Canada—U.S. Relations—Some Thoughts about Public Diplomacy
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 10 Nov 1983, p. 101-115
Gotlieb, Allan E., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Differences between the two countries understood by Canadians, but perhaps not by Americans. Canadians not foreigners to Americans. Canadians behave differently; why is that important? Management of the differences. A complex relationship; possibly not greatly asymmetrical. An interdependence of interests. Acid rain. American foreign policy to Canada is really domestic policy. A discussion of the dynamics of the relationship.
Date of Original
10 Nov 1983
Language of Item
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Full Text
NOVEMBER 10, 1983
Canada - U.S. Relations - Some Thoughts about Public Diplomacy
CHAIRMAN The President, Douglas L. Derry, F.C.A.


As everyone is aware, today's luncheon is our Remembrance Week Luncheon, and on this important occasion I ask BGen. Andrunyk, a distinguished Past President of the club, to speak for a few minutes on its significance.


Mr. President, Your Excellency, distinguished head table guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: Tomorrow marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the First World War. It is a day we now commemorate as Remembrance Day. It is a day when we pause to reflect and recall and pay tribute to nearly 106,000 of our fellow Canadians who died in the service of our beloved country for the principles of freedom and justice upon which Canada was founded and for which she continues to stand.

It is also a day when we should take time to reflect on the price of freedom and our responsibility to those who have paid that price. Their sacrifice should remind us that the price of freedom, as well as peace, is expensive. It is a price we all have to share.

Finally, Remembrance Day should remind us that two basic human qualities are essential for the greatness of any nation. I can do no better than quote from the words of Brigadier Milton Gregg, a distinguished Canadian, an outstanding soldier, and a holder of the Victoria Cross, who in 1975 said:

I believe we can turn our backs on the prophets of gloom and dire calamity and foster a new buoyancy of spirit in the years ahead. We have come to realize that unselfish service and individual sacrifice do achieve the most worthwhile rewards in life. By seeing to it that these qualities will continue to prevail in Canada, we will be paying the highest possible tribute to those whom we honour this Remembrance Day.

I now invite you to rise and stand in silence for a moment to pay tribute to those who died in the cause of freedom everywhere.



Thank you, General Andrunyk. Distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: The relationship and interrelationship of Canada with the United States is a topic which has been of vital ongoing concern to Canadians throughout our history. Twenty years ago on Canada's birthday, Charles Ritchie, then Canadian Ambassador to the United States of America, raised questions which are quoted in his recently published diary:

Can our country survive as an independent, united sovereign state - a reality, not a fiction? Or must we fall in the embrace of the USA? We struggle in the net, make fumbling attempts to find our way out, but all the time are getting deeper in, both in terms of our defence and the control of our economy. While Mr. Ritchie happened to address that issue twenty years ago, I expect that today's speaker might agree that the questions raised are equally applicable today - as was indeed the case a hundred years ago.

Although this subject is one which has concerned us as long as Canada has existed, it by no means suggests that our interest in the subject is in any way diminished. Few subjects raise the concerns and ire of Canadians more than the influence of the most powerful country in the world upon us, versus the price of attempting to lessen that influence and exert ourselves as a nation, or of the economic opportunities lost through programs designed to address the issue, such as FIRA or the National Energy Program. A different dimension of our relationship with the United States is getting considerable current attention in the wake of events in Grenada - from some quarters it is suggested that at a diplomatic level we are not close enough.

So it is with great interest that we welcome today our Ambassador to the United States to discuss current relations with our closest neighbour.

Born in Winnipeg in 1928, Mr. Gotlieb attended the University of California; Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar and received his bachelor and master degrees; and Harvard, from which he graduated in 1954 with a degree in law. He was on the Board of Editors of the Harvard Law Review and became a barrister of the Inner Temple in 1956. Mr. Gotlieb has lectured at Oxford, and been a professor at Queen's, Carleton, and Ottawa universities.

Mr. Gotlieb is also the author of three books: Disarmament and International Law, Canadian Treaty-Making and Human Rights, Federalism and Minorities. In addition, he has published many articles in the fields of political science and domestic and international law.

