Couchiching Online
nav button nav button nav button nav button nav button nav button
History Table of Contents
1998 Summer Conference
Summer Conference 1998
Rethinking Canada for the 21st Century

Keynote Address: The view from outside

James Blanchard, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada
and former Governor of Michigan

Let me say before I start that I was supposed to give a view from the outside. It’s not really quite from the outside, because we consider Canada a second home.

Part of what I’m going to talk about is U.S.-Canadian relations, part differences between Americans and Canadians and part recommendations from a friend.

You’ll have to understand I don’t consider myself an expert on Canada, although I know more than most Americans. But you know what that means.

Let me just start out by saying the future of Canada is for Canadians to decide. My job tonight is to try and entertain you a little bit.

I do have as a friend some recommendations, but first I would like to a little bit about U.S.-Canadian relations because one of the things I learned here as Ambassador for three years was that even though we have very talented leaders on both sides of the border almost no one had any idea of how extensive our relations were.

When you’re the Ambassador, either the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. or the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, you really get a feel for the width and breadth of the relationship. It is incredible.

The job of Ambassador to Canada, by the way, was exciting. It was fascination, it was challenging. And this comes from a former member of Congress and a Governor.

The job is a fascinating blend of politics and government and diplomacy. And the reason is you can name almost any issue, anything and the U.S. and Canada are working together on it, almost always co-operatively.

From space stations where we’re partners, to Haiti where we’re policing the streets, from Bosnia to NAFTA, from Great lakes water quality to tracking the Russian Mafia we are working very closely together; almost every agency and department and bureau from our federal government and yours, as well as our state and local governments are working round the clock.

It’s almost like we don’t need an Ambassador because all that goes on anyway. On the other hand, if an Ambassador is worth the certificate on the wall they should be able to help manage that relationship in a way that gets more value out of it.

It is by far the most extensive relationship of any two countries on the face of the earth. And it continues in ways that are very important to all of our people. It’s not just that we were allies in World War Two or World War One or Korean, the Persian Gulf, or that we founded NATO — right here — or the United Nations, or NORAD, or that we’re partners at G-7, the OAS, or OECD.

This relationship we have sustains millions of jobs on both sides of the border and helps protect the very air we breathe and the water we drink.

If you just take trade. You hear it all the time, but it’s important to take stock. This is now in U.S. dollars a $360 billion relationship. It is a billion a day in U.S. dollars.

When I was Ambassador it was a billion a day in Canadian dollars.

About 82 per cent of your exports go to the United States; about 22 per cent of ours come here.

The United States has more trade with Canada than we do with all the European nations added up and it’s growing by leaps and bounds.

Our merchandise trade between the two countries has grown by 69 per cent since NAFTA was adopted. And I might add to a slight advantage to Canada, although if you poll people those on either side of the border think the other side got the better end of the deal.

About 95 per cent of that goes smoothly. And if we have a dispute you usually read about it because it’s big news; news at least here.

By the way, the War of 1812. We’re going to talk about that later, but I’ve never lived a country where the use of the war is so frequent in your newspapers, even though this is a peaceful, non-violent country.

Fish war, beer war, salmon war, culture war, trade war. It’s not descried that way down south of the border. Interesting.

But there’s room for improvement with trade and I don’t mean just by trying to solve the lumber war.

For example, Open Skies. We took a focus approach on getting a new agreement. We got it after 20 years of wrangling because a bunch of us worked hard on it. And in the three short years there are more than 3,000,000 new passenger seats per year between the two countries.

Moving away from trade, though, it’s fascinating to know — and most Americans would not know it — that Canada is the largest provider of energy to United States; far more than Saudi Arabia or any of the Middle Eastern countries. Obviously it’s a secure supply and a friendly supply, as well.

Take the environment. It was discussed briefly last night. The United States and Canada have had the longest standing environmental relationship of any two countries on the face of the earth. It isn’t just something that was born on Earth Day, or in the ‘60s or ‘70s.

An actual treaty was negotiated by Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Teddy Roosevelt at the beginning of the century and finally signed in 1909, creating the boundary waters agreement and the International Joint Commission, which to this very day not only helps manage our boundary waters but looks into the issues of Great Lakes’ water quality, how we monitor that and clean it up.

National security. We could talk all day about that. I mentioned NORAD and NATO, but just dwelling on NORAD for a moment. As we speak there are 300 Canadians and Americans working inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado, monitoring every movement in the skies of everything that is released. We do that seamlessly and quietly and we have for many decades.

We have our disagreements, of course. They are few and far between, but we have them and that’s only normal.

But there are other things that go wrong when things aren’t managed properly. For example in the United States out of ignorance, or

simply taking the relationship for granted, bad things can happen.

For example, our Congress passed a bill that requires written documentation to go back and forth at the border . Now that will end up getting repealed; it’s been partially repealed already. But the whole thing was basically out of ignorance.

