Vancouver Sun: The North American Union


Richard Moore

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Sunday » August 19 » 2007

Will Canada become the 51st state?

The Security and Prosperity Partnership: what it's all about and what it could 
mean for Canadians

Kelly Patterson
CanWest News Service

Saturday, August 18, 2007

To some, it is a "corporate coup d'etat," a conspiracy by big business to turn 
Canada into the 51st state by stealth. Others see it as a plot to destroy the 
U.S. by forcing it into a North American union with "socialist Canada" and 
"corrupt Mexico."

It is the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a sprawling effort to forge 
closer ties among the three nations in everything from anti-terrorism measures 
to energy strategies to food-safety and pesticide rules.

Launched two years ago by then prime minister Paul Martin, President George W. 
Bush and his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, at the so-called Three Amigos 
summit in Waco, Tex., the SPP grew out of concerns that security crackdowns 
would cripple cross-border trade.

With juggernauts such as China and India looming on the horizon, the three 
countries agreed they had to act fast to stay competitive. Now the SPP has grown
into a mind-boggling array of some 300 initiatives, involving 19 teams of 
bureaucrats from all three countries.


Its stated mission is "to keep our borders closed to terrorism yet open to 
trade" by fostering "greater co-operation and information-sharing" in security 
protocols and economic areas such as product safety.

Little known in Canada, the accord, if implemented, could affect almost every 
aspect of Canadian life, from what drugs you can access to whether you can board
a plane and even what ingredients go into your morning cornflakes.

While you may not have heard of the SPP, you may have heard about some of the 
controversies it has sparked: Canada's adoption of a no-fly list, negotiations 
to lower Canada's pesticide standards to U.S. levels or fears the deal will lead
to bulk-water exports.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion charged Friday that, "under the veil of secrecy," 
Harper has let the Americans run roughshod over Canada, covertly using the SPP 
to impose a U.S. agenda on Canada. That's not what the Liberals intended when 
they signed the deal, which was meant to give Canada a stronger voice in 
Washington, not turn it into an"imitation" of the U.S., he says.

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians says it is big business that is calling
the shots, pushing aggressively for the harmonization -- and downgrading -- of 
everything from security norms to food standards, in a move that will lead to 
the "integration by stealth" of the three nations.

"Canadians would be shocked" if they knew the true scope of the SPP, says 
Barlow, whose Ottawa-based organization represents about 100,000 members.

Fringe groups such as the Canadian Action Party and the Minutemen in the U.S. go
further, arguing the SPP is a plot to sweep all three nations into a North 
American union.

"Where are they getting this stuff?" says Thomas d'Aquino, head of the Canadian 
Council of Chief Executives, which helped launch the SPP.

"This is a very nitty-gritty, workaday initiative" to make trade safer and more 
efficient through such steps as expanding border crossings and 
information-sharing programs on plant and animal safety, he says.

Other SPP projects are no-brainers, such as plans to cooperate in fighting West 
Nile virus and flu pandemics.

As for fears of a North American union, "anyone who believes that is smoking 
something," says d'Aquino.

This weekend, the debate hits the headlines across the nation as the three heads
of state and their advisers converge on Montebello, Que., 60 kilometres east of 
Ottawa, for the SPP's third annual summit.

Thousands of protesters are also expected to descend on the area, hoping to 
confront the "Three Banditos" about a deal they say is a secretive sellout to 
the cowboy capitalism and militarism of the superpower to Canada's south.

"We always hoped from the outset we could broaden it beyond security," says 
Roland Paris, a University of Ottawa professor who worked as an adviser in the 
Privy Council Office when the SPP was launched. He adds that the SPP's 
architects hoped the "regular high-level meetings" would help "overcome 
bureaucratic inertia."


But they also helped big business and its government allies bypass both the 
public and Parliament to push through a host of controversial changes without 
debate or scrutiny, critics charge. They say the accord has enshrined and 
fast-tracked a longstanding effort to quietly harmonize Canadian programs with 
those of the U.S. in everything from military policy to food and drug standards.

"The SPP is an unacceptable, closed-door process with enormous implications for 
Canadians," says NDP trade critic Peter Julian.

Roland Paris scoffs at charges the SPP is a grand design. If anything, he says, 
it is a timid collection of piddling efforts that has become bogged down in 
bureaucratic red tape.

"This is not a political vision of the future of the continent. If it were, it 
would be worth the fuss."

Defenders of the SPP dismiss concerns about regulatory change as fear-mongering,
saying the accord aims only to cut out minor, needless variations between the 
three countries.

The goal is to end the "tyranny of small differences" that can turn the border 
into a theatre of the absurd, says John Kirton, a University of Toronto 
professor and expert in the environmental effects of free trade.

If fact, the SPP could dramatically raise standards across North America, 
proponents say, because it promotes information-sharing among the three 

Scientists would swap data on everything from car safety to new chemicals, 
enabling regulators to better evaluate products and react more quickly to public
health threats.

The SPP also includes projects with obvious benefits for all three nations, such
as reducing sulphur in fuel and air pollution from ships, and coordinating 
efforts to curb plant and animal diseases.

All three governments insist that the three nations remain sovereign under the 
SPP: If Canada doesn't like the way the U.S. does something, it can go its own 

But NDP trade critic Julian is not so sure. He worries about the effect 
regulatory convergence will have in the future.

If, for example, Canada wants to pass new rules to deal with greenhouse gases, 
it could mean "Canada would have to go to Washington and lobby for the kinds of 
standards and protections they want," he says.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

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