- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Common cause

Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson tried something different when he spoke to business leaders in Toronto. Instead of discussing “bilateral tensions” between Canada and the United States, he talked about what binds the world’s largest trading partners in common cause around the globe.

“Normally in a speech like this, you will hear a discussion of the bilateral tensions and issues between Canada and the United States,” he told the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto earlier this month.

He noted what he called the “paradox” of the U.S.-Canadian relationship. The smoother it is, the more critics highlight any disagreements.

“My point to you is that if you overlook those areas where things are smooth, you miss the fundamental nature of our relationship. You are looking only at the occasional blemish of the skin, not grasping the basic sinews that connect our two countries and that give us important strengths and advantages,” Mr. Wilson said.

“You also risk overlooking how Canada’s international agenda is supported and how our national interests are furthered by our common cause with the United States.”

The ambassador’s message reflects the new emphasis in bilateral ties since Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office last year, replacing a Liberal government that was often critical of the Bush administration. Mr. Wilson is accustomed to speaking his mind. He comes from a corporate background, instead of a diplomatic one, and served as finance minister in the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in the mid-1980s.

Mr. Wilson noted several areas where Canada and the United States are cooperating globally.

“Whether it is Afghanistan, weapons of mass destruction, the Western Hemisphere, trade, pandemics, energy and the environment or the defense of North America, there are many ways where the national interest of the United States and Canada converge,” he said.

Canada has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. It joined the United States in advocating the creation of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The two countries are promoting democracy in Latin America and working together to try to stabilize Haiti. Canada is also the largest supplier of energy to the United States.

Both the Harper and Bush administrations have created programs to combat influenza epidemics and promote global health, Mr. Wilson said. The U.S. and Canada also are committed to the protection of North America through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) system.

Praising Sinn Fein

The U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland yesterday praised the political front of the Irish Republican Army for accepting a major accord designed to restore self-rule in the British province.

Mitchell Reiss also urged unionist political parties dedicated to preserving Northern Ireland as part of Britain to accept a power-sharing arrangement with nationalist political parties advocating the end of British rule. Irish Prime Minister Berti Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair hope to persuade Northern Irish political leaders to accept the plan by March 26.

Mr. Reiss congratulated Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, for its Sunday vote to end decades of opposition to a Northern Irish police force and noted party chief Gerry Adams for his political leadership.

“Ambassador Reiss warmly welcomes the action of Sinn Fein, … and he commends the leadership of Gerry Adams,” the U.S. Consulate in Belfast said after Mr. Reiss met with Northern Irish leaders.

Mr. Reiss called on unionists to accept an accord drawn up in the Scottish town of St. Andrews that proposes a new power-sharing arrangement that would reconvene the Northern Irish Assembly.

“Now is the time for the unionist community to signal its renewed support for the St. Andrews agreement,” he told reporters.

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

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