By Norman Leach
Business Edge News Magazine
Canada’s relationship with the United States has always been one built on give and take, but it has never been easy.
In 1920, the Canadian military finally agreed that an invasion of Canada from the south was not our biggest threat and stopped practising defence against a U.S. attack.
In 1944, mostly based on wartime production, Great Britain fell to second place and the U.S. became our biggest trading partner. From the Auto-Pact to NAFTA, both Canada and the United States have looked for ways to work together, not always for mutual benefit but certainly out of self-interest.
Many in Canada feel the U.S. is somehow acting against Canada. They cite numerous “anti-Canada” actions as proof. The reality is that the U.S. is not against Canada. They just don’t care. Canada has become, for the most part, irrelevant to the future of our big brother to the south.
Before anyone shouts it is all about Trump, it is not! This decline in the relationship happened way before Trump. When President George Bush did not thank Canada for its role after the 9:11 attacks, we should have seen it as the canary in the coalmine. Bush did not “forget” to thank Canada; he chose not to.
We are now at a place in which decisions are being made with no consultation whatsoever. GM closes its plants and the Government in Ottawa is caught off guard. At one point, the U.S. needed our energy. Not anymore. Canada has very little that the U.S. needs – including markets.
The response from Ottawa is that we can simply “sell to someone else”. Here lies the challenge. There is no one else to sell to, at least not in the short term. Anyone who has ever run a business – and sadly few of our politicians have – know that there is no market just waiting for Canada.
Europe? They are currently getting what they need elsewhere. The same thing goes for Asia, Africa, Central America, South America – the list goes on and on.
To open these markets to Canadian business, we need solid relations at both the government and business levels, and we need time. Sadly, Canada has neither. We have spent very little time building business relations in potential client countries, and as the U.S. declines as a market for our commerce, we have less and less time.
Where does that leave us? Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said, “If you do not believe personal relationships impact on international relations, you understand neither.”
Let’s hope whoever is elected in October understands both.
Norman Leach is an Edmonton-based international business consultant, author and historian. He is interested in the intersections of government, business and citizens. Norman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.