Tories blasted for U.S. ties
Opposition parties seize on issue

Kyoto, lumber deal and passports cited
May 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

OTTAWA—Marking 100 days in power today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government finds itself under attack by all opposition parties — on multiple fronts — for getting too close to the United States.

In the Commons yesterday, almost every question thrown at Harper and his ministers was on the theme of excessive pandering to Americans — on the environment, on softwood lumber and the looming passport crackdown at the Canada-U.S. border.

Liberals, New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois appear to have decided that Canada-U.S. relations could prove to be a major vulnerability of the minority Conservative government.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, now in Bonn serving as chair of a UN summit on Kyoto, is being accused by all the opposition parties of hitching Canada's plans on global warming to those of the U.S. She has been urged to step down as chair of the summit because the Harper government has declared definitively that Canada will not be able to live up to the Kyoto standards for improving air quality.

Bloc MPs said yesterday this made Canada look ridiculous and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe wondered why this country was looking to the U.S., not Europe, for leadership on Kyoto.

Liberal MP Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre) said: "Will the Prime Minister admit that he is happy to take his orders on global warming from the White House and he wants the rest of the world to do the same?"

The Bush administration withdrew from Kyoto in 2001, saying the U.S. would instead follow its own plan of voluntary measures and new technology.

Meanwhile, International Trade Minister David Emerson is under fire for acknowledging last weekend that the new softwood deal will require provinces to vet any forestry-policy changes with Washington.

Liberals said in the Commons yesterday that Emerson had negotiated a "made-in-the-U.S.A." deal and New Democrats kept up those attacks. "Now we find out that each time a provincial government wants to make a change in its forestry policies, it will have to ask Washington for a permission slip," said New Democrat MP Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster). Emerson is defending the deal as an "imperfect" method to put an end to the long-running softwood dispute once and for all and "go forward" in Canada-U.S. relations. At a Commons committee yesterday, he acknowledged: "Is it a perfect deal? No."

And talking to reporters, Emerson dismissed the Commons attacks as partisan rhetoric. "I know it's all very well for people, you know, to carp about us being under the thumb of George Bush but it just ain't so."

Opposition critics, however, were saying yesterday premiers are being bolder than Ottawa in standing up to the U.S. Last weekend, Atlantic premiers and New England governors vowed to fight for at least a delay in U.S. plans to require passports at the border as soon as Jan. 1, 2007, for air and sea travel. This contrasted to Harper's posture after meeting Bush this spring, when he said Canada had little option but to go along with the plan and deadline.