The great thaw

A favorite quote of mine is that of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. “Living next door to the United States,” he said, “is like sleeping with an elephant. You are affected by every twitch and grunt.” How true that must be.

Back in October, I wrote an article focusing on our icy relations with our northerly neighbors. Since then, I have watched the re-airing of “Canadian Bacon,” with the immortal John Candy. I have also seen Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien retire from politics, to be succeeded by Paul Martin, his former finance minister – about which you may have read in the back pages of some credible newspaper. In addition, the Bush administration acquiesced to the long-running dispute extending back to the Clinton administration over American tariffs on Canadian lumber. America will now reimburse Canadian logging companies for billions of dollars in tariffs paid. Merry Christmas and Joyeux No?l, Canada.

It seems that what I predicted in the fall has been realized; there is a thaw in relations between our two countries, and if its arrival seems to have been planned by Washington for some time now. The Bush administration sees the new man in Ottawa, Prime Minister Martin, as a liberal with whom the president can work. Former Prime Minister Chr?tien did little to disguise both his close personal ties to former President Clinton and his overt contempt for President Bush.

Knowing this, the Bush administration followed the protocol of the Iranian Hostage Crisis during the years of the Carter administration. The Iranian terrorists waited until Carter was out of office to free the American captives, so President Bush waited until Mr. Chr?tien retired to resolve the contentious lumber dispute.

Problems still exist in America’s relations with Canada. The Bush administration has recently announced that only countries involved militarily in the Iraqi conflict will be able to bid in the rebuilding process. That, of course, leaves Canada out of the bidding war, which Prime Minister Martin has openly denounced. To him, and to every other foreign government that opposed the Iraqi campaign, I say, tough.

The second large problem is one of currency exchange. The American dollar has been in steady decline this past year and in an even sharper fall more recently. A strong Canadian dollar is bad news for the Canadian economy, so they, like Japan and the nation-states of the Eurozone, will push for the Bush administration to prop up the dollar. My analysis of that possibility in the short-to-medium term: fat chance.

Ah well, despite the new, seemingly intractable positions our government has taken, the good news is that our relations with Canada are enjoying some much-needed sunshine. This is good news for Canadians. And it is good news for all Americans, whether or not we actually realize it.

-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.

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