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        Canada’s US Friendship Hits a Reefer Snag


By Robert Lusetich, Los Angeles Correspondent 
Source: Herald Sun  


       Back To Canada’s Main Section Start Page




 The long-standing alliance between the US and Canada, strained at best in recent months, is officially going to pot.

Canada, which was a vocal opponent of the US war against Iraq – resulting in President George W. Bush cancelling today’s scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chretien because it clashed with the weekend visit by John Howard to his Texas ranch – is now infuriating the US with plans to decriminalise marijuana.

"You expect your friends to stop the movement of poison to your neighbourhood," said the Bush administration’s drugs czar, John Walters, who fears drugs will seep through the border shared by the two countries.

It is just the latest example of Canadians not doing anything right in US eyes, from Mike Weir (a left-hander to boot) winning America’s most prestigious golf tournament, the Masters, to the suspicion by some Americans that Canadians are spreading SARS south of the border.

And it all has the Canucks – whose gross domestic product relies heavily on trade with their southern neighbour – worried.

The man who is favoured to replace the maverick Mr Chretien next year, Paul Martin, has called for a cabinet-level committee to try to repair relations with the US.

"Our bilateral relations must be conducted on a far more sophisticated basis than (they have) been to date," he said.

Another leading Canadian politician, the Canadian Alliance party’s Jason Kenney, accused Mr Chretien of "mismanaging our most important bilateral relationship".

"Relations between Canada and the US are at their lowest level in years and there is no doubt the White House is sending a signal (in failing to reschedule Mr Chretien’s meeting with Mr Bush)."

Although there were existing tensions on trade issues, the bad blood between the long-standing allies boiled over in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. A Canadian cabinet minister said Mr Bush was "not a statesman", senior Chretien aide Francois Ducros called the US President "a moron" and Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish referred to the "damned Americans".

"I hate those bastards," she said.

"Those remarks did not go by unnoticed," said Thomas D’aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, whose organisation worried about the economic impact of upsetting the US.

The US ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, warned of the strain on relations and said there was "disappointment . . . and concern" in Washington about Ottawa’s positions.

But in truth, insiders say, Mr Bush has long loathed Mr Chretien, a liberal – and great friend of Bill Clinton’s – who publicly supported Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election.

"Chretien crossed diplomatic lines in showing support for Gore," said Chris Sands, an expert on US-Canada relations at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"Before September 11, Bush found Chretien a pain in the neck, but they were both professional enough to keep it under control. Since 9/11, it has got steadily worse."

Canadian firms have also noted that their telephones aren’t ringing off the hook as contracts go out to rebuild Iraq.

The SARS scare in Toronto – where 23 people so far have died of the respiratory disease – hasn’t helped either.

Cruise ships in the US stopped accepting Torontonians and tour buses from Canada’s biggest city were being turned away by casinos at Niagara Falls.

"If you visit Canada," Niagara Falls, New York, mayor Irene Elia told her residents, "you should wash your hands frequently."

Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Author: Robert Lusetich, Los Angeles Correspondent
Published: May 06, 2003
Copyright: 2003 News Limited
Contact: hseditor@hwt.newsltd.com.au
Website: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/

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