- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

Jean Chretien, the prime minister of Canada, is scheduled to arrive in Washington today. He will be the first foreign leader to meet President George W. Bush, a point that Mr. Chretien's office has bragged about back here in Canada. What should President Bush know about his visitor?

Mr. Chretien and his governing Liberal Party did not want President Bush to win the election. That is not surprising most left-leaning regimes around the world were quietly rooting for Al Gore, but only Canada was foolish enough to state its preference aloud. In May of last year, Canada's ambassador to the United States who also happened to be Mr. Chretien's nephew gave a speech throwing Canada's lot in with the Democrats. Mr. Gore was a friend of Canada, he said. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, doesn't know us. Sensibly, Mr. Chretien's nephew has since been transferred to socialist France.

And then there was the prankster from the CBC, Canada's government-run TV and radio broadcaster, who was sent down to ambush candidate Bush on the hustings. Cameras rolling, that tax-paid provocateur deliberately mangled Mr. Chretien's name, and tried to get Gov. Bush to go along with it ha-ha, watch Gov. Bush mix up another foreign leader's name. Such an elaborate hoax would have been funny if it were masterminded by the College Democrats; from a Canadian government corporation, in the middle of a U.S. election, it was just strange.

Rhetorical partisanship from the Canadian government is foolish and meddlesome, but largely harmless. Unfortunately, however, reflexive anti-Americanism has been seeping back into Canadian policy, too. Take Canada's laxity towards international terrorists. Ahmed Ressam, an alleged Algerian terrorist, was arrested in December 1999 trying to smuggle a trunkload of explosives from Canada into Washington state; police suspect he was planning to blow up Seattle's Space Needle on New Year's Eve, or the Los Angeles airport. Ressam and his colleagues had been been using Canada as a base camp, unmolested for seven years.

Canada is a fund-raising haven, too. Paul Martin, Canada's finance minister, was a keynote speaker at a gala dinner for a group that the U.S. State Department has deemed a front for Sri Lanka's terrorist Tamil Tigers. When asked about his decision to attend the dinner in the face of those warnings, Mr. Martin told parliament this minister and this government do not take orders from the U.S. State Department. Apparently not.

John Manley, the new Canadian foreign minister, has done more than just ignore the U.S. State Department he has positively joined with Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Jiang Zemin in opposing President Bush's anti-ballistic missile defense proposal. Last week, after meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Mr. Manley said that "if [President Bush] satisfies the Russians and Chinese, he will satisfy Canada as well." Canada, a charter signatory to the NATO and NORAD treaties, now takes its cues from Moscow and Beijing.

Not that Canada was much of a military ally to begin with. Under Mr. Chretien, Canada's tiny defense budget has fallen to just $7 billion (U.S.) barely 1 percent of Canada's GDP. That is a smaller proportion than any other NATO ally, except tiny Luxembourg and Iceland. It is hard to believe that Canada once had the world's third-largest navy.

The No. 1 destination of Canadian foreign aid is China; Canadian companies are leading investors in Cuba with Ottawa's diplomatic and financial support flouting the U.S. embargo. Canada has declared that it will resume diplomatic relations with North Korea; in the past four months at the United Nations, Canada has voted nearly 100 times to condemn Israel, joining with the Arab dictatorships against the United States. David Anderson, Canada's Environment Minister says he is utterly opposed to President Bush's plan to drill for oil in northeast Alaska: "He is an oil man. Vice President Richard Cheney is an oil man. He's just appointed a secretary of the Interior from the oil industry. It was meant as an insult."

Mr. Chretien is not wholly averse to Mr. Bush's ideas. When they were in opposition, Mr. Chretien's Liberals promised to tear up the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement; they abandoned those positions as soon as they were elected. Perhaps expanding hemispheric free trade will be one topic on which the two leaders can agree.

Too much should not be made of the differences between our two countries, for they are overwhelmed by our similarities and our long friendship. But Mr. Bush should know that in Mr. Chretien he is facing a left-wing leader who routinely spites the United States abroad, and resorts to reflexive anti-Americanism at home. Mr. Bush should not expect to have the same warm relationship with Mr. Chretien that his father had with Brian Mulroney, the Canadian prime minister of his day.

Ezra Levant is an editorial writer with the National Post in Canada.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide