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Howdy Neighbour

by Stephen Lautens

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August 10, 2001

Apparently having our own country is standing in the way of someone making a buck. The complaint is that the billion or so dollars worth of trade that passes between Canada and the US each day is forced to stop for that inconvenient speed bump known as the Canadian border.

It started with US Ambassador Paul Cellucci. He said in an interview that the US, Canada and Mexico should work towards what he calls "NAFTA-Plus". This, he said, could include a common energy policy, the "harmonization" of immigration policies and a security perimeter around North America rather than having those pesky national borders.

While Cellucci was quick to point out that the US respects our sovereignty, he could see eventually replacing the Canada-US border with a North American "Main Street".

Before we get rid of the longest unprotected border in the world maybe we should think about testing it on a much smaller scale first.

For example, suppose you lived in a duplex, or semi-detached house. The people on the other side of the wall seem nice enough. They have a big family packed into their house ­ almost ten times the size of your own family. And that's why they've suggested knocking down the wall between your homes and making it into one big house.

You can see some benefits. Even though you're sharing it with more people, you're going to get a bigger house once the dividing wall comes down. And you'll be able to move freely between the two halves of the house without having to worry about knocking on the front door.

But we all know there are always problems with housemates.

First you find out that what they called "harmonizing" immigration policies really means that they now decide who you can and cannot invite into your newly shared area. And they have some pretty funny ideas about who makes a good guest. Then they won't let you go shopping at that Cuban corner grocery store because they don't like the owner's politics.

Next you find out they like long showers and run the sprinklers all day. Pretty soon they're running short of water on their side of the house and want to know if they can attach their garden hose to your faucet. After all, you have all this clean, sparkling water just lying around and their SUV desperately needs washing.

Plus they never turn off the lights when they leave a room and leave the furnace on all day even when there's no one home. Everything is so overloaded on their side that they're constantly blowing fuses. Even so, they want to work out a "common energy policy". Isn't a "common energy policy" really just another way of saying they want to get their mitts on our hydro and then split the bill with us?

Next they'd be asking us if we'd mind letting them store their missile defense shield in our half of the garage. "Just for a couple of weeks," they'd promise. "Just till we clear some space in the attic."

Amazingly enough, there are some people in Canada who think replacing our border within a greater North American "perimeter" is a good idea. These are obviously people who never had a roommate.

After all, it was an American ­ Robert Frost ­ who said good fences make good neighbours.

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© Stephen Lautens 2001

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