This relationship is really one you have to work at. A lot of people [who] preceded us worked very hard these past few decades to cultivate good relationships and we should never take that for granted.

Whether it’s differences in foreign policy or disagreements what I found fascinating was that if you look at the two cultures it’s interest that we get along so well. There is nothing in the Scriptures, or written in stone, that suggests or guarantees that two countries the size of ours with the border of ours would get along so well.

Usually, historically, two countries wouldn’t.

And the differences , as I said, are fascinating because the differences between our two countries are much greater than I think you realize.

And they really do affect what kind of strategy our businesses might have, or our politicians, or our lawyers. And I want to talk a little bit about those differences, because it’s interesting.

You know some of them. In fact, Canadians strongly believe that they know more about us, than we do about you. And that’s true. But it’s not saying much. Far too much of your information is from Hollywood or TV. The United States is more than Florida and New York.

I’ve been surprised how many people in Ontario knew very little about Michigan, my home. Unfortunately, too many people in Michigan don’t know about Ontario, though a lot of them do.

But the differences starts with the worst thing you can say to a Canadian is the best thing you can say to an American: you’re just like us.

I try to tell my American friends, don’t go up there and do that. " Well, they’re just like us aren’t they?" I say, no.

You’re not just like us, but you do look and sound like us and visa versa, I suppose. You can see why people might think that. But the differences go on and on. And we see them every day when we’re here.

For example, obviously, our political systems are totally different. Other than the fact the political leaders tend to be nice people who are gregarious and active and mostly honest, but the systems are totally different.

You have the Parliamentary system, we have representative democracy. Your system is supposed to be set up to work, to be efficient, to do the will of the Crown. Our is set up to thwart the consolidation of power. We have not only three branches of government and two houses of one branch and checks and balances. It was set up to thwart the consolidation of power and thwart any future king we might have, even though we didn’t want one.

In dealing with our leaders they keep projecting each other’s system on the other.

In Congress anybody can introduce a bill. When I was in Congress years ago there was something like 13,000 bills in the hopper and only maybe a couple of hundred would ever get a hearing. Now there’s got to be nearly 30,000 or 40,000 bills in the hopper and very few ever get a hearing or are taken seriously. They’re tantamount to a press release, not serious work.

But a bill gets dropped in the hopper down there that affects Canada you’ll read about it in the paper in Canada. You’ll never read about in the Congressman or Congresswoman’s home town, but you’ll read about it up here.

When the Congress shut our government down a few years ago, you remember that? It was like crazy. I had a hard time trying to explain to our Embassy employees what was going on. Many of them are Canadian and they want to get paid. It was really stressful. I had Canadians say, Mr. Ambassador, how could you allow it. I said, well we have checks and balances.

In your country if the government shut down you’d have an election.

[People would say to me] we can’t understand how you could do that. I’d say, well we can’t understand why you let Quebec vote all the time on leaving the country, either.

We have different systems.

Most especially we look at the world differently. Every country looks at the world differently. I sometimes think we have a hard time understanding that fact. We are from time to time an isolationist nation and we don’t appreciate that.

I learned about our country and a lot about the world living here, as did Janet, as do all Americans who come here. It’s just that simple. As I said, the view of the War of 1812. I don’t know how many people told me Canada had a war with the U.S. Canada didn’t have a war with the U.S. that was the British.

It was also the war that both sides won.

But, if I had a Loonie for every person who told me that, you burned Toronto, we burned the White House — we’ll show you, I’d be a rich man; maybe I wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t have 80 cents, I’d have 65 cents anyway.

These days the political community here is much more internationalist and more free trade sensitive. However, these trade deals can be politically sensitive. It’s my observation that is a fact today in Canada and that’s because more of an internationalist country by necessity, not just by education.

And Canada is a multilateralist; you believe in multilateralism, it’s a multilateralist country.

We are a unilateral country. We believe in unilateralism.

As I said we tend to be isolationists. We do not, contrary to some belief, we Americans want to be the world’s policeman at all. But when there is trouble we don’t mind if the rest of the world wants us to send in the Marines. We don’t mind it all; whereas you are the peacekeepers.

And then there’s the style. Styles are different here. Canadians love to negotiate. Again you’ve been negotiating the status of your country for a long time, a little longer than we would. We’re deal makers. We like to cut deals, even if we break a few of them later. You like to negotiate. Your slow and deliberate and that can be good with important things. We’re fast and abrupt.

We’re noisy. You’re quiet. We like change. You’re into orderliness. Your negotiators, we’re litigators.

If somebody has a grievance here you have a national inquiry and then you negotiate and pretty soon everybody will be feeling sorry and somebody will pay him off. And your taxes are over 50 per cent. In our country, if you have a wrong you sue, even if it’s an act of God, you sue.

