Friday, January 26, 2007

Daily Digest January 26, 2007

Joe Hueglin wrote:


ST.JOHN'S TELEGRAM - Danny’s version
Premier’s message might miss its mark upalong


HALIFAX NEWS - Temper, temper, Mr. Ambassador

HALIFAX HERALD - MacKay’s foray

HALIFAX HERALD - Smooth takeoff

MONTREAL GAZETTE - Gang destroyed but war continues

OTTAWA CITIZEN - Real talk on behaviour

Bungling O'Connor shackles MPs

TORONTO STAR - Nation still lacks anti-poverty plan

TORONTO STAR - Arar's corrosive effect

HAMILTON SPECTATOR - Don't lose our trust, Mr. Dion

K-W RECORD - Continue debate on youth crime

WINDSOR STAR - Personal responsibility

SUDBURY STAR - Wait-time goals set way too low =

SASKATOON STARPHOENIX - Modernize passports

REGINA LEADER-POST - Harper still has skeptics

REGINA LEADER-POST - Protect reservists


CALGARY HERALD - A fee-ing frenzy: Canadians have had enough of banks' nickel-and-diming

CALGARY HERALD - A welcome assurance

CALGARY HERALD - Let Greens join the debate

EDMONTON JOURNAL - The magic of U.S. democracy

VANCOUVER SUN - Suspicious, malicious -- the U.S. should take Arar off its blacklist

VANCOUVER PROVINCE - Throwing money at health-care system is not the solution

VICTORIA TIMES-COLONIST - Worrying signs on health care
Taylor's budget announcement welcome, but the rush to reform is looking dangerous


No NATO exercise for cash-strapped navy Video: Rob Gordon reports for CBC-TV

Winning the peace in Afghanistan "Thinking the unthinkable would be a useful start."
With the war with the Taliban bogging down, Pakistan appears receptive to new ideas

Purchase of Boeing C-17
Discord with the Conservative Cabinet

C-17: Ottawa opened the way with Boeing

Arar personal history keeps him on U.S. watch list: senior American official

A House united against the president

U.S.-bashing comes in many flavours

Alternative to estrogen found for menopause

Safe injection project 'quite a success'

Trial likely to boost calls for legalization of sex trade: RCMP report

Israeli refugees coming to Canada: Reports

Equalization confirmation sought
Calvert cautiously optimistic after Harper hints at keeping promise

Alberta may need to go nuclear
Fuel costs for oilsands becoming a headache

Women lose out, voting panel told
Proportional method would be better for Ontario, Citizens' Assembly on reform hears

Charest pushes free trade with Europe

Who'll eat crow in federal game of chicken?

Harper apologizes to Arar for torture in Syria

Bloc wants rethink on Afghan poppies

Clement hints cash will flow to help manage waiting times

Dion supports more safe-injection sites

Watch list worries It's been called the New McCarthyism.

Something's fishy with ambassador posting: critics
Federal fisheries minister brushes off patronage allegations

Tories, NDP eye ATM fees
Banks asked why other nations get cash for free

Tories mull cutting oil tax breaks
Under review: sources

Look to Mars for the truth on global warming

Jihadization of youth a ‘rapid process’: CSIS
Study of extremism

What are the important questions for Canada?

Vive le Canada libre – free from identity angst

Issue of Quebec sovereignty no longer on France’s radar

A renaissance in the dismal science

Ontario group threatens court action over Lord's Prayer


La FPJQ dénonce les pressions de Stephen Harper

Des millions pour l'entraînement, des milliards pour la mission

Ottawa n'a pas l'intention d'intervenir

# Les excuses présentées valent plus que les 10,5 millions $, dit Arar

# Les Américains garderont Maher Arar sur leur liste de surveillance

# Le Québec propose un accord de libre-échange canadien-européen

Blackburn demande à l'Alberta d'exporter du travail

D'autres troupes de l'OTAN attendues en Afghanistan

C-17: Ottawa a ouvert la voie à Boeing


        No comments from me tonight other than that the questions raised below are important questions for Canada and that the numbers of those
        receiving the Digest are significantly greater than that mentioned in the article.


