| CURRENT ISSUES : THE SEAMLESS BORDER
The value of boundaries
Carol Goar STAR COLUMNIST
Editorial Page Editor
BORDERS ARE inconvenient. They tie up traffic, impede commerce, complicate people's career plans and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain.
It has become fashionable in influential circles to ask why Canada and the United States need a border at all.
Paul Cellucci, the new U.S. Ambassador to Canada, prefers the term perimeter.
He would like to see the two countries jointly defend the entry points into North America and open up the 49th parallel. ``I believe we should think of the border not as a frontier, but as a meeting place," he said in a recent speech.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association is pushing for barrier-free access to the U.S. market. Its members estimate that border delays and customs regulations drive up the cost of their products by 6 per cent.
David Zussman, head of the Public Policy Forum, a think-tank with close ties to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, is calling for a senior ministerial committee to look into everything from relaxing border controls to adopting the U.S. dollar. He says
Canadians are ready to discuss forms of integration that were taboo just a few years ago.
Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew is committed to working toward seamless passage between Canada and the U.S. ``Borders must be seen as welcoming
thresholds, not forbidding barriers," he says.
It all sounds so logical, so natural, so harmless.
Those who question the wisdom of this rush toward continentalism are dismissed as timorous and backward-looking.
'`How one defends the status quo in a rapidly changing world is beyond me," says Toronto MP Maurizio Bevilacqua who chairs the House of Commons finance committee. He is calling for a no-holds-
barred debate on continental integration.
If there is to be such a debate - and it looks as if it's already begun - it is important that it be fair and honest. Canadians need to look at both sides of the issue, without pressure or name-calling. They need to hear the risks, as well as the potential benefits, of letting down their guard. They need answers to three pertinent questions:
Where does downgrading the border lead?
Fifteen years ago, when Ottawa embarked on free trade negotiations with the United States, Canadians were told that there would be no effect on their culture, social programs, health-care system or sovereignty. It was purely a commercial arrangement, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said.
Today, Canada resembles the U.S. in ways that go far beyond commerce. Social benefits, from unemployment insurance to welfare, have been chopped. Executive
salaries have soared. The gap between rich and poor has widened dramatically. A much larger share of health care is delivered by the private sector.
This time, open-border advocates owe it to Canadians to admit that they're talking about harmonizing immigration rules, weakening gun controls, standardizing tax policies and diluting citizenship.
How did the major Canada-U.S. border crossings get so badly clogged?
No one, except frustrated truckers, seems to have examined the possibility that they are simply understaffed. It might be useful for the politicians and economists who are advocating wholesale changes in customs and immigration policy to go out and count how many lanes of traffic are closed on any given day.
Cross-border trade has tripled in the last decade. The number of vehicles travelling between the two countries has increased dramatically. Yet Ottawa has
neglected to do what any private company, faced with a similar surge in demand, would do: hire more workers.
It is worth asking whether the system is really broken or whether it was wilfully mismanaged to convince people that borders have become a source of irritation.
Who determined that efficiency and convenience are the paramount goals of public policy?
Borders have purposes that go far beyond regulating trade. They define where home is. They allow a nation to decide the laws and policies by which its citizens live. They give a people a territory within which their values hold sway. They create a sense of community.
All these things once mattered to Canadians.
Nationhood meant more than material success.
Now, according to business leaders and their advocates in Ottawa, such attitudes are obsolete. What citizens really want, they contend, are bigger paycheques,better jobs, lower prices and more consumer choice.
They shrug off the protests that are erupting at every major trade gathering as a meaningless display of rowdyism by a misguided few. They brush aside concerns about sovereignty as knee-jerk anti- Americanism.
It's a clever sales pitch, but it is not at all clear who gave them the right to speak for Canadians. Nor is it clear that they reflect the will of the public.
Many things in life are inconvenient; having a child, supporting a family, being a loyal friend, working for a voluntary organization. People accept these obligations willingly.
It would be a mistake of historic proportions to assume that national independence is too much of a bother for Canadians.
