January 15, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 58  

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Bush, Martin all smiles, but more work needed

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

All it took was 75 minutes to get Canadian Prime Minster Paul Martin and American President George W. Bush to actually agree on two issues.

The meeting Tuesday at the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico between the two North American leaders yielded agreements concerning Canada’s access to the contracts for rebuilding Iraq and the deportation of Canadian nationals from the United States.

“I don’t think it is a breakthrough, I think it is a change in climate,” said Western political science professor John McDougall, noting the agreement was touted as a major advance in Canadian-American relations.

McDougall pointed out that there are more important issues at hand, such as the mad cow disease scare, the softwood lumber issue and border security, however, he concedes that the meeting could offer an opportunity for more dialogue on these issues.

“They were both careful to ignore references to the ballistic missile defense program,” McDougall added, citing the missile defense issue as a potentially divisive one for Martin who has made it known he desires a closer relationship with the U.S., but the missile defense issue could anger Canadians with an election approaching.

Aldona Sendzikas, an assistant professor of history, said the American media has been hostile towards other countries because of incidents such as the cancelled flights in France and the mad cow disease originating in Canada. This attitude, she noted, could be a stumbling block for meetings in the future. “There’s certainly a lot of issues between Canada and the U.S. that are red lights for Americans.”

The meeting, Sendzikas explained, gave both countries a prospect for sorting out their differences. “I’m surprised by Bush’s response.”

“It seems like [Martin’s] achieved his main goal to improve relations to a symbolic status,” stated Adam Harmes, assistant professor of political science. “It’s almost like it’s been constructed into something bigger than it is.”
According to Harmes, though Canada’s refusal to join the coalition against Iraq did strain relations, the problems really stemmed from the tone of the Canadian government, such as un-American comments that came out of Ottawa at that time.

“The odds of any major breakthrough is low, unless we concede,” he said, adding arguments over softwood lumber and border security were going on before the war in Iraq.

Harmes noted both leaders have elections this year that they need to worry about, especially Bush, whose decisions were driven by culling support for the upcoming election. “After the election he’ll have more breathing room.”



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