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01/11/2005 Archived Entry: "Paul Celluci"

It is difficult to understand why the U.S. is so heavy handed in foreign relationships which would yield so readily to diplomacy...or just plain silence. I am thinking specifically of the recent announcement to the Canadian press by Paul Cellucci - the American Ambassador to Canada - on the controversial missile defense plan. Celluci stated, "We've been told that it will be dealt with over the next couple of months," thus clearly implying that the States has struck a deal with Canadian P.M. Paul Martin. Celluci even provided a timeline. Canada would join the U.S. ballistic-missile defense system for North America by the end of March.

The statement has been poorly received. For one thing, why is a foreign ambassador announcing what Canadian military policy will be when the Canadian PM continues to declare to all-and-sundry within hearing range that no decision has been reached? Martin rushed to inform reporters, "No such assurances were given."

It is a particularly sticky situation as Martin promised in his Oct. 5 Throne Speech to open Parliament to debate on the issue before signing on. No such debate has occurred.

Canadian politics is a complex balancing act with at least four players who must constantly watch each other for reactions. The Liberals under Martin are in power but they constitute a minority government, which must look to Quebec for support or risk losing office. The Conservatives generally back the anti-missile defense system but are bristling at not being consulted...indeed, at not even being shown the terms of the agreement into which Canada has allegedly already entered. The New Democratic Party (more left than the liberals) is adamantly opposed to the program as is the Bloc Quebecois and most of Quebec itself.

Nevertheless, sneaking the anti-missile program past Parliament at the last minute would probably have worked since the Conservatives would not have blocked it, and they're the only ones with enough power to act as a brick wall if they joined with other factions. But the prospect of easy passage has been rendered more difficult by Celluci's statements. First, everyone is irritated at the US announcing Canadian foreign policy. Second, everyone is suspicious of Martin and his motives. Third, even politicians who agree with the plan are enraged at being kept in ignorance about it.

What on earth was Celluci thinking of? If there is/was a covert deal sliding through, then he's doing the best he can to jeopardize it.

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