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Stop slamming U.S., Washington warns Martin

David Wilkins, U.S. ambassador to Canada at a Canadian Club luncheon speech in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec 13. (CP Photo/Tom Hanson)
The U.S. ambassador to Canada has rebuked Prime Minister Paul Martin, saying he risks damaging relations between the countries by dragging the United States into the federal election campaign.

Wilkins didn't name Martin directly but left no doubt that he was talking about the prime minister when he warned against scoring cheap political points against Washington.

"It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner constantly," Ambassador David Wilkins said in a speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa on Tuesday ( Dec 13).

He said Canada and the United States have one of the best relations in the world, but warned that he often wouldn't know it by comments made in the election campaign or stories in Canadian media.

"It's easy to criticize the United States, we're an easy target at times," Wilkins said. ""...But the last time I looked, the United States was not on the ballot."

Your letters:

Speaking as a U.S. citizen I take exception with the U.S. ambassador's comments at Paul Martin.

Most of Martin's comments have good reason whether it be on foreign policy or the softwood question. The courts have ruled in Canada's favor regarding the softwood issue but the U.S. continues to flap it's across the border big lip. It's time to admit you are wrong from the war in Iraq to the softwood issue. The U.S. now should proceed by positive actions with neighbor Canada and not potshots at Martin.

—Dick Cook | Norwood, New York

CBC owes it to Canadians to provide a more 'heady analysis' of Wilkins comments. He has a point and to evaluate his comments purely from the vantage point of playing to Liberal strategy is a disservice to Canadians. —John Stronks | Chatham, Ontario

I may not support Paul Martin, but the reaction from the U.S. Ambassador was far too heavy-handed.

What Martin said was: "To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such as thing as a global conscience, now is the time to listen to it. Now's the time to join with others in our global community. Now is the time for resolve, for commitment and leadership and, above all, now is the time for action. Because only by coming together can we make real and lasting progress."

This is hardly a slap in the face, simply a call to the U.S. to join us in what we're doing. Granted, the U.S. has made it clear that they do not wish to sign on to Kyoto or any other environmental initiative that they are not the leaders of, so being preached to can be rather annoying. However, such a rebuke serves only to make Ambassador Wilkins look foolish in the country he currently resides in.

—Burt Volkins | Toronto

I'm tired of the United States abusing their so called "friendly neighbour". Do we flinch every time one of their rouge politicians makes a disparaging comment? No, we take it like true Canadians and consider their side as well.

Iraq is their mess. Softwood Lumber is now a flip-flop as their own producers can't generate enough raw material for hurricane reconstruction and do we close the border to their goods every time an issue arises.

Grow up and start acting like true stewards of this planet and civilization.

—Michael Carter | Toronto

Mr. Martin seems intent on attacking or insulting the United States, our "best friend", most important trading partner and upon whom we have to depend for military protection.

It may be great election strategy but I call upon Mr. Martin to put CANADA's interests, not those of the Liberal party, first. It would be a refreshing change.

—Tom Wilson | B.C.

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins' patronizing admonishment of our Prime Minister is further evidence of the extreme arrogance of the current U.S. administration.

His "friends don't do this" and "friends don't do that" was galling in the wake of the U.S. position on softwood lumber. Does a friend gouge another friend for billions of dollars? And what do we do about a friend who is an insecure bully and wants to drag us into fights we don't believe in?

—Kathryn Seymour | Toronto

The Prime Minister has the right to comment on anything that he wishes,including the unfair policies of the U.S. The American government never stops to consider what Canada thinks when they criticize our drug laws or same sex marriage policy.

The Prime Minister is just in criticizing the American stance on softwood lumber and on the environment, frankly it is about time Canada stands up to the bullies in Washington.

—Harprret Rehal | Surrey, B.C.

I think our neighbours to the south are a little thin skinned. Hard to believe that we can cause them such grief.

If the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush continues to place the economy of their nation ahead of the long-term health and survival of an entire planet, I expect they should learn to make allowances for other nations who wish to express their disappointment at such a myopic stance.

I find it rather Big Brother-ly, and frankly threatening of our �neighbours� to continually rap our Canadian knuckles every time we chooses to disagree with them.