Fri Jan 26 2007

Link Byfield
A hundred thank-yous (almost) to those who replied to my suggestion in a recent column that we should organize an on-line People's Parliament.

Six respondents said no. They thought such an assembly would achieve nothing. "This is the dumbest idea you have come up with yet," said one. "All you are going to get is a bunch of unskilled opinions."

Including his. For that is the whole point and genius of democracy -- that governments will be guided and checked by the unskilled opinions of a majority. We're all in it together, and we all get to speak. And while the process can be maddening, would you really rather live under anything else?

Many more people -- 82 at last count -- have said they think the People's Parliament should be tried. Among quite a few enthusiasm is high.

So we're going ahead.

Let's start at the start: What question should the People's Parliament be asked to decide?

Hundreds of important issues and reforms could be considered. But if the People's Parliament is to contribute anything useful in its inevitably brief life, what should it be?

What is the most important question of all?

The first concern of democracy -- especially a split-level federal democracy like ours -- should always be, "Whom do we trust with power?"

For example, you can ask, "Should there be a state medical monopoly?" But the first question has to be, "Who decides, Ottawa or the province?"

You can ask, "Should three-parent families be allowed?" But the first question must be, "Who decides, politicians or judges?"

You can say, "Prosperous regions should share through federal equalization." But first you must ask how federal governments can democratically account for provincial spending decisions.

Such discussions are complex in detail. My skeptical friend is right about that. But the underlying moral principles are actually fairly simple. And these considerations of moral responsibility come first.

The two principles on which we confederated in 1867 were that all governments (cabinets) must account to elected representatives, and that Ottawa would look after national things, provinces local things.

It was a radical idea at the time, but produced one of the most peaceful, productive, and generally decent countries in modern history.

But that was before we allowed governments to shift our emphasis from local and individual responsibility to national rights and entitlements.

It's not hard to explain to a public assembly the difference between the way we governed ourselves then (up to the Second World War) and the way we do now.

Neither is it specially hard to show that our federal system now erodes our two founding principles, and our national prosperity with it.

But the real question is a moral one. Upon reflection, do most Canadians even care?

That, in our view, is what this People's Parliament should be called into existence to discover.

For if the answer is yes, the country has a future.

And if the answer is no -- if we Canadians have become so mired in present entitlements we don't care what kind of country we leave to our children -- let's find out now.

So we get back to the question of the question.

What great matter should the assembly decide?

I'll write more about this later. In the meantime, any suggestions will be much appreciated (

Link Byfield is an Alberta senator-elect and chairman of the Citizens Centre, which promotes the principles of personal freedom and responsible government.


Hello Joe:
We are arranging an luncheon information meeting re the NAU for Feb. 10  in Oakville and wondered if you could possibly post the following  notice on DD.
Don Keir
Please be concerned about what is happening to your country (in secret)




FEBRUARY 10, 2007




'The Loss to/for Canada! What to do?'

TIME: 1:00 - 3:00 PM




Jacob Rempel

Subject: counterpoise

Real Gagne writes to Phyllis Wagg:
"In my view, society always needs a counterpoise to the state if tyranny is not to result.  Multinationals, with their considerable resources and vast reach, can be a part of that counterpoise.  So, by the way, can an alert and vigilant citizenry.  Which is why I applaud Phyllis for raising the issue."

My remarks in response to Real Gagne:

I too applaud Phyllis Wagg. I'm certain that Phyllis Wagg will
reply to Real Gagne with her own thinking, so please read this
only as my own opinion.
The continental integration of Canada's economy, resources,
security and social policies with USA corporation friendly
government policies, in accordance with the interests of
the multi-nationals(read American corporations), is hardly
the right counterpoise to Canadian government tyranny.
Rather, it is abject Canadian surrender to the very powerful
USA political/military/industrial super-power oligarchy and
its international enterprise(read war).
Canadian alert and vigilant citizens have been secretly 
by-passed by multinational CEOs and government officials
meeting virtually in secret and making agreements which
are also kept secret until they get implemented in accordance
with the wishes of the multi-nationals, which have a very
poor record of serving the interests of the people of Canada
or even the people of the USA who pay for their wars with
money and blood and morale.

....Jacob Rempel, Vancouver Kingsway

Robert Ede

Subject: 3 cigarettes in the ashtray & 3 questions re CWB

If the farmers are being 'treated' to a non-binding plebicite on the CWB, we already have rules for the procedure.
The most recent Federal experience with a non-binding plebiscite (erroneously characterized as a 'referendum') was conducted using the Referendum Act (1992, c30)
and excerpts

3. (1) Where the Governor in Council considers that it is in the public interest to obtain by means of a referendum the opinion of electors on any question relating to the Constitution of Canada, the Governor in Council may, by proclamation, direct that the opinion of electors be obtained by putting the question to the electors of Canada or of one or more provinces specified in the proclamation at a referendum called for that purpose.

More than one question
(2) A proclamation may direct that more than one question be put to electors.

Wording of question
(3) A referendum question shall be so worded that each elector may express an opinion on the question by making a cross or other mark after the word "yes" or "no" on the ballot paper.

See you
Phyllis Wagg

Re: comments of Real Gagne
My first and least important quibble has to do with her treatment of the notion of ideology.  In many respects, her argument (if I've understood it correctly) that democracy becomes the loser when ideologies are in the ascendant is essentially the same as that made by Professor Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University in his _Jihad vs. McWorld_ in 1995.  As I see it, both Phyllis and Barber are probably correct in their assessments.  Still, one wonders why Phyllis, who singles out both Conservatives and Liberals as examples of right and left wing ideologies, neglects to mention the NDP as an integral element of the political menagerie in this country.

            My reference to the Liberals and Conservatives refers to parties that have both achieved power nationally.  I did not think I needed to bring the NDP into the debate at this point because it seemed irrelevant to the discussion.   

My second quibble, is that in opposing the economic integration of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Phyllis ignores both the establishment and expansion of the European Union.  Is this because she disapproves of the first and supports the second.

            Again, the EU is not the issue and I have not studied it in great detail.  The reason that some have suggested that the EU works is that there is no dominant power as there would be in a North American union.  I have the same concerns when it comes to the decline in the value of democracy that such a union causes.  My understanding is that many of the same issues involved with North American integration and its effect on democracy are now plaguing the EU and have resulted in civil society attempting to reject further integration in order to protect itself.  

My third quibble is that use of the term "integrate" is not defined

This is a word that can be interpreted in a whole host of ways, some of which I could personally support and others that I cannot.  Personally, I need that definition before coming to a reasonable conclusion.

            I agree with this.  Although those involved with the process use the term “integration,” as well as terms like “facilitation,” and “convergence,” they do not define what they mean by these terms.  For example, would convergence mean the convergence of minimum wage regulations with that of Mexico?  Once we have in place the plan for whatever is intended by these terms it may be too late to discuss the important issues involved.

I turn now to my reservation.  In reading her thesis, I am drawn to the conclusion that Canadians must put their faith in the virtue and goodwill of governments, since we certainly cannot count on the intentions of the multinationals.  Without qualification, this is premise I cannot accept.  For me, the state is not a benign institution to be blindly trusted.  Like any other human institution, it is peopled with individuals with the same kinds of personal ambitions, weaknesses, unscrupulousness, and as open to corruption as the denizens of the multinationals.  Politicians always take into account an electoral calculus in determining public policy and the legions of bureaucrats who advise and support them have their own ambitions.  The interests of both politicians and bureaucrats are therefore not necessarily identical with what is normally referred to as the "public good."  And God knows that the twentieth century has provided enough evidence as to what happens when the state becomes too powerful, with Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung being three of the most egregious examples.  My question for Phyllis, therefore, is:  "Who will protect us from the state?"

Obviously you have missed my point.  Let me try to explain.  In a democracy, WE are the state.  The government is made up of the people we elect to operate the formal mechanisms of political power within the state.  Once civil society becomes disassociated from the state then we no longer have a democracy.   In theory, if not precisely in practice, it is not just our democratic right but our democratic duty to direct the government of the state (when ideology takes the place of democracy we give away our right and duty to do that). 

