As anyone who has taken interest in politics in Canada before will recognize, the United States plays a massive role in determining Canadian actions
and elections. It's not the Americans that change it, but it's their presence and our reactions to the US that change it.
Let me put this into focus, though, for those who may not understand it yet.
Whenever someone is in power, or wants to be in power, or wants public support, they need to walk a very thin line between being friendly with the US,
and showing our own independance of them. To do either in the extreme will lose the person support. This is why I call it the "fine whine". If you
don't whine enough about the US, then you're obviously too friendly with them, and will let them walk over us. On the other hand, if you whine too
much, you're seen as isolating ourselves from our largest trading partner, and so are losing economic strength.
The fine whine is about finding the balancing point between these. It's about being able to say "No" to the US, but still say "Yes" often enough
to show that the countries are still united.
There are three excellent examples of this.
Example 1: Treadeau; (sorry to Sask. and out, but in my opinion, Prime T was the best... even though he told you to go suck it... but that's old
history... get over it)
Treadeau is an excellent example of saying "No" to the US. It is known that under Treadeau, Canada-US Relations were downright dismal. We held
together because of our trading agreements and because of the Cold War and our shared language and culture. One of Treadeau's falacies was that it
could be said he "alienated" the States, and thus turned away perhaps a number of people who were leaning more to Conservative politics.
Example 2: Harper; (the man who, despite I didn't like him or vote for him, has done 150% better than I expected him to, so kudos to him for that)
Harper is an excellent example of saying "Yes" to the US. Whilst this inspires confidence, especially with the disagreements between Bush and
Cretien, Harper is definitely too much on the "lovey-dovey" side, as was Martin. Although Harper has been very careful to keep his distance from the
US, when the Yankee's come knocking, Uncle Harper is there to open the door.
However, I must note that, like I said, coming out of a strained relationship period, this has done a lot more good than harm, especially with
Softwood Lumber progressing more and better than in the past decade, and with border security and export inspections being a lot less sensitive in the
Example 3: Cretien; (the man, the legend, the buffoon)
History will treat Cretien well, if for the simple fact that he led 3 straight terms, but history will also mark that his final years were corroded by
corruption scandals, inefficiency, and "bumblings" of authority.
Still, the relationship shared between Cretien and Clinton were perhaps some of the best years in Canadian-American Relations history. The two were
friendly, but weren't afraid to disagree. If something happened, Clinton would negotiate, and Cretien would support - and Clinton would do the same
for Canada. I have no delusions that Clinton made a huge impact on Canadian politics and policies during this era (and, truth be told, I'd rather
think back upon those times not as the "Cretien years" but as the "Clinton years"). However, Canada did not just follow Clinton like they were
some hanger-on, but rather the US and Canada acted as a team, with mutual consultations and agreements.
So, what's the secret to proper US-Canada relationships?
Well, here's some ground rule's I'd set down:
1. Work together. Literally. Make everything a kind of "united" approach, with committies and units that consult each other. Make people from both
sides feel that they are involved. Avoid alienating each other by placing control of things only in one country or the other.
2. Don't do it all at once. Sudden bursts of support to or from one or the other will make people think you're spending too much time with the
Yank's, and not enough time at home.
3. For every time you go to the US, the US has to come here. This takes some really nice wording and willingness to work together (as stated before),
but we Canadians hate being left out, whilst the White House seems to think we all have to come over there...
4. Keep Your Distance. Harper's doing this well right now. This is also kinda "part 2" to number 2. If you're doing a lot of stuff with the US,
spread it out. Don't rush it. Do something, make an announcement, let the beaurocrats work out something for awhile, then return for either a
different or related reason. If you see Canada-US relationships as front-page news twice in the same week, you're seeing the US too often.
5. If you absolutely have to talk to the US some more, do it in another country - neither US or Canada. Do it in some relevant country. If it's
border security, do it in Mexico. If it's European Trade or Politics, do it in Germany or Poland (two countries seen as being very "neutral").
6. Finally, make someone else more important. The US is very important, yes, but don't be afraid to bring in a third party. This third party can help
shoulder things and work things out. They also provide a balance by which the effectiveness of things can be judged.
So that's my advice to all you will-be prime ministers out there! To all you will-be presidents, be kind to the PM who chooses to use these words of