hockey game and a travelling U.S. peewee hockey team was recendy confronted with anti-American epithets while visiting Montreal. Meanwhile, Canadian snowbirds are finding the reception south of the border no less hostile—some have had their tires slashed. Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, perhaps the most pro-U.S. minister in Jean Chrétien’s cabinet, says this is as regrettable as it was avoidable. Last week, Manley, who is also the finance minister and Canada’s point man on cross-border security issues, spoke to Maclean’s Ottawa correspondent Julian Beltrame on what needs to be done to rebuild the Canada-U.S. relationship, and other issues surrounding the invasion of Iraq.

Is the Iraq war turning Canadians and Americans against each other?

It’s a highly emotional time. People are bombarded with war imagery on television and those who are offended by the war are likely to lash out at the U. S., while those who feel they have been abandoned by their friends when their kids are at risk will lash out at Canada. It’s not a rational thing, but I think this will pass.

This animosity hasn’t just come from ordinary people. Some Liberal MPs have also engaged in this kind of activity.

I tried to warn people off that before anyone even said anything. It’s perfectly fair to be critical on the basis of principle and policy. But it’s wrong to be personal about the American people or the President or the government. The former discussion can be held without causing problems, the latter discussion is totally unhelpful. I think that message has now been delivered. I think people who have said things have heard it from their constituents in a way that is of more consequence than hearing it from me.

Canada’s military is helping America indirectly, but we’re getting no credit. Are we doing a bad selling job on the many ways we are helping the U.S. fight terrorism?

I think our political support was more important to the U.S. than our military support. But I think even making the decision not to support the U.S. on the war with Iraq would have been alright with the American government had we not had some of those comments we’ve talked about. The problem is we didn’t try to sell what we were doing, and, in fact, made our political objections in ways that were inappropriate.

There have been reports that you personally favoured joining the U.S.-led coalition. Is there any truth to that?

Someone was anonymously quoted saying that. I think it’s a very bad principle to talk about what anybody said in cabinet. My position is entirely consistent with the government’s.

Some have said Ottawa’s decision was partly based on the election in Quebec-that supporting the U.S. would make things difficult for Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest.

That was not a factor in any discussion I was involved in. I don’t think you can make long-term foreign policy based on a provincial election. You’ve got to have principles that stand the test of time better than that.

Who should be in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq after the war, the U.S. or the United Nations?

There’s capability issues here with respect to reconstruction and governance. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was pretty clear in saying that an occupying force with U.S. generals running every department will not work, that this would be really dangerous for America and counterproductive. So it is absolutely imperative that we find some kind of co-operative mechanism for maintaining order and re-establishing a functioning economy and society in Iraq after the war.

What kind of role could Canada play?

That’s got to be worked out with our partners. Obviously we’ll be providing humanitarian assistance. But we can probably help in other ways, in reconstruction of infrastructure-pipelines, oil wells, water filtration, public services, that sort of thing. One would hope an Iraqi civilian government with police would be able to enforce security. But here, too, we have the experience to help out. When I was in Kosovo, I met quite a few Canadian police who were there to help with the establishment of local police forces.

Are you optimistic about the post-war scenario in Iraq?

It’s probably beyond my knowledge. But before embarking on a series of wars, Iraq had quite a prosperous economy and was building a lot of the architecture of a modern state. I hope that could be restored. But you’ve got different groups—Shias in the south and Kurds in the north, so building a broader consensus will take some effort and care. We haven’t exactly got Afghanistan rebuilt yet, so there’s a lot of lessons to be learned in trying to re-establish a functioning government in a country that’s endured a dictatorship or conflict of this nature.

How badly have Canada-U.S. relations been damaged?

It’s too soon to judge that. The important thing is that we work very enthusiastically on the ongoing agenda. We have to really strongly reassure our neighbour that we are as concerned about North American security as they are. I don’t think we have a lot of choice on that. Continuing to deal with our ports and airports, continuing to examine our processes and procedures, investing in security and intelligence—all this is vital to rebuilding that relationship. Because at the end of the day, governments come and go, different people are in different offices, but at an institutional level we’ve got to make sure the continental relationship works.

Do you believe, as some of your colleagues do, that the U.S. will become too dominant?

The U.S. sees security as its principal concern and is looking at what can be done to protect itself. So in the absence of an international response to those concerns, it is going to increasingly act on its own. That’s one thing Canada is in good position to do—helping get the global community coordinated to build broader responses on these issues.

Do you think the U.S. will seek to punish Canada on trade matters?

There will always be trade issues, some we

might resolve, others may come along. But over time, I think irritations will pass and relationships will be restored. Look—we had a softwood lumber dispute after the first Gulf War and, in that case, we were combatants along with the Americans. Going to war doesn’t solve issues, and, frankly, we can’t be in a position where we send our young men and women to war because we think it’ll be better for the economy.

There are signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down. Do you have any gauge on how the war is affecting our economy?

It’s clearly having an impact on some sectors,

like travel. Our own indicators for Canada remain quite strong and the forecasters still look for pretty strong growth in the U.S. economy as well. At this point, we’re definitely not worrying about a recession.

When are we likely to see you formally launch your leadership campaign?

I’ve paid my money, I’ve said I was a candidate, I’ve raised money. Just to avoid confusion we may decide to have a launch event soon. But I’m out meeting people, I’m travelling, I’m having functions, so there’s no doubt there’s a campaign going on. I’m in it until I’m not in it. Hfl