Canadian businesses losing contracts, jobs, research opportunities and investments because of Ottawa's decision not to join the U.S. missile defence plan say they'll press the federal government to reverse course.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce plans a big push with all political parties because of the economic fallout, president Nancy Hughes Anthony said Friday.
"Some of our members equated it to the Avro Arrow decision, where they could see a brain drain that went south of the border with respect to engineers and people in the aerospace industry," she said.
"Certainly many of our members who are in the defence and aerospace industry and high tech . . . are very concerned that even Canadian subsidiaries in American companies will not be eligible to participate."
If you're looking for anything in Ms. Hughes Anthony's argument about missile defence being a good policy, about it functioning as it's supposed to or about it being the appropriate response to any realistic threat assessment, you won't find it.
"It's another irritant that's very hard for the American side to understand," said Hughes Anthony, who met with State Department officials and U.S. business leaders.
"Not supporting the Bush administration is a strategic choice that in my mind just sours the atmosphere."
"We need the assistance of the Bush administration to get a number of things resolved in the next number of years," she said, including major trade problems over softwood lumber, beef and wheat.
"It may not be the end of the world but it certainly gives the impression that we're not part of the North American security team."
Rubbish. We're cooperating with the U.S. on all manner of security issues. Just not on this one. [Update: Actually we've cooperated in some respects on this one, too. See last year's legislation regarding NORAD. We're just not officially "signing on."]
She also assured them that Canadian business leaders reject any notion of limiting energy supplies to the United States out of frustration over trade issues.
But she acknowledged that many in Canada are particularly upset their victories in softwood legal battles at a NAFTA panel and the World Trade Organization haven't made a dent in U.S. policy on punishing penalties on Canadian products.
"There are some in our country who suggest that U.S. interest in our energy resources must be accompanied by a greater U.S. willingness to live up to its trade obligations under NAFTA and the WTO."
"We reject this linkage," she said. "Nevertheless, we do feel strongly that we only hurt our collective good if both countries do not play by the rules and treat each other in a fair, respectful and equitable manner."
So she's quite willing to link national security with trade issues but she rejects linking one trade issue with another? Can you say self-serving?
Many of us who are critical of the missile defence program have characterized it as a big corporate boondoggle designed mainly to shovel American tax dollars into the hands of corporations. Apparently the only criticism the Canadian Chamber of Commerce can come up with regarding Martin's recent decision is that its members won't get to line up at the trough alongside their American counterparts.
Isn't it nice to know that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce thinks its members' bottom lines should trump even the will of the Canadian people?
There are some decisions where the balance of trade shouldn't be the only or even the most important concern.