For example, on any given day General Motors in the United States will have 4,000 product liability lawsuits pending. In Canada, it will be, maybe 12. And in Europe it will be six or seven.

Of course, I said our cultures are different.

I think you can make a strong case your more civilized and we’re more violent. However, I would say if you get to small town America, or where I grew up or where we live now, there’s relatively no crime and never was.

It’s serious. Pick up the paper as I did the other day in Michigan and you read about a drive-by shooting. There’s not as many as there were, but you read about drive-by shootings in big cities all the time.

The first year we were in Ottawa they had their first drive-by shooting in the history of the city and it was a shocker. A young man who worked for Bell Northern Research, now Nortel, was tragically shot and killed in downtown Ottawa by a couple of teen-agers.

And that so rocked the community, especially because he was new to the country. He was from Britain; the family didn’t know if they were going to come over.

The whole town turned out for this poor guy. Their hearts poured out for him. There were 2,000 people at the church and another 2,000 in the streets outside. This could never have happened in a big city in America, much less the capital city of America.

It did for a couple of capital policemen, yes, and that was tragic, but this was a brand new resident of Canada walking down the street. He’d only been there a couple of months and maybe only knew 12 people.

I said in one of my speeches in Ottawa, you Canadians ought to get down and kiss the very ground beneath you because you have a country like that; that cares and feels and also considers that kind of violence so extraordinary that it needs to be understood and the family needs to be loved.

That’s one of those great Canadian assets.

I could go on and on, I need to get to my recommendations and then we can get to questions.

Again, things move a little slower here. I like that. Things move faster in the United States. In fact we joke in Ottawa, even though it’s a political town and sometimes political towns can be power obsessed, people always seem to have time for each other.

We travelled the width and breadth of the country, as was mentioned. We took a train from St. John’s, Newfoundland, all the way to Victoria, B.C. I’ve been to the magnetic north pole, Pond Inlet, Heads Smashed in Buffalo Jump. People have time for each other here. Sometimes they fuss a little too much with each other, but they have time for each other.

I describe Washington as a town of drive-by friendships. And you know I get a bigger laugh in Washington, than I just did here. People mean well though, they all want to get along but they’re all in a hurry. It’s a real merry-go-round.

I [recall when ] all of Cabinet, the President and the Vice President came to visit us and they loved sitting by the fire in our home having a few hours to think or read, listen to the fire or talk and not hear sirens and have the phones ringing off the hook and people running in and out with paper; something urgent that might not be all so urgent.

Also weekends and families. We talk about family values in the U.S. politically and it’s important to everybody. The truth is looks to me that families are stronger in Canada than the U.S., which has something to do with the lower crime rate.

In the U.S. weekends [are] when people get babysitters and go out and do things without their children. Here it would appear in most places weekends are for the family and your children, which is totally the opposite.

Then, there’s the bureaucrats. This is a much more bureaucratic country than the United States. The United States is much more entrepreneurial. It’s changing somewhat, but bureaucrats are detested in the United States. Maybe they’re not all so popular here, but on the other hand bureaucrats are more respected, particularly in government. I even see the papers once in awhile use the word mandarin. You’d never see that in the United States.

Nor, would you ever see these poor politicians like Minister Alan Rock, being blamed for the work of bureaucrats long before he even arrived in his portfolio.

Here the political community is expected to clean up the mess of the bureaucrats. In the United States, we expect the bureaucrats to clean up the mess of the politicians. Think about it.

Then, there’s the attitudes.

Americans are optimists. Everything is the best, the best; we’re the greatest. You’ve seen it, even if it’s totally untrue and ridiculous.

Canadians are pessimists. I don’t know whether it’s the weather or the Scottish — I have some Scottish in me.

I don’t know what it is, but you can take the UN rating [Canada as] the best country in the world to live in and say, oh, this is terrible. The UN doesn’t know what they’re doing!

Two others things. One serious and one not so serious.

In Canada, there’s a greater sense of community than in the U.S. In smaller towns in the U.S. we’d have that and we had that where I grew up and where Janet grew up. There’s a greater sense of community here, of caring, of trying to include everyone and worry about everybody.

That’s a very admirable quality. We can re-learn that, or learn that from you.

In the U.S., we have a stronger sense of nationhood. And I’m not suggesting you wave the flags like we do, because I know you find that offensive.

Finally, this is a good one and it’s true. You Canadians are the world’s greatest nitpickers. You nitpick everything, including yourselves all the time. Americans are not nitpickers, but we are the world’s biggest bullshitters. You know what I mean. We are different, not better or worse, but different and we can learn a lot from each other.

But, let me tell you what I learned here and this gets to my recommendations.

I don’t have to tell you this, but it’s important you find ways to celebrate it. This land of yours is a truly great nation; I mentioned earlier it would be great whether you lived next to us or not. It is a great nation with great traditions and values.