Clark warns government against U.S. integration
'Harmonization' risks nation's sovereignty,
The Ottawa Citizen
Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark is warning Prime Minister Jean Chretien not to consider further economic or political integration with the United States.
In an essay published in today's Citizen, Mr. Clark says increased integration with the United States would threaten Canada's sovereignty and ability to set its own legislation.
"The U.S.A. does not find it easy to accommodate foreign interests. It would resist strongly any suggestion of harmonizing laws within North Americaunless 'harmonization' was a code word for Canada and Mexico accepting U.S. requirements," he writes.
Mr. Clark is responding to reports that some senior Liberals favour easing internal border controls to increase trade and facilitate the movement of people within North America.
Last week, International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew said told American manufacturers the Chretien government is committed to a "seamless" border between Canada and the United States.
Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has also said Canada and the United States should adopt a "NAFTA-plus" approach, which would harmonize trade, immigration and security policies.
This would create a "perimeter security zone" around Canada, the United States and, possibly, Mexico, which would reduce the need for border vigilance within North America.
Mr. Clark said trade can be increased by streamlining border procedures,not by harmonized laws and economic integration.
"We should not be mesmerized or misled by Europe's move toward close economic and monetary integration," he writes.
"The European experience rests on an internal power balance among a large number of states, some small, some powerful. That is not a particularly relevant model for North America. There is no country in Europe comparable to the United States ... nothing remotely close to what Canada
would face if we contemplated entering a customs union with the U.S. and Mexico."
>>>USING THE DOLLAR
Yes they do. There are quotes of their gurus favouring these...and more!
And just let them deny it!!
Their pollster has told them to be Sam Slick...
don't say what you mean...Canadians might get upset!
'Integration' talk with U.S. risky: pollster
Tighten ties, just don't use 'red flag' words,
Juliet O'Neill, with files from Janet Hunter
The Ottawa Citizen
EDMONTON -- Pollster Michael Marzolini has advised the Liberal government to steer clear of the terms "integration and harmonization" while tightening Canada's ties with the United States.
While the majority of Canadians want closer economic, social and cultural ties with the United States, the terms integration and harmonization "scare off half the public," Mr. Marzolini said in an interview yesterday.
His advice to the Liberal caucus was to "go slow" and don't use those terms.
And don't even think about abandoning the Canadian dollar in favour of the American greenback.
Canada-U.S. relations was one of the issues on which Mr. Marzolini polled 4,200 people last week in preparation for this week's federal Liberal caucus
He said 85 per cent support closer economic ties with the Americans and 75 per cent want closer social and cultural connections. But he found people in focus groups are scared away when the terms integration or harmonization are used.
And the poll showed 65 per cent oppose the adoption of the American dollar. "That's an over-my-dead-body issue," he said.
In his briefing to MPs, he described Canadians as much more outward-looking than ever and outgoing toward the United States, without the fears many Canadians expressed during the negotiations over free trade with the Americans.
Even those who admire and envy the Americans, however, "want to be Canadians."
The results were a boost for Maurizio Bevilacqua, the head of the powerful House of Commons finance committee, who recently called for a "no-holds-barred" discussion on the future of North America.
"I think the poll basically confirms what I have advocated in the past few months," Mr. Bevilacqua said.
"It does show that Canadians clearly understand the economic importance of the U.S. as our economic partner."
The debate needs to be conducted in a way that gets to the heart of the issues, Mr. Bevilacqua added.
"It is a debate that you have to face head on without skirting around the issues," he said.
Mr. Marzolini advised that measures to improve Canada-U.S. border crossings should be cast as "customer service" issues, not something bigger.
He found border hassles the third-biggest pet peeve of Canadians after hospital waiting rooms and Air Canada snafus.
"The trend is upwards in terms of Canadians wanting to get closer to Americans, but you have to build discussions up over time and I mean years,not months," he said.
"There are red flags all over it."
Mr. Marzolini's poll has a margin of error of three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.