—Bianca Moretti | Toronto

Ask most U.S. citizens what they think of the issues between Canada and the U.S., most will say we have issues, and the other's can't even find Canada on a map. Canada's and the U.S.'s foreign policy is just that, foreign. Most Americans don't care what we say about them. Even U.S. Senators and Congressman don't have a clue about Canada so why should the average U.S. citizen.

—Walter Walsh | Petawawa

Mr Wilkins should stop taking sides in our election and mind his own business.

—Grant Bowen

There seems to be a pattern here that the U.S. "Ambassador" is told by the Bush administration to preach to Canada. Haven't we heard this sermon before on the subject of softwood.

I say, just continue to tell it as we see it with respect to U.S. policies and get on with Canadian affairs. The U.S. needs to get use to the fact that other nations have different opinions to theirs.

—Harold Etter | Summerland, B.C.

Our number one trading partner has held back millions of dollars in the countervailing softwood duties - decimated the Canadian softwood industry. Our number one trading partner stopped the flow of Canadian beef - thousands of Alberta beef producers affected. Our number one trading partner has imposed tariffs on Canadian wheat - Canadian Prairie farmers left hanging.

These are legal issues, not political. For David Wilkins, U.S. ambassador to Canada, to frame these issues in a political context reveals his motive that he simply doesn't want to talk about the real issue - that is, U.S. trade protectionism.

Next items up for bids -Canadian water and Electricity.

—Ian Warrender | Victoria, B.C.

The whole world's making fun of the U.S. for its Environment, Trade, and Foreign Policy. Why should the U.S. single out OUR country for a rebuke?

And where's OUR apology for the way the previous U.S. Ambassador tried to brow-beat us into going to War in Iraq?

— Andrew Greenlaw | Ottawa

The U.S. administration should take their own advice and but out of our elections. We know all too well what happens when they try to get involved with "democracy" in their own country or anywhere else on the planet.

—Dean Schutz | B.C.

The U.S. Ambassador is naive to assume our relationship with the USA is not an election issue. Their sheer size and influence makes them a factor in virtually every world issue concerning Canadians today.

On top of this, as our largest trading partner and closest neighbour as well as the opposing side in a series of very important current trade disputes, the USA is involved in most of the main issues concerning this voter.

The current USA administration has the reputation of diverting attention away from issues that matter to voters in their own country by placing emphasis on fear. The U.S. Ambassador should respect the issues that matter to Canadians instead of trying to bully us with veiled threats. His country has to start solving problems instead of continuing to ignore them.

— Michael Scott | Vancouver

When I read this article, I was curious to see whether there was similar content being raised in the U.S. media. Only had time to check the NYT, which has an article praising Canada for its stance. How about including that sort of reaction in your story? Remember that the U.S. ambassador's main credentials are that he is a personal friend of George Bush.

—Judith Neamtan | Vancouver

Oops. Looks like we stepped on the tail of the big dog in the next yard. Tough biscuits, Mr. America. We are a sovereign nation and we won't be censored by you or anyone else. Give 'em ***, Paul!

—Sharon Ward | Halifax

Personally, I think that this is a very appropriate time for our political leaders to clarify their positions in comparison with the current U.S. administration.

Canadians of all stripes are concerned about the direction that "our friend and biggest trade partner" is taking. It is a major issue in my mind when considering where to mark my ballot.

South of the border it might be considered taking cheap shots, but north of the border, people need to know how Harper, Martin and Layton would fit into the U.S.'s plans.

Let's face it, we're living in a global community now. Each country cannot operate on its own with no forethought as to how it affects other countries or how other countries actions will affect us. Therefore, it is more than important, it is imperative that we know how each party would deal with the U.S.

—Deborah Burton | Mt. Pearl, NL

The comments of the U.S. Ambassador simply prove the fact that anyone who disagrees with U.S. policy is made wrong. It is a shame since so much more learning can occur when ideas are challenged. Paul Martin merely articulated a fact that is on the minds of many global citizens.

Does the reference to a slippery slope imply a threat? It sounds to me like the only kind of relationship the current U.S. administration is interested in is a subservient one.

—Lesley B Beatson | Rossland, B.C.

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