And I truly believe Paul Martin’s vision which he outlined last night, however optimistic — which I liked — for the year 2026, I believe that will come true if you keep in mind what a great country you have; keep your eye on the ball and not nitpick yourselves too much.

And remember you’re also a young country. I know that Cartier and Cabot and all these people arrived before Plymouth Rock and Champlain planted the flag in Quebec City about 12 years before Plymouth Rock. But the reality is the formation of the Dominion of Canada was almost a hundred years after the formation of our country. And you are a young nation; your still nation-building.

Remember this, too. You have cities that work everywhere. You’ve got wholesome values. You’ve got strong families. You’re a compassionate society; as they say, a kinder, gentler society. You’ve got enormous natural resources; a low crime rate, growing entrepreneurial spirit and you’re the envy of the world.

Even Americans who come up here say, God, I wish our cities were like that. You really have it all. I say that as a proud American because I think I’m a better American for having lived here.

I think you need to underscore and celebrate your great country more often, which brings me to my recommendations.

I want to call these recommendations from a friend.

The future of Canada is for Canadians to decide, but since you’ve invited me here I’ve got to say something about what is I think you ought to do and I will, bearing in mind I do not hold myself as the great expert on Canada, and bearing in mind all this is prefaced on my belief that you are a truly great nation.

Canadians must decide how important their nation is to them. Do you want a stronger sense of nationhood, or do you want to simply drift into a collection of very attractive provinces. You have to deal with that one.

A devolution of power will always be appealing to the local politicians, and to provincial politicians. They’ll always be appealing and there will be an insatiable demand for it.

The real question is do you really want to shift more power to the provinces, or do you want to shift them, as Mr. Martin suggested last night, to the people directly?

Why just shift it to another layer of government. You can empower people in communities without sending power to another set of politicians or layer of government.

The third point. If nationhood or your culture is important to you, then I think the teaching of Canadian history and literature and the arts has to be strengthened.

I get mixed answers from young people I talk to about how much history they get, but I can tell you students get about three years of American history before you’re into grade 12. You get a lot of it, you get world history, you get all those things, but there are a lot of places in Canada — not just in Quebec — where it’s a minor little section of one year. You need to deal with that.

The idea of simply trying to keep Sports Illustrated out is really not all becoming. You can argue that one every which way. I think you have to have your own magazines and newspapers and TV and radio and you really do need all that.

You need your own theatre and movies, absolutely.

But there also has to be some context in which it was created and has developed and survived and thrived. That’s whether it’s in your authors, or your paintings, certainly your history.

And I think it should be more than just trying to defend your existence culturally.

For example, you ought to be a little more aggressive on telling the Canadian story. My suggestion would be — and I think it could be done — is that CBC should be carried on all U.S. cable. We’ve got all these cable channels down there. I don’t think it would be difficult to put on several of the Canadian stations on U.S. cable. And people, whether they wanted to or not, they’d watch it. They’d start to see your government and different things. I think it would be very educational and I think it should be done.

What we don’t need is another old movie channel in Detroit. I will say in Detroit we do get CBC. I grew up watching it. It gave me a leg up in coming to Canada. I remember the night Diefenbaker became Prime Minister. I watch Canadian football. I knew who Paul Martin was and when I came up here to be Ambassador somebody said Paul Martin is the leading Liberal and may well be the next in the Cabinet.

I said, God, is he still around!

Of course, it was his father. That’s kind of a joke, I actually knew Paul Martin senior.

Unrelated to all those recommendations is something I will say that I know you all agree with but I want to explain that I am concerned and that is that Canada’s health system must be saved.

I don’t think it’s in as good shape as it was when we arrived in 1993. There are a lot of reasons for that. One is the runaway cost of health.

First of all, all of our polling shows the system is very popular in Canada. Most Americans don’t understand that’s it’s popular and well received and it’s for the average person under the average situation. It’s a good system.

In the United States if you have a heart problem you don’t wait two or three weeks for a bypass. You get it that day.

But U.S. hospitals are increasingly full of Canadians getting their care in the U.S. It doesn’t have to be. You’ve got hospitals and specialists that are just as good. Anda lot of you people go down there and work.

I think there’s got to be a cost-effective way to strengthen that, and yet maintain the integrity of your system.

I think also it’s not a bad idea to have border arrangements with us as you might think, particularly in our border cities.

And you need some of that technology without having to order it for every hospital.

A few years ago a hospital right across the river in Detroit was doing about 100 bypasses a month for Ontario. Then there was some complaining and it stopped. I hate to think anybody who has to wait for that could go right across the border and it was good for both sides.

I know this is a sensitive subject. I think the United States can learn a lot from Canada on health care, but I hate to see us — which I think we will move toward your system — at a time when your system is not as strong as it used to be regardless of its political popularity.

Next I want to talk about attitudes.

I think that as you talk about the future you should quit trying to measure yourself by comparing yourself to the U.S. It’s a different enough country, with different enough circumstances. There’s no use doing that.

