Event Recap: President Obama and Canada: The Final Two Years

By Eli Froese-Germain

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As the final two years of President Obama’s second term in office approaches, it is important that Canada takes appropriate action that will help meet some of our economic objectives with the United States. On November, 25th, 2014 a panel was held at Carleton University’s River Building which sought to engage these critical issues.

Presented by the Carleton Initiative for Parliamentary and Diplomatic Engagement, the Honorable Jean Charest, a partner with McCarthy Tétrault; Scotty Greenwood, a Senior Advisor for the Canadian American Business Council; and the Honorable John Manley, President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives debated what could reasonably be attained by Canada in Obama’s last two years and how. The panel was moderated by Colin Robertson, Vice-President of the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute, who opened with remarks emphasizing the importance of the Canadian-American relationship, especially through the deep integration of our trade, but that perhaps that relationship is becoming increasingly tenuous. The panel then proceeded to discuss where some of the focus on Canadian American relations needs to lie.

Scotty Greenwood commented that perhaps the two nations suffer from binocular syndrome wherein perspectives are skewed and that it is our Canadian media who focuses too intensely on every little issue related to President Obama and this blows things out of proportion. For those of you who don’t know, Scotty Greenwood had formerly been appointed by President Clinton to work in the American Embassy in Ottawa and is often consulted on matters of Canada-U.S. relations. She also said that perhaps more consideration needs to be taken from the fact that the Republican party just gained the majority in the House of Representatives and that this could mean good things for free traders and potentially the Keystone Pipeline.

Jean Charest argued that relations are relatively positive between the two nations but that Canada is lacking a grand vision, one that emphasizes the complexity of our relationship with the U.S. and perhaps one that utilizes our current dependency on American trade. Charest also said that if Canada wants to get anything done, we need to take the initiative.

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Finally, John Manley countered that although ours is a deep and complex relationship, the focus should not solely reside on very specific issues, such as the Keystone Pipeline, and that Canadians and Canadian policy needs to be clever to get the attention of the United States in order to meet our economic objectives. The pipeline is just one of many salient issues. Furthermore, Manley argued that there is a niche that we are not exploring as vigorously as we should if we want to understand the key issues of American aspirations in terms of trade and foreign policy and that is at the state level. Although Washington is the hub, senators, congressmen, and congresswoman are strongly connected to their states and this is an avenue that needs to be more strongly analyzed.

When the panel ended, there was still much to discuss and the panelists were all ready and available to engage with members of the audience including Members of Parliament, Ambassadors, as well as NPSIA and Journalism students at Carleton.  It is encouraging that events such as these are being held at our University. I encourage all students to participate and join in on these kinds of discussions as it will be our ideas that provide the outcome for future Canada-U.S. relations.

To view the PowerPoint presentation from the event click here.

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