Shamrock Summit seen as 'turning point' for U.S.-Canada relations

Remember the "Shamrock Summit?" Newly de-classified documents from the U.S. National Security Council indicate the Americans saw the 1985 Quebec City meeting between Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan as a key turning point in relations with its northern neighbours.

The memorable TV image was of the former Canadian Prime Minister singing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling with then-United States President Reagan. (Both leaders traced their ancestry back to Ireland, hence the nickname for the summit.)

At such moments, the summit looked staged and rehearsed. Now, the U.S. documents reveal just how important the staging was for the Americans.

In one memo to Reagan, Canadian affairs specialist Tyrus Cobb writes: "We have what amounts to a revolution in U.S.-Canadian relations."

In another transcript, Secretary of State George Schultz says of Mulroney: "We are ideologically on the same wavelength."

The transcripts are laced with unflattering comments about Mulroney's predecessor, Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau is accused of provoking a massive flight of investment from Canada, neglecting the military, and pursuing unwelcome policies on nuclear arms control and Third World issues.

In contrast, says a memo by National Security Council director Robert Mcfarlane: "Under Mulroney, Canada still wishes to avoid being seen as a lackey of Washington, but he has ceased taking initiatives which diverge significantly from our own."

Other transcripts record a high level of satisfaction with Mulroney's pledge to increase military spending and support Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defence project. Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger is quoted as saying: "We should praise the Prime Minister but we should press the Canadians to do more."

The documents also recognized that Mulroney should be thrown a bone at the summit, in the form of a partly symbolic U.S. concession on acid rain. Reagan agrees, but says in one pre-summit meeting: "We haven't had air as clean as we have now for decades."

The documents also warn that Canadians resent being taken for granted in the U.S. Yet in one memo to Reagan there is this astonishing admission: "We have not seriously addressed U.S.-Canadian relations for over a decade."