And you should really discourage your politicians from shadow boxing with us. It’s very unbecoming and it doesn’t help your influence and it makes it harder from time to time for us to work together and we work well.

On foreign policy what are my observations? One is something you know, but it’s never said, which is bilingualism is a great asset for Canada. It really is. All over the world it’s a real asset and we just don’t have that. We may develop it in Spanish at some point, but we don’t. And it’s a great help to you all over the world and it brings you respect and prestige and leverage and friendship that I think is very useful.

I also think your friendship and closeness to the U.S. is a great asset, because a lot of countries know Canada’s independent but know you can kind of influence us, so it gives you some leverage you might not otherwise have. I say use that wisely, as well. Please don’t nitpick us. You can use that wisely and enhance your own stature and independence and influence.

I saw with Space Station, Bosnia in terms of ending the genocide, or Haiti, or now in trade with Latin American. By being bilingual, independent but close to us, gives you extra power and I think it’s important to keep in mind.

Then we can talk about soft power. Lloyd Axworthy likes that term. It’‘s a good term and I think to some degree he’s absolutely, as they say in Canada, bang on with the idea and the concept of soft power; that is influencing the world or helping bring about peace or helping create greater understanding or helping solve world crises through respect, the proper values, hard work, understanding, determination, caring, multi-lateral discussions.

I think that’s true and I think it’s increasingly important, particularly since the United States is the last full service superpower. And we’re not always ready to get involved around the world.

One of my colleagues at the law firm who, along with Jean de Chastelain, negotiated the incredible peace agreement in Northern Ireland, gave a speech at the Aspen Institute and he talked about values.

And he said remember we may be the world’s most important military power, but we brought peace in Northern Ireland without firing one bullet; it was through our influence and it was through our ideals and it was through bringing people together.

So, soft power is important. And Canada’s role in the world is important as you emphasize that path. But it’s also true if your going to have the kind of UN peacekeeping role you’ve enjoyed and envision in the future and you’re going to play a partnership role in NATO you need some level of military commitment. You need to make sure your military receives the support and respect that it deserves and needs to do the job.

You can’t be a peacekeeper with a vanishing army, or Boy Scouts in short pants. You have to have a serious, credible fighting force to do it. It doesn’t have to be huge. I’m not suggesting you imitate us. But you do have to have that. And anyone who studies Canada’s military structure will agree with what I’m saying.

On the environment. We, the two countries, have to figure how to synchronize our environmental regulations and protections; not in a way that dumbs them down, but in a way that strengthens and enhances them.

We don’t have any choice. We’ve got all this common space. We’re going to be dealing with a lot of global challenges. Our economies are very much integrated, more than people let on, or even want, perhaps. Harmonization is going to be important, but we need to kind of synchronize that. It’s important to the world. It’s important to our health not just to have good looking parks or nice places to sail, it’s a matter of human health, air and water and soil.

Finally, on national unity. You can’t have a speech in Canada without talking about it.

I’ll be really careful on this one. I think your diplomatic corps and your government needs in firm, but [it’s] important to let world leaders, especially, know that Canada will remain united.

Often times your diplomats are afraid to talk about that overseas. You view it as a domestic issue; don’t want to talk about it. Because you’re not talking about it, everybody says, oh, my God, it must really be bad.

You don’t need that.

I remember in the middle of the Quebec referendum we were talking [with] Andre Ouellette and the Prime Minister and everybody was working very hard on the referendum. But a few levels down at foreign affairs they were talking to us. We were having a meeting of Andre Ouellette and Warren Christopher and three levels down at foreign affairs they were talking about the Arctic that’s all they cared about.

And we were saying isn’t there something you want us to do?

This denial thing is not good when you’re dealing with the world.

The leaders of the world need to know that the last referendum was a vaguely-worded question that never used the word independence or separation.

The leaders of the world need to know that the great city of Montreal that people identify in Canada voted overwhelmingly no. That usually comes as a shock to everybody in the United States, including Western Canada.

And your friends around the world need to know that Canada’s going to argue about the status of Quebec for many decades to come, but you’re going to remain united. It’s just that simple.

It may sound a little strange but other countries will be very relieved and pleased to hear you say that, because they don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know what the ballot question was, what the dynamics are, what the regional considerations are. They don’t at all. They’ll be pleased. They don’t want ethnic tribalism to break out anywhere, not just in North America.

And Canada stands as a model in the world of a country with people of diverse backgrounds coming together and creating a model society, which brings me to my final statement.

As a friend, keep in mind that Canada’s best days are ahead.


Rumour has it there’s a report circulating in Ottawa, called Canada 2005, [which] is concerned with keeping us together as a country; to find ways to do that, to find a common Canadian identity. The best answer I’ve ever heard to that question comes from Charles Taylor, a professor at McGill University, who said; we’re living what we’re looking for.

