Michael Wilson, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, is visiting the Pacific Northwest this week. In Oregon he’ll meet with a roundtable of people to talk about green energy and then sit down with Governor Kulongoski to continue that conversation and discuss general trade issues, the 2010 Olympics and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiatve (better known as: you need a passport to get into Canada as of June 1). Before any of those meetings he’ll visit Think Out Loud.
It isn’t a big secret that I am Canadian. I guess my “ehs” give it away. As a Canuck, I am regularly humored by the questions Americans have about the Great White North. For example: “Who are the Barenaked Ladies?” “Why are so many Canadians funny?” or “Is lacrosse really the national sport?” Those, together with queries about our loonies and twoonies take up much of my time.
Questions for Michael Wilson will undoubtedly be more serious. Wilson is probably best known north of the border for his time as Minister of Finance under Brian Mulroney’s government in the 1980s. At that time he reformed the tax structure, introducing a national Goods and Services tax, and helped to negotiate the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement and, subsequently, NAFTA. He returned to private industry for many years before being nominated as Canada’s 22nd Ambassador to the United States by current Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006. This week, he’s making his first trip to Oregon in that role.
According to the Government of Canada, 88,750 Oregon jobs are supported by Canada-US trade. In fact, Canada was the number one recipient of exported goods from Oregon until last year (when China jumped to first spot). A surprising number of trucks, metal products, and plywood go north. An equally surprising amount of energy (including petroleum and coal), fertilizers and softwood lumber comes south.
And of course, people traverse the border too. Many Oregonians hit up Whistler to go skiing, Victoria to have tea, or Vancouver to celebrate their 19th birthdays. As of June 1, however, the crossing will be more difficult. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative goes into effect meaning that everyone will need a passport to cross. How will this new regulation affect your plans?
Do you do business with Canada? What makes it easy? What makes it difficult? Do you travel to Canada? What do you want to know about our neighbor to the north? What do you think these two countries can learn from each other? What do you want to know from Canada’s Ambassador to the United States? (Like maybe what’s up with the twoonie, perhaps?)