Monday January 27, 1997
Monday January 27, 1997 – By Graeme MacKay
Team Canada versus the Rest of the World
Canadians have once again witnessed the passing of another “Team Canada” Asian trade mission. It’s an event that was initiated a couple of years ago by Prime Minister Jean Chretien in an effort to get out of the dismal city of Ottawa and appear as though some sort of concerted effort was being made to drum up business for Canada. It was also an obvious attempt by Chretien to draw attention to other parts of the world rather than relying solely on the benefits of a young and wide reaching trade agreement with a friendly and rather powerful neighbour to our south. While the intentions are good in these non-NAFTA nations, the amusement in the whole event is knowing that the delegation of provincial premiers and Jean Chretien is officially called “Team Canada.” This has to be one of the most divided periods of federal-provincial relations. The idea of Canadian politicians getting together like a united hockey team is a joke. Having Premiers from three different political persuasions is difficult, but not unusual, however having a committed separatist premier accompanying the delegation is nothing short of bizarre, (but indeed, uniquely Canadian.)
This recent trade mission included stops to South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Lucien Bouchard surprisingly accepted the invitation to join the other provincial premiers and we all waited for the Quebec Separatist leader to blurt something out that would piss everyone off except for a collection of Canada-bashers in a much anticipated republic of Quebec. But, after two weeks of hanging around a bunch of notorious guys like Ralph Klein, Mike Harris, and Brian Tobin, nothing rude was uttered, no feet were stepped on, in fact, the whole lot of these politicians looked like they were having a great time together, and even Lucien Bouchard was cracking smiles.
If any feet were stepped on it was brought about by Chretien, who, while in Manila waded into a constitutional debate concerning the length of time a Philippine President is allowed to keep. Chretien, a veteran career politician himself for some 30 odd years, questioned the injustice that Fidel Ramos can only serve 2 terms. By now our PM should well understand that it is not a good idea to mess with any country’s constitutional affairs, judging by his own sloppiness in past dealings with our own.
Frank McKenna, the long serving Premier of New Brunswick stepped on toes by pawning off provincially produced peanut butter. He was being anything but a team player when tried to compete against other provinces to get contracts of course this isn’t the first time McKenna has treated other provinces like business foes. His excuses for his actions resemble closely with those of a particular fictional character out of Sherwood Forest.
These trade missions are great for photo opportunities as well. We’ve seen the leaders walking along the Great Wall of China, stand and gawk in front of the Taj Mahal, and mill about stern faced soldiers carrying machine guns in Korean no mans land. Jean Chretien wobbles along on a bicycle in Beijing, and goofs around with the architect of the Tiannamen Square massacre following a treaty signing. We’ve all become used to these sort of things, and in all honesty, it allows us news buffs to escape the regular on-goings in the legislatures, and committee rooms where these people usually hang out. Maybe Mr. Chretien is on to something when it comes to national unity…because here in Canada, Canadians are its biggest critics. When we step outside and see just how messed up other countries are we tend to pay a little more respect for our own land. I’m sure the premiers get this sense.
As for Craig Keilburger, the 13 year old child rights activist who goes on about child labour injustices in these trade nations, someone ought to put him over their knee for good hard spanking. (Posted to thinkfastech.com)
Asia Pacific Trade Mission. Graphite rendering by Graeme MacKay (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). Illustrated in 1997.