Could you expand on your idea of nation-building for Canada?

I think Canadians who travel appreciate their country far more than Canadians who don’t, just as Americans do.

I don’t think anyone who lives in another country and moves here and then lives here any length of time isn’t really thankful they live here and the can’t understand why there appears to be such uneasiness or unhappiness.

It’s only one index, but the UN index means something, that’s why I mentioned it.

It’s hard for me to make recommendations to Canadians because I’m always looking through the lens as an American, including the sovereigntist movement. We look at it differently.

You’re a young nation, you’re nation-building and there are many stories in the Canadian story, but they need to be told.

I don’t how you’re going to be able to determine where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been. That’s why I think education is key. If the provinces won’t do it, then your federal government needs to do it. It’s important.

*     *     *

What are your observations on where the forces for international involvement and internationalism exist in the United States, whether they’re powerful, whether they’re on the ascendent and what hope is there for that point of view gaining some prominence in the United States?

The United States has had a pretty huge dose of isolationism for its entire history. And when you’re as big as we are, perhaps you can get away with it.

We were always drawn into problems in Europe initially and then after World War Two, because of the help and support of Canada and the wisdom of people like George Marshall and Harry Truman — ratified by Dwight Eisenhower — we began to take an active role in the world.

With the end of the Cold War, there is some backing off of the understanding that we need to assert leadership in the world, like it or not, and that we need a policy, whether it’s working with the UN, or having a strong NATO, or engaging the world, that is short of having to respond to everything militarily — but more than ignoring everything. What George Mitchell did with the help of Jean de Chastelain in Northern Ireland is just a start.

I think it’s the end of the Cold War; that’s kind of a glue that helped keep America engaged in the world. So, it’s going to be a little bit harder. And Congress is taking a breather on trade agreements, as you’ve noticed.

Ultimately, I believe, the forces of internationalism and free trade will win out in America.

Ultimately, the internationalist forces prevail in the Democratic Party as they did with the election of Bill Clinton. And they will prevail in the Republican Party, as well. Usually the business wing of the Republican party wins out in the end. And I think that will happen.

*     *     *

Could you comment on another set of bilateral relations; that is, American-Cuban relations and their future and how they have affected Canadian-American relations and what you see for the future of that? How much of a thorn in the side is it for the two countries?

There’s a lot of ways to look at it; one is humourously and one is seriously.

Our official position is that Cuba is on the wrong side of history. Castro, however charming he may appear to Canadians, is a despot. There is no free speech, there is no freedom of political movement. He’ll be brought down shortly like every Eastern European dictator.

Canadians look at it differently. You say, look let’s engage this guy, if we engage him he’ll probably collapse.

You can make a strong argument both ways.

The reality is in the United States, Congress and, particularly the people in South Florida, feel very strongly that we should not reward Castro for his conduct over the years.

We’ve simply agreed to disagree with Canada.

Whenever our policymakers get together, they rarely talk about it because we’ve agreed to disagree, period.

Then, I say half seriously, if Canada didn’t have this to disagree with us on you’d have to invent something else, because we agree on almost everything else.

By the way, if we engaged Cuba; if we had McDonald’s down there and Coca Cola on every street corner, you might well be boycotting them for their human rights violations. Think about it.

*     *     *

I want to ask you about the problem of American isolationism and the Republican Party.

If we think about Canada for the 21st century and our enormous relationship with the United States, I think one of our biggest problems is going to, in fact, be a very strong element in American political thought, which is strongly isolationist and strongly ignorant of the world outside of the 50 states.

Simply because our relationship with the U.S. is so incredibly significant one of our big problems is going to be that there are going to be Republican Congresses and there are going to be people like Jesse Helms who are going to control the foreign agenda for the U.S. and they simply are going to ignore the Canadian fact.

You don’t. You’ve got a unique perspective.

But, from a Canadian point of view I’m frightened. I see some very reactionary forces in the U.S. and some times they take hold of the American agenda and we get smashed.

How do we deal with that?


I think that ultimately in the battle over ideas the internationalist wing of the Republic Party and the Democratic Party wins out.

Whenever we elect a President, it turns out that way.

It’s harder dealing with Congress, because the domestic agenda tends to dominate most members of Congress.

Ultimately, I think, those who are elected to leadership positions are prepared to engage the world and come very quickly to understand how important relations with Canada are as a starter in dealing with the world.

The truth is, while no one likes to admit it, if you can’t sell Canada on your ideas and your an American they must not be very good. You know what I’m saying.

Nobody wins with trade disputes with Canada and the United States.

You have big trade disputes, after a settlement is negotiated no matter how good it is for Canadians the press will pummel the Canadian for being bullied by the American — no matter how good your deal is.

In the U.S., if you have a trade disagreement with Canada, people view you as kind of morally deficient. You can’t get along with the Canadians.

