Borderline personality

I have a confession to make. When I was bureau chief (and all the Indians) for The Financial Post in Washington, D.C. from 1989-93, there were occasions when I would make news happen. Here’s how it would work. If by 11 a.m. I couldn’t see an obvious story that would interest my editors, I’d phone around. There were three sure-fire calls. One was a guy I knew at a U.S. organization that had a long-standing trade fight with Canada. I won’t name him. It’s OK to embarrass myself, but I’m not going to snitch on someone else.

I’d ask him if there were anything happening on his file and, sensing my need for something to be happening, he’d come up with a poll that was about to go into the field or a hearing some no-name member of congress was thinking about considering, and pretty soon I’d have a trade story concerning a pox on Canadian exports to the U.S. that I knew my editors would like.

If he wasn’t available, there was aways Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) who was forever trying to slap duties on Canadian wheat or lumber or anything else that moved from north-to-south. Canada’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Derek Burney used to kid Baucus that he appeared on CBC-TV ‘s The National more often than some Canadian cabinet ministers. If Baucus’s staff weren’t cooperative there was always Byron Dorgan, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from North Dakota whose particular problem with Canada was the quality (or lack thereof in his mind) of meat coming across the border.

You get the idea. These were all serious trade issues but readers might not have read about them quite as often as they did if people like me didn’t get in there and stir the pot. I got thinking about all this when I read a story in the Globe and Mail this morning about long-simmering Canada-U.S. issues such as Keystone, the Windsor-Detroit bridge, and Buy American legislation. Maybe if journalists would stop hyping these topics, some so-called irritants might go away or even get solved. Or would such behaviour be too much to ask?

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