NDP leader Thomas Mulcair wants to abolish it. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau unfriended it. Prime Minister Stephen Harper would like to avoid the subject. But last week the Canadian Senate proved that it can make a valuable contribution to public policy discourse by issuing a thoughtful report on North America.
It was a product of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, chaired by Senator Raynell Andreychuk of Saskatchewan. Entitled North American Neighbours: Maximizing Opportunities and Strengthening Cooperation for a More Prosperous Future, the report weighs in at a concise 38 pages. The Committee heard from 22 witnesses including the Mexican Ambassador to Canada Francisco Suárez. (Full disclosure: I was a witness as well)
The report calls on the Government of Canada to improve bilateral relations with Mexico, which have been tense in recent years following the Harper government’s imposition of a visa requirement for Mexicans trying to enter Canada. Despite all the furor over illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States, neither country requires a visa for visitors from the other. Work visas are different and all three countries requires these of citizens of the other two.
Interestingly, the report gives three reasons for improving relations with Mexico. The first is that Mexico has significant potential as a partner for Canada. At a time when many Canadian firms, NGOs and students looking to study abroad are hoping for improved access to emerging markets, Canada already has privileged access to one of the most dynamic markets thanks to NAFTA. And Mexico’s energy reforms have led Mexican firms to look for partners abroad, so why not Canadian firms?