- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Confusion in Canada

Canada’s new ambassador to the United States discovered this week that stating the obvious can cause a public relations disaster.

Frank McKenna, who is expected to arrive in Washington next month, told Canadian reporters that Canada is already a partner with the United States in a defense system designed to stop incoming missiles from terrorists or rogue states such as North Korea.

What the Toronto Sun called “the simple truth” sparked cries of outrage from political opponents of Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. He was denounced on the right by Conservative spokesmen and on the left by the New Democrat Party and the French-Canadian separatist bloc in the House of Commons.

The U.S. missile defense system is wildly unpopular in Canada, even though it would protect the country without costing a Canadian cent. President Bush has not asked Canada to base a single missile on its territory, but he has lobbied conservative politicians to publicly endorse the system.

At one point, the Conservative Party favored the plan but is now taking full political advantage of the controversy to undercut Mr. Martin, who ironically also once favored the system but started backing away from it during the federal election campaign last year.

However, Canada agreed in August to allow the existing U.S.-Canadian NORAD system of radar sites and aerial patrols to be used as part the missile defense, which is the point Mr. McKenna made on Tuesday in remarks to reporters after appearing before Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, will link the series of early-warning systems to the U.S. network of defensive missiles.

“We’re part of it now,” Mr. McKenna said. “There’s no question that the NORAD amendment has already given a great deal of what the United States needs in terms of input on North American defense.”

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper accused Mr. Martin of breaking promises to consult with Parliament before making a decision on missile defense.

“How could this prime minister secretly make this decision, clearly breaking every commitment he’s made to this House and to Canadians?” Mr. Harper thundered.

Michel Gauthier of the Bloc Quebecois accused Mr. Martin of lying.

“The government … doesn’t want to tell the population that is has its arm caught in the wringer and that we’ve embarked down the path to missile defense,” he said.

Mr. Martin, dazed by the dispute, is expected to issue a public statement today and reject any Canadian participation in the missile system. Canadian diplomats have relayed the message to U.S. officials, according to Canadian reports.

As the Sun said in an editorial yesterday, “Even though everything McKenna said was accurate, Martin is now expected to reverse the government’s position. …

“If that leaves you confused, imagine how the Americans must feel.”

Generous America

The Senate Republican Policy Committee this week rebutted claims that Americans are stingy when it comes to foreign aid with figures showing the United States is the world’s most generous benefactor.

Total government aid increased to $19 billion last year, up from $16 billion in 2003. But that is only part of the picture.

Donations from individuals, corporations and private charities amounted to $48 billion, “nearly three times the size” of the government aid.

Including the “hundreds of millions” spent annually by the military in disaster relief and humanitarian missions, “the U.S. leads the world in official government assistance as well as nongovernment assistance,” the committee said.

The committee’s report, “U.S. Leads World in Generosity: The Truth About U.S. Foreign Assistance,” is posted at https://rpc.senate.gov.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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