It’s the same with foreign policy, really.

What’s Canada does when it’s different is looked at by more Americans than you realize. And that’s true in terms of world engagement.

*     *     *

Has your experience in Congress, as Governor and as Ambassador allowed you to see areas where some issues between our two countries were not well apprehended because of the language of [the different styles of] discourse, where issues developed that ought not to have?

You may also want to make some recommendations on ways in which we might be attentive to the nature of the political and inter-governmental discourse between the two countries.

When I came here (Aug. 19th, 1993] an election was about to be called. The writ was going to be dropped in early September. Our political analysts were predicting the Liberal Party would win for several reasons.

Polls showed strong Liberal support. They showed that after nine years of Tory Party a cycle — generally parties get replaced after eight or nine years — and a lot of other factors.

So we were predicting, our Embassy, a Liberal victory, even though Kim Campbell had a 70 per cent favourable rating.

We communicated that to our people in the White House and State Department. I did it on a number of occasions. As the election wore on, we communicated it was going to be a huge Liberal victory.

But even we didn’t think would be down to two seats for the Tories. We thought it might be 12 or 10.

We also communicated that trade was not an issue. That jobs and the economy and investing in people was the issue, or if you were Manning it was how the federal government related to the provinces or the deficit.

Trade wasn’t really a big issue in the campaign, not like in 1988. And we communicated that.

But when the election was held and it was a smashing Liberal victory, there was absolute chaos in Washington among our leading policymakers.

They had not obviously believed our cables and memos. They were in a state of shock that a party could go from 154 seats to two, especially given the charm that Mulroney had in the U.S. and in Washington. And he still does.

Of course, Ross Perot stood up in Texas and Ralph Nader in Washington and Jesse Jackson in Chicago and said that’s it, it was a referendum on NAFTA. NAFTAs dead, we don’t have to deal with it.

It was a total misread of the situation and I’m on the phone trying to calm everybody down, explaining it’s a different system; NAFTA was never an issue in the election and that John Chretien had said out in Vancouver to an NDP heckler, if you’re against NAFTA vote the NDP, I’m a free trader.

{It] was a complete misread of a situation.

We had members of Congress standing up on the microphones on CNN saying, we don’t have to vote on NAFTA, it’s dead; the Liberals have won in Canada and they’re against NAFTA.

So, that was a complete misread of thing. It was fortunate for me that I had enough credibility to explain to the White House, the President and everybody to calm down; that we’re going to have NAFTA, that we might have to give Canada a few little things, but we’re not going to have to renegotiate the treaty but they’re going to have to have something to show they got something for their trouble negotiating with us.

That’s one example.

Another big example, which is important in terms of Canadian unity, is that Americans don’t understand the situation in Quebec at all, the history, the importance of Quebec to Canada, or the uniqueness or distinctness of Quebec —- or the importance of Quebec to the soul of Canada.

I’ll be tough and my book will be tougher on the separatists, but I also want to say Quebec gives Canada a flavour and a dimension that is so important., which is why history needs to be taught accurately there as well as elsewhere.

But Americans don’t see that. We view this whole thing through the lens of our own history, through our own Civil War and it’s not a fair way to analyze it all.

There’s a fascination in the U.S. with the Quebec issue because of our own tragic, bloody history of forging national unity just a few years before Canada became a nation.

Anything we can do to explain and to articulate what’s going and what the history of Canada is really is important in the United States, but it’s important for policymakers who deal with Canada.

*     *     *

As one way of trying to limit lobbyists, would it make sense to have the electoral expenses of people running for office paid out public funds, rather than by lobbyists, both here and in the U.S.?

We started to move toward that in the aftermath of Watergate.

In a state like Michigan, we have public funding of the governor’s race. You do a little bit of fund raising in small amounts, but it’s worked reasonably well.

We established the same thing at the federal level, but it’s been circumvented by parties and what’s called soft money. The problem is a hundred times worse in the U.S. than Canada.

I can only speak from the U.S. point of view, but I think we desperately need public funding of elections without loopholes.

It’s unlikely we’re going to get it because the incumbents never want to change a system under which they got elected.

Someone says, how can that be, it’s such a corrupting system? I don’t mean in a direct sort of way, but an indirect sort of way.

In Washington our members of Congress and Senators are spending all their time raising money. They ought to be with their families, or go toa museum, read a book, or focus more on their job, or travel. They spend all this time raising money, but they’re not going to change it. They’re trying. I don’t think they’re going to change it because they don’t like to change the system they’re under any more than the House of Commons would want to empower the Senate in Canada to have equal power. I’s not going to happen.

Your right and we ought to try and do it. Hopefully, someday before it gets worse, we’ll change the system.

The biggest problem isn’t so much anymore that they’re buying influence; they do, they buy an audience at least. It is that they’re spending all their time raising money. Most of these people are honest. The system is just out of control in the U.S.

*     *     *

To Canadians, the biggest thing on our radar screen is the United States. It doesn’t work the other way around. How can we better communicate when it comes to problems between the two countries and get noticed? How could we talk to you better and get attention?

I have three observations.

One, there are really a lot of Canada watchers in our government and in Washington, who really do follow everything pretty closely. That’s why I don’t want to see a Canadian politician shadow boxing with us, thinking only the Toronto Star is watching and they’re getting a favourable article. Because then they look foolish to all the people I’m talking to try and get things done.

There are a lot people following it; they take it very seriously and they read The Globe and Mail every day and the read Maclean’s, The Financial Post, French-language papers and they have CBC beamed in on satellite in their offices.

Don’t think there aren’t a few people down there, including me, who follow it. I don’t follow it every day like I did, but I follow it at least every other day.

Two, there a is question; I have it in the book. That’s whether you want to be noticed all that much. There is an advantage to not being noticed every day.

How many Americans know you have a trade surplus with us and it’s growing? I’m not sure. I don’t think anybody’s going to bash Canada, although occasionally these interest groups do. I’m not so sure you want that.

So there’s any advantage to not being noticed. No news is good news. So, you want to think that one through fairly carefully.

Finally, Canadians think of themselves as boring people. But you’re actually very interesting; a more interesting than you think of yourselves as. We loved every day of our time here.

*     *     *

One of major differences between the American and Canadian electorate is that the Canadian electorate actually vote, whereas the Americans don’t seem to vote.

Is it because the Americans see no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, are they that cynical, or is just because you have to buy your way into office?

It’s hard to know. It may well be a sign of a healthier democracy. I’m not sure.

The reason I say that is Canadians don’t think of yourselves as a political country. Your much more political than the U.S.

People talk more about politics here and the role of government has always been more important.

Americans are not all that political. In our last Presidential election the turnout was 55 per cent. In your last federal election it was a little over 70.

When I was elected Governor of Michigan we had a 45 per cent turnout. The second time out I won with the largest margin ever in the history of Michigan and we had about a 40 per cent turnout.

Then I lost by 27,000 votes. We had a 27 per cent turnout and only 17 per cent in Detroit. Being on the receiving end of a low turnout where everybody though the election was in the bag was very frustrating.

What I find interesting isn’t just that people talk more about politics here and participate more — and have historically — is that I find so many people like us in the U.S. don’t vote. They’re just too busy. They may give money. They may watch CNN, all the Sunday talk shows and get the New York Times at their door Sunday, but they don’t actually go out on election day and vote.

Maybe it’s because we’ve been around so long we take our system for granted. And I think that’s important for both Canadians and Americans: let’s not take what we have for granted. We can learn from the Canadians on voting.

*     *     *

Why does your government oppose us in virtually every effort we have to create Canadian cultural policy in the area of film making, where we can definitely tell our own stories where only tow per cent of Canadian films are screened in [your] country, and your country strenuously opposes any attempt to increase that percentage and has historically for a number of decades?

[Also] why it opposes us on the world stage in an effort to create a magazine policy that might allow us to create our own magazines in this country and support them? And even opposes us in any effort to subsidize our own television industry, which you call a non-tariff trade barrier? [And] as Ambassador what instructions did you have to help protect the American entertainment industry in this country while you were here?

There’s an easy answer on that. The American entertainment industry is perfectly capable of taking care of itself and I think it was a rarity they ever talked to me.

That’s number one.

Number two, they film a huge number of movies in Toronto and Vancouver and the revenue alone is significant, as well as the percentage of actors.

This is one of those areas which is blurred. You look at the number of Canadians in Hollywood and in our film industry, whether they live in Canada or they live in Hollywood it’s a remarkable figure.

The question is whether you can separate out a Canadian magazine or a movie for some sort of special subsidy. I happen to think there ought to be a way to do it.

I say so in my book. I find it eminently understandable that Canadians would not just want, but would demand to have your own magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, film, whatever. I find it eminently understandable.

One of the problems we have with some of these trade disputes is you’ve agreed to language which gives us any easy cause of action in the world trade tribunals.

That’s why the World Trade Organization ruled against Canada on it’s attempt to tax advertisers in American magazines. It was The Sports Illustrated case. I happen to think that one could have been negotiated and you wouldn’t have had the WTO matter ruled against you.

That’s one example.

I believe one reason why our Hollywood people are as militant as they about trying to make sure there are no barriers to anything they’re doing is — not so much they worry about Canada — they worry about the precedent in Europe and Asia

The biggest export the United States has is entertainment.

How do you propose we tell our owns stories if we’re up against that as a trade barrier?

The first thing you do is teach it in your schools.

Teach it your schools, tell it to yourselves. They are ways to promote your writers. There are plenty of ways you can promote literature and art and culture here without running afoul of trade laws.