When American political leaders make declarations about what life is really about, and include Canada along with the U.S. in the subject line, usually the interventions reveal how little American politicians know about Canada. It is a useful endeavour to have them speak, nonetheless, since it helps remind us what differentiates Canadians from Americans.

This week we had an example. The former governor of Massachusetts, William F. Weld (aspiring-to-be U.S. Ambassador to Mexico) spoke to reporters in Washington (with Mexican and Canadian sidekicks) about a proposal he is championing of creating a supposed North American community. What he should have said was that Rome is not built in a day, a safe cliché. What he did say was that his proposal would take some time but after all, it had taken five years to fight the Second World War.

Now, in Canada we declared war in September, 1939. The U.S. waited to recognize the threat of fascism until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour wiped out their naval base, including much of its Pacific fleet in December, 1941. Since the war ended at the same time for both countries, what does his example tell Canadians?

Canadians are not Americans; that is the subtext when the message of the ex-Governor is decoded. Many Canadians understand this important distinction. American political figures have no need to understand it. Some Canadian leaders have other ideas. That too was apparent from the goings-on at the Washington photo op.

The oh-so-prestigious U.S. Council on Foreign Relations called on Governor Weld (in the U.S. once a governor, always a governor, once an ambassador, always âe¦ etc.) to be the American co-chair of a commission on North America it was co-sponsoring along with the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations, and — wait for it — the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

Why was the partner not the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, the natural counterpart to the New York-based Council? Probably because CCCE chieftain Tom d’Aquino did not trust them to go full out with the initiative: erasing the border.

Mr. d’Aquino is vice-chair; his Canadian chair is John Manley. A one-time rival to Paul Martin for the leadership of the Liberals (he quit shortly after entering the race), Manley was offered the job of representing Canada in Washington. Apparently he prefers representing business to Canadians.

The Chairman’s Statement — there will be a full report later — was designed to set the agenda for the upcoming three-country meetings of heads of government at Baylor University on March 23. It reads like a business wish list.

If what the self-styled Independent Task Force on the Future of North America wants were ever to be accepted, Canada would no longer have a foreign policy, because it would no longer be an independent state. Instead it would be an American trust territory, waiting for admission to the Republic to the South.

The Martin government should be distancing itself from the report. Any Canadian government should do this as a matter of course. If Martin and his cabinet do not make it clear that they have no intention of moving further towards ceding sovereignty to the U.S. state and business, we can assume that Canada will be pushing for the adoption of whatever steps to more continental integration the Americans will agree to, as soon as Martin wins a majority government.

Duncan Cameron

Duncan Cameron

Born in Victoria B.C. in 1944, Duncan now lives in Vancouver. Following graduation from the University of Alberta he joined the Department of Finance (Ottawa) in 1966 and was financial advisor to the...