Since 1957, Mr. Gotlieb has been with the Canadian government, where he has held a variety of increasingly responsible, and I am sure, interesting posts. He started with the Department of External Affairs where he remained until 1968, serving in Ottawa, Geneva, and at the United Nations. In 1968 he was appointed Deputy Minister of the then new Department of Communications. In 1969-70 he was Chairman of the Federal Enquiry into Telecommunications in Canada, and the next year he was Co-Chairman of a government task force on Privacy and Computers. From 1973 to 1977 he was Deputy Minister of Manpower and Immigration and during that period he was also named Chairman designate to the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission.

In 1977, Mr. Gotlieb was appointed Under Secretary of State for External Affairs, and in December 1981 he presented his credentials to President Reagan as Ambassador to the United States of America.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Mr. Allan Gotlieb to report to us today on the current state of Canada-United States relations.


Mr. President, ladies, and gentlemen: Coming to Toronto to talk about Canada-United States relations is a bit like going to Salzburg to talk about Mozart. The speaker has to be very careful what he says.

At the outset, and in a spirit of congratulation which I hope you will later on reciprocate for my speech, though I am by no means sure, I should underline that I find it understandable that much of the worry about Canada-United States relations that goes on in this country should be centred in Toronto. This city contains most of our English-speaking economic nationalists.

I remember that in school, the single word Sir could be used to address in precisely different ways a teacher who was either a beast or a prince, a simpleton, or a sage. So it is with the word nationalism. I think it is possible to use the word in a positive way, in the sense of some of the good things that have happened to this country in the last fifteen or twenty years. Most of them are self-evident in this city. There is a cultural self-confidence that honestly would have been unthinkable not too long ago. Moreover, the self-confidence of Toronto is outward-looking. You know that you live in one of the most interesting cities in North America, indeed in the world, and also in one of the most livable and most efficient. You are right to think that on the local level you all have the priorities pretty well right. The schools are good; the public transportation is clean, safe, and frequent; and basic services, such as health care, are available to everybody at a minimum of inconvenience and personal cost. I'm not saying this just to flatter you. It is germane to the subject of my talk. I live in a very beautiful and well-known American city where the quality of these basic services is not comparable to your own. It constantly amazes me that most of the people I meet don't seem to be too bothered by such inadequacies. I hasten to add that there are many well-known great and splendid things about the United States of America but the availability of health care at minimal cost and the frequency of urban mass transport - particularly on the weekends - in its cities, are not among them. To see the vitality of downtown Toronto on a sunny autumn afternoon - that makes one proud of what Canada is doing with its cities.

In making comparisons, I am not making a value judgement. It is just a symptom of different ways in which the two countries have developed. Those differences are pretty well understood by Canadians. Not all of these differences are in our favour, by any means, but we Canadians accept the unfavourable comparisons along with the favourable as a rather natural thing on the very reasonable basis that we are, after all, different countries.

If you think that I am stating the obvious, I am. Obvious to you, but not obvious at all to Americans, or at least to the American process.

You know, I've come to realize after two years in Washington and extensive travel in the United States, that there is at the heart of our relationship the fact that out there both in the grass roots and in the cities, Canadians are often not really seen by Americans as foreign. We are neighbours, friends, cousins, fellow North Americans; we are Canadians, but we are not foreigners. When Peter Jennings was recently named anchor at ABC, Roone Arledge, head of ABC news and sports, was asked if there was a downside to having a non-u.s. citizen as anchorman of one of the three most influential news broadcasts in the country. I can't recall his precise words but they were something like, "Well, you know, he's not really a foreigner, he's a Canadian." Well, this view of Canadians is an enormous and certainly unique compliment to us. It gives us opportunities and advantages and I will discuss some of these later. But if there is a downside to this view of Canadians - and perhaps there is - it is that if we are often perceived as Americans, then there is surprise when we don't behave like them. The view might then be that we are behaving like confused or naughty Americans or even perverse ones. Whatever the perception, the reasons why we sometimes need to behave quite differently from them is not fully appreciated, and this is why I believe it is essential for Canadians to engage in public diplomacy in the United States; to explain Canada, to encourage Canadian studies in the United States; to export our cultural products and achievements, to create greater understanding of our Constitution, political system, and history. We have to explain these things to understand that we are indeed different, because of our very different geography, our vast expanses, our scattered populations, our thin bank along the border, our regional character and diversity, our bilingualism and multiculturalism, our degree of foreign investment and control. We will always have national policies in Canada - whatever the party in power - aimed at cementing our sovereignty, strengthening our unity, our east-west axis or ties, our transportation links, our access to our North, our languages and cultures; and aimed at enhancing our ability to strengthen our nationhood and benefit our peoples. Americans, with good reason, do not speak of their national unity and their national identity: they never speak of their sovereignty or independence. That is not part of their vocabulary. All these differences spring from the fact that we are different political entities with significantly different challenges and problems to face. It is important for our closest friends, with whom we share most of this continent, to understand that when we Canadians behave differently from them, and when differences create some conflict between us from time to time, the policies from which they arise are not anti-American, not in the least. They are just pro-Canadian.

