OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion today released Strong and Free: The Liberal Blueprint for the North American Leaders Summit at Montebello, Quebec - August 2007 outlining a detailed proposal to ensure Canada's interests are effectively promoted at the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) meetings in Montebello.
"The original spirit of the SPP was one all Canadians could embrace," said Mr. Dion. "It existed to strengthen Canada's national interest on security, trade, competitiveness, health, safety and the environment by working closely with our neighbours - to allow Canada and its friends to provide a better life for each nation's people.
"But Mr. Harper is taking the SPP in a very different direction," added Mr. Dion. "Under the veil of secrecy, he is blurring the line between partnership and imitation."
Strong and Free cites many examples of the Harper government's fondness for a U.S. approach not only to key SPP issues, but on broader matters of Canadian interest, including:
- Transparency: Like George Bush, Stephen Harper has embraced a culture of secrecy.
- Cross-Border Travel: The Prime Minister failed to relieve the backlog of passport requests, despite knowing for 19 months that Washington would impose passport requirements on all Canadians traveling to the US.
- War in Afghanistan: Like Bush in Iraq, Harper is muddying the waters on Afghanistan. While saying he will only extend the mission if he has a "consensus" in Parliament, and acknowledging that Canadians want a new role in Afghanistan, he refuses to clearly commit to ending Canada's mission in Kandahar by February 2009.
- Bulk Water Exports: Neither Harper nor Bush have addressed leaked reports from talks suggesting that the SPP could be used to justify negotiations of bulk removal of Canadian water in order to address potential water shortages in the US.
- Pesticide Safety Standards: Talks are underway to harmonize pesticide standards - resulting in the potential lowering of standards for certain pesticide products to US standards. In fact, harmonization should lead to stronger - not weaker - standards. For our North American natural environment, the SPP must be a race to the top not a race to the bottom.
- Guantanamo: Despite widespread condemnation of the detention centre, Omar Khadr remains the only Western citizen still detained at Guantanamo.
- Gun Crime: Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has asserted that Canada's gun violence is largely attributable to illegal smuggled guns. Despite the rhetoric, he has not pressured the Bush administration to stop gun smuggling from the U.S. And he continues his opposition to Canada's own gun control measures.
- The United States is our closest ally," said Mr. Dion, "but it is not our model."
Arguing for a stronger, more independent voice for Canada, Mr. Dion outlined six steps through which Mr. Harper could demonstrate a renewed commitment to putting Canada's national interest first. Mr. Dion called on the Prime Minister to:
- Honour Canada's reputation as a transparent democracy by disclosing the complete list of SPP working groups, their contact persons and participating membership; requiring quarterly public disclosure of their discussions; providing opportunities for public input into the SPP; and allowing Parliament to examine the SPP's work.
- Facilitate the movement of Canadians and Canadian goods by demanding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security return to negotiations to streamline border pre-clearance at the Peace Bridge, and that President Bush not veto Congress' effort to delay the implementation of the WHTI at U.S. land and sea borders.
- Advise President Bush that Canada's combat role in Kandahar will be ending in February 2009 and demand that discussions with NATO regarding Canada's replacement in that role must commence immediately.
- State clearly to our partners that Canada will never agree to the negotiation of bulk water removal from any major drainage basins in Canada; as well as demand talks on a solution to the Devils Lake disaster.
- Demand the removal of Omar Khadr from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and his transfer to the United States to be tried in a legitimate court. Mr. Khadr must also be afforded same the legal protections and guarantees upon which Canada's government would insist for any other Canadian citizen. If the US cannot do so, we will call for Mr. Khadr's repatriation to Canada where he can be dealt with by our justice system.
- Demand that the United States take immediate action to reduce the volume of guns crossing illegally from the United States into Canada.
"The Montebello Summit must be used by Prime Minister Harper to advance a strong and independent voice on behalf of all Canadians," said Mr. Dion.
That is why the Liberal Party is willing to use all the Parliamentary tools at its disposal to hold Mr. Harper to account, and to ensure that he explain the work of the SPP to Canadians through their representatives.
"Should the Prime Minister fail to level with Canadians, we will table a resolution calling on the government to inform Canadians of the work and negotiations of the SPP, and to report to the House of Commons to allow for parliamentary scrutiny and a full and informed debate when the Parliament reconvenes," concluded Mr. Dion.