The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2007 Mar 13


Is LNG a smokescreen?

Like it or not, there are always going to be border issues.

Canada and the U.S. aren't alone in having problems with their borders. In some parts of the world, for example India and Pakistan, the border isn't even recognized, which leads to squabbles that occasionally escalate to violence.

We're fortunate that this isn't the case with our own neighbours. We only have one border to worry about, long though it is. And when those borders include rivers, lakes and oceans, the waters do become muddy. After all, when you share a border, it's not possible for both nations to "own" territorial waters, the boundaries of which would naturally intersect.

The U.S. and Canada likely have more in common than any two other neighbouring nations on the planet. However, there are differences. And while it's usually possible to work together, the differences are only really highlighted when there's a problem.

And the biggest issue seems to be, not territorial waters, but self interest. The U.S., as a so-called superpower, has never taken kindly to being told what to do. Attack the U.S., even verbally, and there's no conciliatory language, it's an all-out assault.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama has appeared to be a breath of fresh air on the political scene in the States. There was a real belief that here was a leader who could appeal to all. But that appeal, apparently, stops at the borders.

For example, when he was attacked by the Australian Prime Minster, he didn't sound conciliatory, or agree to disagree, he simply returned fire. And that's because, you simply don't attack American self interests. No one tells the U.S.what to do.

It's why the liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers issue has now taken on a new dimension.

Canada has, seemingly, attacked the U.S.'s right to do what it wants to do on its own territory. If a U.S. ship wants to go to a U.S. port, no one is going to stand in its way. To back down is to admit defeat, and that simply doesn't happen in the U.S.A.

It's unfortunate, because the issue of LNG tankers could soon cease to be the issue. Maybe that's what the terminal developers have been banking on all along. That their applications will be swallowed up by the bigger issue of the right for the U.S. to access its own communities. After all, what would the difference have been had these projects been located at, say, West Quoddy Head, a few miles along the coast, which LNG tankers would easily be able to access via U.S. waters? Is the Passamaquoddy Bay LNG issue simply a smokescreen to prove an entirely different point?

And the U.S., most definitely, does have the right to access its own ports. Lost in the current offensive on Canada not being able to tell the U.S.what to do is the comparison of issues that don't equate. It's simply a tactic to try to put Canada in the position of being inconsistent, and to paint Canada as interfering with the U.S., when that clearly isn't the case.

The 1909 International Boundary Waters Treaty, which exists between the U.S. and Canada, can be interpreted in many different ways. The fact that LNG tankers won't simply glide through unnoticed — gunships and exclusion zones preclude "innocent passage" — changes the way the rules are observed. And while this covers international waters, Head Harbour Passage is not an international waterway. It's in Canada.

This is clearly an issue that could take years to resolve, if the terminals are given the go-ahead. Maybe that will cause the problem to go away if construction is delayed for years. However, if they are given the all clear, and construction starts, then it places the onus clearly upon Canada again to stop the momentum. And, by doing so, it once more plays into the hands of those who say that no foreign country is going to tell the U.S. what to do.

Unless the issue is headed off, with a ruling that says Canada can do what it will in its own internal waters when the right of innocent passage is at issue, we're headed for a situation where the U.S. can, and will, do what IT wants when it comes to steamrollering unhindered through Canada's waterways, whether in Passamaquoddy Bay, B.C., the Great Lakes, or the Arctic. In other words, if we lose on this issue, Canada has no sovereignty, and that's a very scary prospect.


© 2007 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB