Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Fences Make Good Neighbours (Robert Frost)

By Chantal Hebert, Toronto Star, February 7, 2011
Since 9/11, the nature of the trade-offs involved in maintaining a fluid Canada-U.S. border and a healthy trade relationship has changed. They involve matters that were never central to the discussion in the late ’80s. Immigration, for instance, is one of them.

Given that, there will be those who will be troubled by the notion that the only way to hang on to the existing benefits of the FTA and NAFTA is to accept more integration. There will be questions about whether that means Canada is on a slippery slope, poised to give up more and more of its sovereignty just to maintain its existing advantages.
Given that in the past decade U.S. protectionism has regularly trumped negotiated protocols, there will also be those who will ask whether the trade regimen that Harper is seeking to consolidate will — this time — be worth more than the paper that it will be written on.
Those questions are bound to resonate within Liberal ranks — and in particular within the party’s vocal nationalist wing.
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae raised some of those very points in an interview with the Globe and Mail last week.
While Rae was careful not to take a definitive stance on Harper’s bid, his prudence and that of his party’s current leadership stand in stark contrast with the enthusiasm of Liberal elder statesmen, such as former deputy prime minister John Manley and former ambassadors Raymond Chr├ętien and Frank McKenna. They have all openly cheered Harper on as he launched the process towards a continental perimeter.

Mending Wall,
by Robert Frost (from Simram Kurana on

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Stephen Harper has opened negotiations with the U.S. on some form of continental perimeter security system, including changes to the border along the 49th parallel.
Harper is committed to this increased engagement with the U.S., as are the "right" wing of the Liberal Party, like John Manley and Frank McKenna.
And then there is the 'nationalist' wing of the Liberal Party, that sees any further enmeshment of Canadian affairs with the U.S. as a "red flag" of danger for many reasons. The NDP is almost exclusively opposed to further enmeshment.
It was the American poet, Robert Frost who gave us the "good fences make good neighbours" line and in the next election, Canadians might well seek to deliver that line back to both Mr Harper and the U.S. government.
We do not want their guns finding easy access to our country. We do not want their drug cartels finding easier access to our country. We do not want their border guards guarding our country, inspite of people like Joe Lieberman who think we do not protect Americans from terrorists adeuately. We do not want to pay for their security technology around the outside of their country, where it does not abutt our's. We do not want to see Canadian national decisions based on only two issues: trade and terrorists, as the Americans do.
And, as an old saying goes. because we Canadians sleep beside an elephant, "when American gets a cold, Canada gets pneumonia".
We are a very different country from the U.S. We think differently; we act differently; we make decisions differently (if at all); we celebrate different life goals for our people, goals like making a difference to humanity without a Peace Corps, like not requiring our citizens to bear arms, like not upholding a 'second amendment right to bear arms,' like not deciding everything by the addiction to our GDP, like not requiring a mega-military establishment for 'security'....and the list goes on.
It is in the preservation of our differences that Liberals have fought federal elections in the past, and, by the way, have won in some cases.
And clearly, with Harper doing an end-run around the provinces to even enter these negotiations, and doing is basically in secret, words like "integration" of our markets and our security with the U.S. will serve as debating points for Harper and the 'right, against "sovereignty" and "nationalism" on the left. And the Liberal Party will be attempting to straddle the divide, seeking a Canadian compromise, and some balance for two very good reasons: they will want to maintain a respectable distance from the behemoth that is the U.S. and they will want to preserve their party's historic commitment to things patriotic, unique and different.
And, we support the 'left' wing of the Liberal Party, in this debate, especially as negotiations over water and the bounty of natural resources in Canada over the next decade(s) will heat up, and will or could threaten Canadian sovereignty in a very substantial way.
As a nation, we would do well to flex those nationalist muscles in this round, so that they will be "in shape" for the really big rounds to come.
Many Canadians believe, for example, that water is a human right, not merely another product to be sold by corporations to the highest bidder. The U.S. economy, political class and its people generally believe that everything is 'for sale' and that chasm is not going to be bridged or negotiated easily.
The  American beast is not easily contained, especially when there are some $2billion worth of trade crossing the border every day between the U.S. and Canada. Our government's hands are not nearly as 'strong' in terms of economic, fiscal, military, and even security 'might'....It is only by holding to our legitimate position that Canada can resist the U.S. charm, as well as its fear and its hard power. That is only what can be expected from a "good neighbour" who wants to continue to repair "good fences".

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