From Today's Globe:
CANCUN, MEXICO Â Stephen Harper and George W. Bush ushered in their newly minted relationship yesterday with orders to their staffs to find ways to kick-start talks aimed at resolving the softwood lumber controversy.
globeandmail.com : PM, Bush eager to resolve softwood dispute
Attempts at partisan spin aside, it is clear that Stephen Harper got nothing of substance from George W. re. the softwood lumber dispute during their Cancun meeting. Apparently, you have to actually take your nation to war with George W. before he'll give you your own pair of cow-boy boots. But the American President has solemnly pledged that if Canadian casualties reach triple-digits in Afghanistan, he will strike a task-force to re-examine the issue.
What does this abject failure of diplomacy tell us about Stephen Harper, George W., and the state of Canadian/U.S. relations? Well, it tells you that the "new, more mature" relationship
between Conservative and Republican administrations has yielded no more than the "old, abrasive, dissonant" relationship between Harper's Liberal predecessors and the same Republican government. This isn't really surprising; on issues like softwood lumber, political stances are detemined by a summing of the various domestic pressures on the government in question, and "personalities", whether congenial or not, account for almost nothing.
But, on the other hand, flip this around. It tells us how little Canada's defiance of the United States on issues like Gulf War II and the Missile Defense System (Star Wars II) have actually "cost" the country in terms of lost trade or lost influence in Washington. This too should not be surprising; in economies as intertwined as those of Canada and the U.S., retaliating for a diplomatic slight is like shooting yourself in the foot. The only serious attempt I am aware of was a bill in the House of Representatives that recommendedd renaming Branta canadensis "Freedom Geese", and this bill died in the Senate.
So of course the lesson is exactly opposite the one that the current federal government and the Canadian business establishment would have you believe: it really is possible to stand up for Canadian values, and if necessary stand against our Southern neighbor, if they are for example engaged in illegal wars or attempts to weaponize space.
We can afford it. We can afford to remain Canadian.