One of the fascinating implications of anti-statism is that it tends to make democratic control over the state the enemy.  Take the comment of Vice-President Chaney in the United States that his administration did not govern by polls.  When it was pointed out by the interviewer that he was referring to the last election Chaney reiterated that they did not govern by polls.  It is a challenge for civil society to maintain any kind of influence over government once this kind of mentality takes hold.

We no longer control our choices for representatives because we allow the party leaders, or their appointees, to dictate that choice.  Both the Liberals and the Conservatives (I am leaving out here federal parties that have never achieved power) may have different methods of ensuring centralized control over candidate selection but with the same result:  they control who represents us.  We cannot protect ourselves from the state when we allow those who control the state to assume absolute powers.  We cannot control the powers of the politicians when we simply shrug, because of partisanship or the game of politics, every time we are deceived by our politicians.       

There are basic questions here with regard to the conflict between individual rights and collective rights and the assumptions behind each concept but discussion is for another time. 

In my view, society always needs a counterpoise to the state if tyranny is not to result.  Multinationals, with their considerable resources and vast reach, can be a part of that counterpoise.  So, by the way, can an alert and vigilant citizenry.

            There are many organizations that can provide countervailing influences to the state:  labour organizations, community (including national) groups, provincial and municipal governments, farm organizations, trade associations, etc.  Multinationals are probably the last group that anyone should depend on to represent the interests of civil society because of their narrow focus:  the maximization of profit on a global basis.  What is seen here as the major asset of multinational “their considerable resources and vast reach” is also their major danger to democracy.  As their size and their power grow, so does their ability to control the government of the state, or a number of states, in their own self-interest.   

            In my opinion, the lack of public scrutiny and debate over the North American trade/integration/streamlining (whatever you wish to call it) issue is a symptom of the failure of our democratic system to control the governance of the state.

Phyllis Wagg

Odette Kalman
Victoria, BC

Hi Joe

By watching the great news about Arar receiving a well deserved settlement from our government,
I asked myself what is the reason behind the stubborn denial of the US government.

Some might disagree but I believe the only reason why the US government does not want to
take Arar from its list is the fear to become also liable to pay a settlement. For this reason only,
the US government won’t take Arar from its list.

Odette Kalman
Victoria, BC

Raymond Denson,

To: <>
Cc: "Joe Hueglin" <>
Subject: Afghanistan

The events of 9/11 are now being used by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor to justify the presence of our troops in Afghanistan, although no connection to the Taliban has ever been established. Most Canadians accept the official account of the 9/11 tragedy and refuse to examine the compelling evidence of deception and camouflage. To them the very idea that the American government would bring about the deaths of its own citizens is inconceivable.
I am reminded of the 1944 visit of Alexander Werth, Manchester Guardian correspondent, to Majdanek, the German extermination camp in Poland. He described the electrified fences, the gallows, the partially incinerated bodies in the crematorium and the tens of thousands of victims' shoes, all the work of a criminal government. His report was rejected by the BBC because what he had portrayed was "inconceivable".

Sometimes the inconceivable turns out to be true.

Raymond Denson,
 Thunder Bay

Mahmood Elahi
To: <>
Cc: <>,

Subject: Without sweeping Ontario, no party can form a majority government

The Editor
The Ottawa Citizen
Copy to: Mr. Darrell Bricker, President, Ipos Reid, Toronto.
Without sweeping Ontario, no party can form a majority government
Re "No party has support to force an election, win a majority: poll," (Jan. 23, page 6).
The biggest unanswered question of the 2006 election has been: Why, despite, Liberal sponsorship scandals and Prime Minister Paul Martin's inept campaign and Conservative leader Stephen Harper's winning every seat in Alberta and making a breakthrough in Quebec, the Tories won such a weak minority? The answer may be that the majority of voters in the nation's most populous and urban province of Ontario were not convinced of Mr. Harper's neo-conservative ideology of tax cuts for the rich and cuts in social spending for the rest.
Urban voters in Ontario are more concerned about crumbling mass transit systems,  lack of affordable housing, growing cost of post-secondary education  and growing disparities between rich and the middle classes. Neo-conservatives seem to have little interest to address these issues. As a result, Tories failed to win a single seat in Canada's three biggest cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In Ontario, they won only in Ottawa.
It may be reminded that the Liberals, led by Jean Chretien, won three back-to-back majorities by winning 100 of Ontario's 103 seats, even though the Reform/Alliance won almost all seats in Alberta. Despite the hype about Alberta's oil and gas resources, its entire population of 4 million is less than Toronto's 4.5 million. Democracy is about representation by population. By wooing Quebec's soft nationalist votes, Mr. Harper seem to have forgotten that the Bloc Quebecois has a lock on at least 50 of Quebec's 75 seats and if he cannot sweep Ontario, the Conservatives can win another weak minority government at best.
After 2007 election (which seems likely), we might be back to the future -- to 2006 -- when the Tories formed a weak minority government or even further back to the future -- to 2004 -- when the Liberals formed a minority government. Neither the Liberals or the Conservatives are in a position to replicate the performance of Prime Minister Jean Chretien who won all but a few of Ontario's seats and we might see only a succession of minority governments in the future. Both the Liberals and Tories must learn how to manage a minority government through bi-partian or multi-partisan coalition. Canada seems to have  joined the ranks of European democracies where multi-party coaliton is the norm.

Phyllis Wagg

Re: STRATOS response to North American Integration verses North American Union

            This is the kind of debate that should be taking place in the public domain but is not.  Instead the North American corporate sector are collaborating with the Executive branches of the federal governments to develop a plan in private that will be put before the legislative branch as virtually a “done deal” unless civil society can move the debate into the public forum.

            The idea of streamlining is an interesting one but that does not really describe the breadth of the issues that are included in the mandate given to the Secretariats by the North American Competitiveness Council.  For example, the Mexican Secretariat has been mandated to develop a plan for “energy integration.”  The mandate used the term “integration” not streamlining.  This issue can potentially affect the lives of every North American as the demands on energy resources expand faster than the supply.  Under NAFTA Canada can never diminish the percentage of energy sales to the U.S. even if there is an emergency in Canada requiring additional supplies.  We have sold our competitive advantage in energy and it not evident that there have been any benefits except to make the already wealthy far wealthier.     

Actually, the thing that disturbs people the most about "integration" is loss of national power and loss if identity. Loss of national power can be argued two ways: Canada would be influenced more strongly than it is now by outsiders (which isn't obvious to me), but Canada and its national partners could gain a lot by streamlining inter-partner procedures for movement of goods, capital, (workers?), etc.

The new Conservatives, when in opposition, appeared to be extremely concerned with provincial powers and even suggested the transfer of traditional federal rights to the provinces.  The reason they put forth is that smaller governments are more responsive to electors.  To take that argument to another level then, once the federal government transfers its powers to an unelected international body, the influence of civil society is weakened even further.  Many on the right of the political spectrum have opposed the United Nations for similar reasons. 

I have not been convinced that weakening the ability of the federal government to legislate or create common policies for the whole country is the answer.  This is where the contradiction occurs.  The federal government has been able to force provinces to relinquish their rights (e.g. over crown lands in the case of the Softwood Lumber agreement) through its treaty making power.  What is the difference in using the treaty making power to impinge on provincial jurisdictions and using financial power to do the same thing?   

 I would argue that the most effective means of destroying democracy has been the freeing of capital.  That is because the free flow of global capital means that it can be used by private interests to blackmail governments without any legal constraints:  the theory is that selfishness (self-interested individualism) is “good.”  Because politicians of all stripes support the freedom of capital they have absolutely no ideas on how to deal with problems such as environmental degradation, rapidly increasing inequality, and regional or even national economic decay.  In my opinion, the only freedom being promoted today is the freedom of those who control (not necessarily own) capital to pursue their own self-interests.  All other freedoms are considered inconsequential.

This creates a difficult dilemma.  When we limit the ability of national governments to legislate on behalf of civil society we undermine our national sovereignty and hence democracy.  At the same time, there is reason to believe that large national governments are not reflecting the needs of civil society.  That is what we need to change.