What about the management of our differences? With every other country in the world, we can limit government intervention, by and large, to necessary relations with the other country's national government. When there are problems, the two administrations relate to each other in a way designed to iron them out. But with the United States, it does not necessarily happen that way. This is particularly true because of the unique relationship Canada has with the United States. Why unique?

In the first place, and we all probably know the facts by now, it is the densest and most complex relationship in the world, encompassing enormous amounts of trade, tourism, and day-today interactions and transactions, not all of them, acid rain, for example, pleasant, and thirty-five hundred miles of what someone once called the longest undefended platitude in the world. It is a commonplace to say that the relationship is asymmetrical, that our dependency on the United States is proportionately much greater than that of the United States on Canada, and that this makes us much the more vulnerable of the two countries. But I'm not at all sure. After all, the United States sends some 18 to 20 per cent of all its exports to us. Go to California to find out we are the biggest importers of their wines and vegetables. Go to Florida and see the endless clouds of snowbirds. Think of the jobs involved on both sides. Today, in a world which is terribly unpredictable and even dangerous, the United States and Canada need each other. We need the United States and we are dependent on it. The United States needs us and is dependent on us. For each of us, the relationship is unique among all of our other relationships, because of the volume of activities between the two peoples.

The deep interdependence of Canadian and American interests and the unique volume of activity involving our two peoples, makes our interests in the United States vulnerable to a process much larger, much more complex than that of simply working out our problems with the federal administration, which is the way foreign relations are classically supposed to be conducted. And as I have said, there are going to be problems.

Constantly I am asked in Canada, "Well, how are our relations?"

"Good, very good," I say. And they are good.

"How can they be good?" people sometimes respond. "Look at all the problems."

But these are not, for the most part, problems we have with the Reagan administration. They are problems with the American process and that is another thing which makes relations between the two countries unique. No country inevitably becomes so much engaged in the domestic process of another country than Canada does in that of the USA. This is because Canada is so greatly affected by American domestic legislation and regulations.

Thus a great deal of American foreign policy toward Canada is not really its foreign policy at all but its domestic policy. Put it another way. American foreign policy toward Canada is largely an aggregation of domestic political economic thrusts. The result is that Canadian foreign policy toward the United States is the obverse side of American domestic policy affecting Canada. And so, inevitably, we are drawn into the same American domestic process, whether we like it or not.

Fortunately, Canada is sufficiently self-confident today about its longer-term institutions to be able to look at that situation with equanimity. We are able to stand back and say, "OK. We are deeply affected by the American domestic political process. So what do we do about it?"

First of all, what is the situation?

Broadly speaking, and limiting myself to bilateral relations, differing national interests emerge as a result of three sorts of dynamics; what I shall call political, institutional, and regulatory.

None of this is meant for a second to suggest that what we share with the United States is not greater than any of what I am about to describe as things which differentiate us. But as I have stressed, we are different countries, and there are some very practical, concrete, national interests involved.

So let's talk about these dynamics.

First, what I term the political. There is a mood of nationalism and patriotism in the United States today which is a product of many things. By and large, it means that Americans are not going to be pushed around any more, by foe or by friend. There is a belief that in a world economic climate of probably shrinking expectations, American interests have not always been dealt with fairly, that other countries are well advised to play by the same rules as the United States or else face criticisms or retaliation or be in some other form of trouble. That describes what I see as a broad public mood in the United States.

