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I’ve never been to Canada.
It is an embarrassing confession for a Michigander. I have been to Europe twice and have visited England, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, but I’ve never been to Canada. My family never took a trip and crossed the border at Sou St. Marie. I never went to Windsor with friends after turning 19. It just hasn’t happened yet.
The fact that the few of you that read this are surprised at my confession says a lot about the special relationship Michigan and Canada share with each other. Last night, I had the pleasure of learning more about the relationship between Michigan and the United States with their neighbor to the north listening to Canadian diplomat, Roy Norton talk about The First 235 Years of US-Canadian Relations at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.
Norton is the Canadian General Consul to the United States for the region covering Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky based in offices in Detroit. Sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Norton delivered an engaging and informative talk for the crowd of nearly 100 (I was by far the youngest) at the Ford Museum sharing the history of “Inter-mestic Relations” (not quite international or domestic) and discussing present pressing issues between the two countries.
I’m going to focus on the issues General Consul Norton discussed during the Q&A that most directly impact Michigan, the United States, and our readers at the moment: garbage importation, a new Detroit-Windsor bridge, and the Keystone Pipeline.
Garbage: Yes, Ottawa still exports garbage to Michigan landfills although the amount was cut in half beginning in 2010 when municipal garbage ceased to cross into Michigan following an agreement. Industrial and commercial garbage is still exported from Canada into Michigan, but Norton stated that the Michigan landfills that receive that garbage appreciate the business from the voluntary exchange.
Bridge: A second bridge across the Detroit River from Detroit to Windsor has become a big political issue in Michigan and it was refreshing to hear the opinion of a Canadian official on the topic. Canada remains the largest trading partner with the United States and 25% of that trade goes through the 83-year old Ambassador Bridge directly impacting over 2 million jobs in US and Canada. The potential devastating effect on those jobs and trade should something happen to the Ambassador Bridge has made a second expansion a priority for Canada. The proposed bridge would help prevent an economic crisis should something happen to the Ambassador Bridge as well as provide freeway-to-freeway access on both sides of the river speeding up travel time and trade.
While Canada is usually not in the habit of subsidizing developed nations, Norton admitted that they are well aware of the political climate in Michigan and the States and asserted that Michigan taxpayers would not be responsible for the cost of building the bridge: “I’m from the Canadian government. Take my word on it.”
Keystone Oil Pipeline: In responding to questions about the proposed Keystone Oil Pipeline that has not received final approval from the United States State Department and is a big policy issue in Washington, Norton replied that it essentially comes down to where Americans want to get their oil.
Ask about environmental concerns in light of the Kalamazoo River spill last year, Norton clarified that pipelines are still the safest means of transporting oil and that the proposed pipeline would be state-of-the-art and a vast improvement over the old pipeline that failed in Michigan.
The Consul General also quoted the Canadian Prime Minister in response to the Obama administration denying pipeline approval last week that Canada is “not a northern U.S. national park” and reiterated that the oil will be drilled and sold. If not to the US, than to someone else, likely the Chinese whom the Canadian Prime Minister is scheduled to meet with in February.
Norton stated that the proposed pipeline would double daily oil exports from Canada to the United States (our largest oil trading partner) and that currently 60% of what the U.S. presently spends on Canadian oil ultimately returns to the American economy – not funding terrorism.
As Norton discussed the benefits of the pipeline for the U.S. including jobs, energy security, national security, money returning to our economy, needing less oil from the Middle East, the present situation with Iran and the Straits of Hormuz, and Canadian oil not going to China, it became clear that our Neighbor to the North is frustrated with how the U.S. is dragging its feet on the issue.
No doubt a couple of big issues between Michigan/U.S. and Canada. Please chime in with your thoughts, comments, and questions in the comment section, Facebook, or on Twitter (@MichiganExpats).