On the streamlining side, I don't think any country intends to create a supra-national agency controlled by another country (or by anyone else) without governmental supervision... this agency being necessarily governmental, it would obviously be supervised by participating governments. Thus, separate, inter-coordinated, national agencies, possibly with a central "board of directors" named by participating governments, and possibly with a single name, would arise. 

You are probably right as far as intention goes but when you look at how NAFTA operates you can see how such a body becomes a new level of bureaucracy. Do you have that much faith in government?  Take a look at the Canadian component of the North American Competitiveness Council.  As far as I can determine nine of the ten are associated with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and all members of the Canadian Secretariat come from the same special interest group.  This group is nothing more than an interest/pressure group representing the interests of the CEOs of the 150 largest Canadian corporations.  If an interest group is given such influence is trust in government not misplaced?  While those on the far right have always decried the influence of special interests such as poverty groups, women’s groups, and the more disadvantaged in society on more left wing governments it does not seem any better to have special interest groups representing the economic elite gaining sole influence?

On the loss of national power side ... I feel that no power would be really lost except for that of regulatory competition in some fields (with "regulatory" competition meaning that based on tailoring one's regulations to one's own benefit in relation to others). The "integrated" institutions would still be under government control or supervision, hence my opinion that reducing economic costs by streamlining inter-partner procedures won't necessarily lead to loss of national power. Plus, never doing something because it may lead to a narrowing of policy options in the future is a paradox: the "never doing" creed itself reduces options because some things, no matter how beneficial, could not be envisaged. We can thus say that preserving ultimate freedom of action is itself a good thing; but it may come at a high price if it conflicts with beneficial measures that are based on voluntary co-operation. In my mind, the benefits of "integration" (which I prefer to call "streamlining") are by far greater than the costs. Plus, think of the benefits: companies involved in cross-border business (not just multinationals, but also those who sell/buy to/from "foreign" customers"suppliers) would benefit from having to deal with a single set of rules (no export papers for the country of origin and different papers for the country of destination; faster customs clearing, co-ordinated security) and governments could work on a single infrastructure as opposed to a separate for each partner.

 My points above apply equally here.  Since the purpose here is to give a competitive advantage to North American multi-nationals, there is no one speaking for the intermediate and smaller businesses who will find the rules increasingly disadvantaging them.  Here in Nova Scotia 65 per cent of our workforce is now dependent on retail.  In other words, 65 per cent of our workforce is dependent on jobs that pay little more, on average, than minimum wage.  These jobs do not generally provide health/dental insurance or pension plans.  If this trend continues our public sector will not be able to provide even basic services as the tax base declines.  While this trend may be more advanced in places like the Atlantic Provinces it is a trend that is moving into Quebec and Ontario.  Small businesses are disappearing large multi-national chains are replacing locally owned retail operations and the sale of commodities has replaced value-added manufacturing.  The freedom of big capital, or those who control it, to destroy the freedom of civil society and small capital has increased markedly since the 1970s.

I remember when you could walk into you local bank and negotiate a business loan directly with the manager who used his local knowledge to decide whether you were a good risk or not.  That is a thing of the past.  Now those decisions are made centrally by people who have no local knowledge.  The decisions are generally in the negative because the focus is on large multi-nationals and consumer credit not a local competition and business development.  Attempts to go around these financial institutions by using credit unions and venture capital are limited by the control the chartered banks have over the monetary supply.

As concerns loss of identity: it ain't gonna happen. The horse has either already left the barn or the door is already closed and he's staying inside. On the "left the barn" side, goods and services are now overwhelmingly merchandized, to the point where we buy stuff without really looking into where it's been made, etc.

Speak for yourself; I generally try to find Canadian made goods because the quality is usually better.  I have even gone so far as contacting Stanfield’s to find out what store brands they make.  Unfortunately, there is no law against sticking a “Made in Canada” label on some product made elsewhere.  I look for produce grown Canada and make it my first choice. 

As long as safety and operational standards are met (and those are essentially identical in Canada and the US, with Mexico having to catch up), who cares where it comes from?

