The CD Howe Institute published an important article on the need for regulatory convergence in Canadian - American trade relations. Michael Hart's article "Steer or Drift: Taking Charge of Canada - U.S. Regulatory Convergence" (see http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/commentary_229.pdf ) correctly puts the weight on Canadians shoulders to effectively face up to its fears regarding North American integration and tackle the regulatory framework head-on. Our economy would benefit greatly with regulatory convergence - or reducing the "tyranny of small differences". The more Canadians wrestle with the inevitable integration that must take place, the more we penalize our nation. As Mr. Hart concludes, Prime Minister Harper would do well to turn the focus of the upcoming meetings in Mexico with President Bush toward positive efforts that promote regulatory convergence.
I would add that it is critical to move on the security front as well. The commercial regulatory environment is highly dependent upon the shared security goals of the member nations. On this matter, too, it is imperative that Canadians maturely address the nations dependence on America and its shared economic interests. It is time to put aside nationalistic pride and work toward an integrated security perimeter, with shared or co-operating institutions that ensure that the security of North Americans are effectively and efficiently administered. Only then will the commercial interests of the two nations flourish.
The Canada - U.S. border should allow for free movement of goods and people. This implies much: shared immigration and refugee policies, regulatory and legal convergence or co-operation. All this may seem like a brave leap for Canadians, but it is far better to embrace the common values and interests we share as North Americans than to foolishly hang on to institutions that prevent the regional flowering that is so evidently nascent.
Yes, small steps are the political prescription, but what we need now is a voice - a strong voice - that bravely confronts the people of Canada with a plan for integration. There is no need for barriers to be drawn. No need for costly bottlenecks at the border. This may be far too much to ask of a minority government. For now, chipping away at "small differences" is the expedient option. But really...its time for the Canadian people to address the future maturely - and bravely.