Jan. 12, 2005 - Issue #482: Laurie Anderson
Signed, shield, delivered?
Earlier this week, American ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci caused quite a row amongst our country’s media when he mentioned in a brief conversation with Canadian Press that Paul Martin is expected to sign on to the U.S.’s much-maligned North American missile defence plan before the end of March. The news certainly came as a surprise to most of the general public, considering we haven’t heard anything concrete from Prime Minister Martin on the issue for some time—but even more surprising is the fact that an American ambassador would so casually spill the beans about an unannounced deal in front of Canada’s press.
So what exactly is going on here? Is the whole thing a ruse perpetrated by Cellucci in hopes of pushing the Canadian government into an awkward situation where they would feel like they were reneging on a done deal when the actual decision time rolls around? Or is there some truth behind his musings, and have Martin’s Liberals been trying desperately to appease the Americans in secret without publicly destroying their own fragile minority government?
It’s likely, as with most things, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While it’s known that Cellucci is leaving his position in the spring, it seems highly improbable that a politician of his experience would blurt out unofficial information while a microphone was in the room, even if he was vacating his portfolio. But at the same time, that Martin’s government would secretly be planning to sign on to the defence shield despite fierce public and in-House opposition is really not that outlandish.
Martin, after all, has said that, like the program or not, Canada is better served by sitting at the table rather than standing on the outside looking in. And although he has warned against the potential offensive use of the missile shield and criticized the effectiveness of the decidedly ineffective technology that underlies it, he has historically followed any public blustering with private reassurances to the Americans not to take his statements as official rejection. Martin has also said that no decision will be made without the blessing of the House of Commons, but we’re only talking consulting here; with no plans for a vote, really, he doesn’t have to wait at all.
Add all of this together, and the result is uncertainty, and only Martin can clear the fog surrounding our role in missile defence. The time has come for answers—and this time, it’d be nice to hear about it from a Canadian politician rather than an American one. V
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