Thursday, July 14, 2005

Who Speaks For Canada?

Since Canadian foreign policy seems to consist largely of empty moralizing combined with knee-jerk anti-Americanism and a naive faith in the United Nations, our provincial premiers have decided to step into the void, in defence of their provinces' trade interests:

Premiers are expected to discuss moves next month aimed at increasing their muscle on the international scene, including the possibility of provincially organized trade missions now that Paul Martin has discontinued the traditional Team Canada exercise.

The proposal, which officials hope to put on the agenda at the premiers annual meeting in Banff, Alta., arose as provincial and territorial leaders examine ways to strengthen the role of the Council of the Federation. The idea follows a decision by the western premiers this spring to co-ordinate their own mission to Washington, and to organize a promotional business effort on Asia. It also comes on the heels of a recent joint visit to Texas by New Brunswick's Bernard Lord and Manitoba's Gary Doer.

The move is expected to be put on the portion of the premiers' agenda that deals with international issues and relations with the United States. It would almost certainly tweak the Prime Minister's nose.

More influence in international trade issues could enhance the premiers' capability to comment on federal initiatives. Recently, for example, a Conservative MP unveiled a private member's bill designed to upgrade Canadian relations with Taiwan, which some provincial officials have found wanting.

On the surface, this initiative doesn't look like much more than a typical trade promotion junket. But what it reflects is an increasing disenchantment with our federal government's ability to promote and defend the entire country's interests.

As much as I support provincial power, foreign affairs and trade is rightly the domain of the federal government. Only the federal government can speak as an equal with other foreign states. There should only be one voice when Canada speaks on the world stage.

Provincial governments do have legitimate foreign interests, but those interests should be expressed through the federal government, not through the provinces which may be at cross purposes with the feds and with each other.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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