Do you realize how many chemicals are sprayed on imports that are potentially damaging to our health?  Walk into a dollar store or some other bargain retail outlet just at opening and take a sniff.  You are correct in saying that regulations have been standardized already meaning that the amount of pesticide residue on imported foods has been allowed to increase.  This is the result of increasing “convergence” and “self-regulation.”  The numbers of inspectors available to enforce the regulations is inadequate.

 If an electric shaver shaves well, all's well provided that it doesn't electrocute its users. In the latter case, electrocution is a safety thing leading to banning of sales within a country; it's not a "where does it come from" thing. Hence the "left the barn" argument: an item's being safe and suitable for use in Canada is all that matters.

In fact, a great deal of what is on the market is not safe.  Large retail operations are selling counterfeit items meant to appear to be brand names.  Some manufacturers test only a small number of items and allow a failure rate of up to 10 per cent under the theory that it is cheaper to replace a failed item than to increase manufacturing standards.  It is only when the threat of a lawsuit becomes a major concern that you get a recall order (such as with Sony batteries).

On the "door is already closed" side, some inter-partner realities make it so that a given country's policy options are limited. For example, remember what happened when the federal Liberals (Sheilaaaaa!) looked to passing a regulation that would require the addition of MMT to gasoline? The stuff would have reduced vehicle emissions but North American vehicle manufacturers claimed that it would plug up their sensors in their vehicle motors. The result: malfunctioning cars, invalidated warranties, precipitous decline in sales of North American vehicles, etc. The federal Liberals (Sheilaaaaaa!), humiliated, back down ... and they did the right thing. In that case, Canada's options were limited by an unforeseen reality. And it wasn't lobbying by US multinationals that were principally behind it ... it was physical reality and economic reality.

  Anti-Ameri canism: if it's acted on, it amounts to cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. As for the NAU: Malice in Cuckooland. There's no demand for it anywhere in North America. As for "integration" .. think of it as a poor choice of word, given the connotation. Someone someday is bound to come up with a more soothing term like "streamlining", which is what integration is really all about.

I disagree.  While someone may adopt a different term to try to soften the impact it would be nothing more than another PR exercise.  If you look at the implication of the Mexico-United States-Canada eight lane superhighway corridor, thousands of Americans stand to lose their land through expropriation.  This includes an estimated 500,000 acres of ranch land in Texas alone.  No matter what you call it there is an enormous impact in giving those who control capital the freedom to operate in their self-interest.  As I understand it, the contract for this highway has already been awarded to a German consortium.

I must admit that the dismay over integration/streamlining is an example of failure of leadership on this issue. No party these days seems to put much effort into exploring, formulating, and promoting policies covering this important subject, which means that the Canadian electorate repeatedly faces seemingly-stark choices without forewarning and with little time left for familirization, rumination, and deliberation. Hence, the somewhat-pervasive sense that government is run by and for self-interested "others": Canadians get the sense that no one ever asks them for their opinions and no one ever discusses with them what the future holds and what can and ought to be done to face it. This kind of thing can't be neglected for too long in a democratic setting: the "people" in time grow less and less co-operative and surprising things can happen (e.g. the cooling ardours of Europeans for anything hasving to do with the European Union, which is felt (justly) to be run by far-away bureaucrats). 

I agree.  However it would be a mistake to make it merely a PR exercise as columnists such as Barbara Yaffe suggest.

Right-o. Corporate arm-twisting is a reality in the US, but much less so in Canada (Mexico, I don't know).

I believe the corporate arm-twisting is just as strong in Canada today as it is in the U.S. although it is a more recent development. CEOs, and other executives, who make maximum contributions to political parties are still given special access to politicians and top bureaucrats through social events. 

Given that it takes two/three to tango for integration/streamlining to come about, Canada does have a de facto veto over specific issues, if it has the guts to face the consequences (i.e. the US going alone, with Canada having to submit to US border regulations). But Canada's no slouch when it comes to these things: the idea is to identify what is suitable for integration/streamlining and then working out the details. 

The Softwood Lumber Deal may challenge this contention.  It appears to me that there is very little on which we do not give in to American (or corporate) demands.

