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A podium and a mic

Pamela Wallen’s speech to the Empire Club from Jan. 10 aired on CPac tonight. She stood up and said that…

By Jessica Smith , in A podium and a mic Blogs , on January 19, 2008

Pamela Wallen’s speech to the Empire Club from Jan. 10 aired on CPac tonight. She stood up and said that the U.S. and Canada should understand each other better. We should have a “constructive” relationship. We trade with each other and share a pop culture, a familial relationship, but there is a deafness between us that is only broken by us Canadians harping at the U.S. like a morally superior annoying little sister, she said.


When she began as consul general of Canada in New York she was told “Canada too often seeks to engage America by waving their fingers,” she said, and in her speech she agreed with that.

“The hectoring strategy doesn’t work, even if we’re right,” she said.

She may be right. Whoever spray painted the “Impeach Bush” I saw on the side of the Trans Canada Highway near the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal isn’t likely part of the “constructive engagement … without superiority” with the U.S. that Wallin asked for in her speech. And Canadian politicians who criticize the U.S., or “take potshots,” might not be more effectual than the spray painter.

On the other hand, maybe she is missing the point. If in a relationship one party has to muzzle what they have to say in order to keep the thing constructive, is it worth it? While Wallin thinks so, I’m not sure. Asking Canada to keep things constructive may be asking us to give up on, or compromise, too much.

There are platitudes that politicians can use to bridge ideological gaps between us and the U.S. and Wallin included one in her speech: “Open boarders are crucial, but so are secure ones.”

Are empty platitudes constructive?

She also said we’re nosy: “We feel that we can comment on their domestic political matters, but would take offense if they were to do the same.” It sounds logical, but the power of the U.S. makes their business everyone’s business to criticize, constructive or not.

Wallin’s speech will air again on CPac, beginning with 4 a.m. tomorrow. Please see their schedule.