Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

With our help, Harper and Obama may open the border issue

All the morning papers report that Stephen Harper and the White House are negotiating a New Border Vision: "A 21st century border management system" that will attempt to streamline north-south traffic and enhance continental security and intelligence sharing. Apparently there will be renewed emphasis on the “perimeter” which implies greater harmonization of each country's access rules and surveillance practices.
Since these negotiations were carefully leaked to the press, without a heads up to Canada’s minority Parliament, it is fairly safe to guess that the deal will carefully respect Canadian sovereignty.  The incremental nature of the negotiations is reinforced by the suggestion that a staff group (already with its own acronym, BBWG, for Beyond the Border Working Group) will be given 120 days to develop an action plan. Also, we are told that a similar deal was made with Mexico in March.
For those who believe that Canada and the US need and can have a wide open border, news that governments are working on the issue will generate mixed feelings.
It could be another distraction. Without addressing Canadian sovereignty, no great change is possible. As I’ve argued before:
Of course, the United States wouldn’t need the 49th parallel as a border if the security that border
provides could be guaranteed on Canadian soil and at all Canadian points of entry. Logically, this would mean that American security services could also ignore the border and operate in Canada as they operate at home. Unavoidably, this would trouble Canadians who care about Canadian sovereignty—the unqualified accountability of the Canadian government to Canadians for the actions of security officials operating in Canada. Yet, the President of the United States cannot delegate responsibility for American security, no strings attached, to any foreign power—even one as well regarded, brave and empathetic as Canada. After another terrorist attack, Obama can fire his Secretary of Homeland Security but he can’t fire Canada’s Prime Minister.
However, without truly opening the border, this New Border Visionconceived by a Canadian free-trader and a cosmopolitan Presidentshould demonstrate the limits of the status quo and prompt more creative thinking. As the passport requirement will surely continue, along with a floating currency and separate trade policies, Canadians might start questioning our status on this continent and the costs that escalate by being apart, by resisting even the logic of the European Union.

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