  There is absolutely no doubt that Stephen Harper and his new Conservatives support the concept of integration just as did the Liberals under Jean Chretien and especially under Paul Martin who signed the SPP.  The Conservatives placed their support on the record in the 2004 Conservative Platform which sets out a plan to: “Enhance our NAFTA relationship with the United States by moving towards harmonized tariffs, eliminating rules of origin, and moving beyond trade to pursue enhanced common labour, environmental, and security standards.” 

If we were to consider Canada to be a standalone country, then tariff harmonization would make no sense. But if we think of Canada as being part of a greater whole (North America), then the context changes. The idea behind tariffs (apart from their being a source of federal revenue) is to benefit or protect domestic industries from competition by giving those industries a price advantage. However, different tariffs for items that come from outside two trading partners (Canada and the US, in this case), complicates things: if a good or service can enter the country that has the lowest corresponding tariff, from which it could then be passed on to the other country, then tariff differences become a way for outsiders to get around one country's tariff protection. This leads to "rules of origin" agreements between the two countries: to reduce the impact of tariff-bypassing, these rules limit the percentage of foreign goods and services that can go into a product manufactured in one country and sold into the other. For example, something like 50-60% of parts (by value?) for car manufactured in Canada have to be of North American origin. Beyond this percentage, the US sticks tariffs on cars made in Canada. The same applies to cloth for men's suits, etc. Thus, if we consider Canada to be a country that is not a stand-alone, then tariff harmonization makes sense of rules of origin agreements are abolished .. one country would no longer have to worry on its partner competing against it by lowering tariffs. Of course, the problem then becomes who decides what tariffs are to be imposed, which is where much more discussion needs to take place. Neither Canadians nor Americans will accept a foreign government's dictating tariff policy on the other. I'm curious to see if and how this all works out.

There is also the problem of trading partners.  The U.S. is trying to force Canadian companies into abandoning trade with countries like Cuba because the U.S. considers it government by an enemy power.  Once “convergence” is in place its effect will impose itself on every aspect of life in North America.

The idea here is for national governments to keep an eye on and either disrupt or regulate monopolists and cartels, whether local or national in scope. On the other hand, costs that fall excessively on the shoulders of certain people in a given country should be compensated for by other means, hence Canada's safety net. I can't comment on the details here since I don't have the needed expertise but the generally speaking we should not always seek to adulterate trade agreements for "social" reasons: seeking the best agreements and adjusting our social arrangements accordingly is an approach that we should always consider.

There is a central question here over values.  What or who is most important?  Is trade something apart from, and above, society as a whole in importance?  Or is trade a means of creating a vibrant and prosperous society?  It appears to me that your comment, and the general trend today, is to idealize trade as something above and apart from its social value.  That is where a progressive conservative (who, like traditional conservatives, focus on society as a whole) differs from the new conservative (who, like traditional liberals focus on the individual). This loss of concern for the welfare of the civil society leads to an overall focus on special interests, which has become the requirement of achieving political power.  In other words, consensus building is a bad word, and PR takes its place.   
On the other hand, governments should have the freedom to agree to beneficial arrangements even if they limit future maneuverability.

Why?  What about the law of unintended consequences?  What if we decide to integrate energy with each North American country getting a pre-determined share and suddenly the public demand in one country is increased because of a natural disaster?  Would you consider it “right” and just to engage in an agreement that dictates the death of thousands of Canadians?  Remember Ralph Klein’s comment about letting Easterns free in the dark rather than share resources?  Could we expect anything different from a U.S. Administration that acted so callously when the destruction of it own citizens in New Orleans was a probability? 

You can't have your cake in the future if you eat it now, and vice versa (assuming that you don't want to sell it or otherwise get rid of it). But that doesn't mean that you should never eat your cake for lack of future options thereafter: in that case, what's the point of having a cake? C'est l'ironie mais c'est la vie. Half-baked (pun!) non-committal doesn't cut it (pun again!) these days. 

Maybe rather than cake we should be happy with whole wheat bread!!!!  It might just be better for us in the long run.

Phyllis Wagg