I think it's really important that we all be very frank with one another.
In my organization in 2003 we launched a major initiative; we called it the North American security and prosperity initiative. We didn't charge any royalties when the three governments in 2005 signed the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, but when we put the original idea together, we had a very simple goal in mind.
We saw after 9/11 the great potential threat of what would happen to Canada, to our jobs, our industries, our families, should there be a continuation of terrorist attacks on the United States. It was our view first that a wonderful way to launch the 21st century would be to acknowledge that the economic integration between Canada and the United States was irreversible, in the sense that we had gone so far that we should acknowledge it in one way or another and make it work better—especially make it work to the advantage of Canada—and second, that you will never have a secure North America unless all the constituent parts take security equally seriously.
The biggest problem the Americans had was with Mexico. The southern border of Mexico, as a Mexican President has said, is an open sieve. There are huge problems with “securing North America”, from the point of view of our most southern neighbours.
What we were really trying to do is say that if we just leave it to individual departments—agriculture to agriculture, environment to environment, and trade to trade—we're never going to have a vision here; we're never going to have something that's going to occupy the attention of people in the White House and make them try to fix some of these things.
The whole idea behind SPP was to try to raise this idea and this vision to a bigger level, so that people could begin to get excited about it and say yes, of course, we'll do it. The term “three can talk and two can do” was coined, if you remember, to allow for the differentiation between what Mexico and the U.S. did and what we and the Americans did. But basically we said the border is our top priority.
Second, there are areas of regulation where harmonization would make us more competitive. We acknowledge that the greatest threat to North America—frankly, I never use the word “threat”, but always use the word “challenge”.... The greatest challenge to North America, other than that coming from the terrorists, came from competition, particularly from Asia. How were we going to respond—our auto industries, our financial industries, all of this? And we thought, why not under a major umbrella, where we could capture the attention of two Presidents and a Prime Minister to talk about these things?
The same thing applied in the case of resources. Here we were, the largest foreign suppliers of energy to the United States, and the vast majority of Americans didn't know about it. How could we, to use Professor Plourde's term, get better leverage on that?
And likewise with the idea of a security perimeter, we thought that if we could establish effective perimeters beyond our borders, then we would no longer have nearly so much of a problem with our Canada-U.S. border.
That's basically what was behind it.
Mr. Dewar, you're absolutely right that SPP was a big fog to people, and you're right that it became a subject of frequent attacks by your party, certainly by my friend Maude Barlow and others—