Forty years later, Paul Martin has followed in Lester Pearson's footsteps:
A day after Prime Minister Paul Martin explicitly linked the softwood lumber dispute with U.S. access to Canadian energy, two Liberal cabinet ministers insisted he hadn't and the opposition parties decried the move as a political stunt.
In a speech in New York Wednesday night and in an interview on CNN, Mr. Martin warned Americans that their government's refusal to accept a NAFTA panel's ruling in Canada's favour on softwood could jeopardize energy flows.
"The Prime Minister did not make a linkage between softwood and energy, but he did make the point that NAFTA itself is drawn into question when NAFTA's rules are obviously ignored," Mr. Goodale said. Revenue Minister John McCallum said virtually the same thing in an interview outside the House of Commons.
Elsewhere, the speech was broadly interpreted as constituting both linkage and a threat. Reaction from business leaders was swift and negative.
"It's nonsensical," said Jack Mintz, head of the right-leaning C. D. Howe Institute. "It's right for Canada in its own interest to maximize the price at which we can sell our energy. But to settle the softwood lumber dispute, does that mean we undersell energy products?"
Anne Golden, president of the Conference Board of Canada, was equally dismissive. "The bottom line is a trade war would hurt both partners, but we're the smaller contender and we would be the biggest loser," she said. "We need NAFTA, we've done very well under NAFTA. It's not in Canada's interest to abandon it."
Paul Martin has had nearly two months to pick up the phone and call the White House to discuss the softwood lumber ruling. The time and place to talk tough is to George Bush's face, not at the Economic Club of New York.
This passive-aggressive approach makes him look feeble and foolhardy at the same time. He's talking tough to everybody else in the States except the people who can actually do something about it, before whom he falls mute.
He's raised the stakes with a threat about cutting off Canadian oil without the means to back it up.
If the U.S. ever has a doomsday energy crisis, they'll remember Paul Martin's comments, and govern themselves accordingly.
Source: Globe and Mail