Now the fact of the matter is that these are not necessarily the views of the Reagan administration, and certainly not in terms of the economic relationship which it is meant to manage with Canada. The administration remains committed to an outward-looking trade and economic policy with the rest of the world, but the point is that it is not with the administration that we have most of our problems. It is with Congress, which more specifically reflects the public mood.

That brings me to the second dynamic, representing an area of difference; the institutional. In the United States, there is a system of checks and balances which divides power among the Executive, the Congress, and the Judiciary. Like ourselves, the United States is also a federal state. But unlike ourselves, the legislature has an independent responsibility for involving itself in American relations with other countries. There is the celebrated prerogative to advise and consent in the Senate which has affected several of our treaty-making ventures. But even more important than this for Canada is the extent to which Congress, in the normal course of its business, independently takes specific decisions which directly or indirectly affect our interests, sometimes at considerable potential cost to our interests.

I will say more about Congress in a moment, but first let me turn to the third area of basic difference between the two countries, that of our regulatory systems.

The population of each country has had different development experiences. This is natural, although as I suggested earlier, not generally understood at the popular level nor, I should add, at the level of special interests. Our different geographies, demographies, systems of capital formation, and a whole lot of other features have required our respective governments to deal over the years with specific development problems in ways suiting our respective national circumstances. The United States is now on a course of massive deregulation. We are not, but I reject the generalization that the United States abstains from the market while the Canadian government intervenes.

In fact, the United States, according to some studies, administers more of its trade than Canada, but we have had different experiences, and different needs, and in consequence we have a different regulatory concept in many areas, whether it is a system for enabling private forest product companies to cut lumber on public lands, or to issue oil and gas leases, or a system for encouraging vital air transportation between communities, or providing vital communications services on a national or regional basis. One country's regulatory system is not necessarily better than another, and, generally speaking, the different systems are probably right for each country. But there are going to be differences in the systems. In times of difficulty economically, these differences can frequently be mis-diagnosed in public political moods as representing threats. The institutions translate these threats into retaliatory action.

These are times of economic difficulty, as we well know. Even as economic recovery takes hold, it does not do so evenly. In the United States, some areas will be more affected than others. Growth is and will be very uneven. There has been and will continue to be a movement of people out of the older northeast and midwest industrial areas toward the southwestern and western sunbelt. All this is part of the process of economic restructuring, involving a move away from traditional smokestack industries into high-tech and service-related industries, bringing with it dislocation and uncertainty, leading in turn to demands for assistance, intervention, or protection from the government. Basically, union jobs are seen to be leaving for non-union areas. The effect is one of regional competition - for industries and for jobs. Those parts of the country which these days are feeling most defensive about the exodus have traditionally been the most outward-looking. In fact they are also those which are contiguous to Canada. This is an important point. Their impact is on Congress. The Congress on which they impact is a very different one from that of twenty years ago.

First of all, Congress now is enormously decentralized. There was a time when the congressional leadership via the seniority system could much more easily control the chambers and, particularly, block legislative initiatives which were not deemed useful or convenient. The administration could make deals and thus rely on Congress to respond on most issues of national interest to the administration's lead. Foreign governments could therefore more or less consider that the executive to which they are accredited would take care of their own interests at play in Congress.

I don't want to oversimplify this. Woodrow Wilson would not agree that I am describing novel events but I think that generally, since the Vietnam War, there is a greater degree of independence from the administration felt by Congress as an institution. And since the time of the reforms of the early seventies within Congress, which basically did away with many aspects of the seniority system, there is much greater decentralization within the power structure of Congress itself. Virtually every member of the Senate, for example, is the chairman of something, representing a basically independent power base.

Other developments, including the emergence of political action committees and the impact of television on political campaigns, which has encouraged even greater self-reliance and independence among members, have reinforced these trends.

The end result is a Congress which is much more fragmented and atomized. More than ever before, members of Congress respond more directly and immediately to regional and local pressures from their specific electorates.

These are the same electorates which are feeling nationalistic and, I would have to say, protectionist. These feelings are not directed against Canada. Indeed, I would say that Canada is pretty popular. But this doesn't necessarily help our case. A Congressman without any specific economic interests in the matter is sadly unlikely to oppose legislation which hurts Canada if a colleague considers such legislation to be in the best interests of his constituents. To believe he would oppose it simply on the grounds that it strikes him as being unfair to a country he likes is to place our faith in some fairly fragile sentiments when it comes down to the hard politics of regional trade-offs. The only way Canadian interests will prevail will be if they are consonant with American interests which can prevail.

In short, when there was acid rain just in Muskoka, there was sympathy and understanding among many in Congress. But it was not until there was acid rain in Maine, New Hampshire, New, York, and Vermont that there were actually going to be some votes in the same direction.

Basically, there are three sources of legislative impulse which can affect Canada. Legislation specifically directed against Canadian interests can emerge: I think of uranium, or trucking, or the import of natural gas. Or in the closely related semi-judicial area, there have been softwood lumber and subway cars.

Or, legislation can be generalized in its attempt to protect against trade practices of quite different countries, usually the Europeans or the Japanese, but sideswipe Canada in the process. I think of the surface transportation assistance act and impacts on steel and cement or the domestic content legislation in Congress today, which has passed the House of Representatives but is not too likely to become law and which contains no recognition of the Canada-United States Auto Pact.

Or, legislation can be domestic in direction and not intended to deal with other countries at all. I think of the clean air act. But the fact of the matter is that the overall foreign policy of the United States toward Canada is an aggregate of all of these things. Our relations with the administration can be very good, as I believe they are, and yet still leave us with a lot of problems.

We do discuss these questions with the administration and I don't want you to think for a second that we are letting them off the hook. They remain, and have to remain, our principal interlocutors, but we have to recognize, realistically, that a great deal of work has to be done ourselves. In fact, this may mean done by yourselves, because public diplomacy, which is the only possible antidote, is meant to impress the constituents of legislators of the wisdom in not taking action against Canadian interests. Not because such action is not nice but because it hurts specific American interests. It is up to those who sell the product which is in trouble in the United States to make sure that the purchaser, the beneficiary, is making just that point. It is in his interests to go on making the purchase or closing the deal, and he ought to be prepared to say so.

I have just scratched the surface of this relationship but I hope that I have scratched deeply enough to convince you of what I said at the outset: that it is unique. Somehow we need to continue to look for ways to live with unpredictability and reduce the potential damage it causes us. More than eleven years ago, a policy called the Third Option was designed, which was suitable for circumstances then. A lot has happened since then. In particular, Canadian institutions are being strengthened in some key areas of economic and cultural life. Their strengthening was required because of what is sometimes called the "inadvertent power" of the magnetic forces in the United States over aspects of what Canadians see to be in their national interest.

Today, policy approaches more in tune with the needs of the next decade are bound to be studied. Some commentators and authorities are calling for sectoral co-operation in key areas of trade with the United States, and the Canadian government has announced that it is actively studying this. Some argue that an "exceptions" principle may be necessary to find insulation from the often arbitrary and certainly unpredictable processes of political life in the United States of America.

I know that classic diplomacy won't necessarily do it even though the two administrations have probably been more successful than any of their predecessors in terms of getting Canada-United States relations to the top of their respective political agendas and dealing with the major problems accordingly. But that being said, as we are currently seeing on acid rain, the administration can't always deliver.

What is very reassuring to me is the extent to which, even as we accept that problems in the relationship are normal, we can still pretty well count on being able to manage them and keep them in proportion. It is an unusual relationship, but I think it is very much an adult one among countries, and what I have prescribed above is a case to be made for acting in our own adult self-interest.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by The Honourable Barnett Danson, a Director of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Canada—U.S. Relations—Some Thoughts about Public Diplomacy

Differences between the two countries understood by Canadians, but perhaps not by Americans. Canadians not foreigners to Americans. Canadians behave differently; why is that important? Management of the differences. A complex relationship; possibly not greatly asymmetrical. An interdependence of interests. Acid rain. American foreign policy to Canada is really domestic policy. A discussion of the dynamics of the relationship.