“Drift” in Canada’s relationship with the U.S.?

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Minister of Defense Peter MacKay of Canada opening an international security forum in 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Photo: Office of the Secretary of Defense

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Minister of Defense Peter MacKay of Canada opening an international security forum in 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Photo: Office of the Secretary of Defense

New polling data show a downward trend in the number of Canadians who favor working in close partnership with the U.S. on security issues.

Here’s one of the actual questions, from a large and wide-ranging poll entitled: “CAN-AM Relationship Drift Continues” conducted by Canadian firm Nanos Research and SUNY Buffalo:

“in terms of national security (i.e., NATO, the United Nations), should the United States and Canada be moving towards greater and closer cooperation or should they be maintaining separate national security policies and priorities?”

As reported by CBC:

Forty-five per cent of respondents said Canada and the U.S. should move towards greater cooperation. That’s down nine points from 2012 and 19 points from 2005.

Twenty per cent thought policies and priorities should stay the same, while 32 per cent want separate policies, up 10 points from 2005.

OK, that’s still 45% who favor cooperation. But as recently as 2005, that number stood at 64%. According to this poll, U.S. interest in cooperation with Canada is also on a downward trend, from a high of 74% in 2006 to 64% now.

The wide-ranging survey was conducted Aug. 18-22, 2013, after the initial Edward Snowden N.S.A. revelations, but before the current Syria missle-strike issue. (The much-debated civilian gas attack took place on Aug 21.)

The poll suggests a similar drop took place on the subject of human rights, as summarized by Embassy:

Only 27 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they believed the United States was the nation most aligned with Canada on human rights issues, down from 49 per cent in 2012.

The last time the survey found such a low amount of Canadians believing Americans were their country’s primary human rights partners was in 2007, when it sat around 25 per cent. Since then it had climbed to a high of over 50 per cent in 2011.

Canadians picked Britain as the country they felt was the closest with Canada on human rights, while the US came second, and Germany third.

According to the same poll: 63% of Canadians strongly agree or agree that “Canada should follow its own interests, even if that leads to conflict with other nations.” Meanwhile, 57% of Americans strongly agree or agree “The US should follow its own interests, even if this leads to conflict with other nations.”

This is a post about one particular poll. Some readers dismiss polls in general as imperfect, irrelevant or downright suspect. Still, they can can offer interesting snapshots – or trends – worth pondering.

Canadians: have recent events made you more or less interested in cooperating with the U.S. on security issues?

Americans: do you care what other countries think about the U.S.? Or should the U.S. do what it deems necessary and damn the critics?

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8 Comments on ““Drift” in Canada’s relationship with the U.S.?”

  1. mervel says:

    As an American I want closer security ties with Canada. But probably not what Canadians want, I would like to see Canada step up their military spending to become relevant in the world stage. They do not currently have the military capacity to have any influence on what happens security wise in the world today. Certainly they can use diplomacy, but their diplomacy is degraded by the fact they do not have the military to act if necessary.

    They have a robust economy and certainly have the resources and skills to be a larger player in world events. As our largest trading partner and a wealthy country I think they have for to long stood by and let the US make all of the hard choices.

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  2. Walker says:

    Mervel, I doubt they regret not having gotten involved in Iraq or Afghanistan, do you? We have a long record of making hard choices wrong.

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  3. JDM says:

    I think most countries are clearly seeing what a bunch of inept boobs we have running the country.

    Good for some. Bad for others.

    Disastrous for US.

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  4. Lucy Martin says:

    Actually, Canada opted out of Iraq but showed up early, stayed long and fought hard in Afghanistan, with significant casualties, bearing in mind Canada’s population is one-tenth of the U.S.

    That entire mission is winding down (the fighting/military component is mostly done). All of it will end in 2014, according to this Canadian government site.

    On the whole, I’d say Canadians feel skipping Iraq was a good decision. Was Afghanistan worth blood and treasure? The jury’s still out on that. But more and more it looks to have been a futile exercise.

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  5. Sherm says:

    I’m simply grateful for neighbors in Canada. I have always found Canadians to be thoughtful, considerate allies.
    There is no external country more pleasant to spend time in for an American than Canada.
    When all the petty differences are swept aside we have an exceptional relationship with excellent friends to our North.
    Sherman Brown
    Walnut Creek California

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  6. The Original Larry says:

    Who cares what other countries think about us? It’s not a popularity contest. Besides, we always have plenty of friends when the trouble starts. The US has been doing the heavy lifting in international affairs since at least 1898 and while others may not like us, nobody complains when we help defend a country or depose a dictator or eliminate a colonial power. Do we get it right all the time? No. Comes with the territory, I guess, of being who and what we are.

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  7. mervel says:

    I am not saying that Canada was wrong in setting their own course for Iraq, not at all, I thought that the US should not have invaded and certainly respect Canada for not doing something that is against their foreign policy.

    My point is that Canada should be leading on some of these issues, not following or abstaining, they simply do not invest nearly enough in their military, they rely on the US as do many European countries and Japan. It is time that we all share in this effort and Canada step up.

    What is Canada’ position on Syria and the Chemical weapons? Does anyone even care? Why don’t they step up and take an independent lead on what they want to do about Syria? The reason is they do not have the military assets to be relevant in the region. Certainly their Armed services are competent, brave and effective, but they cannot project power they don’t have the military capability to even go to Syria to do anything.

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  8. mervel says:

    They are a wonderful neighbor and great trading partner and we must have good relations with them, the US falls down in not paying nearly enough attention to the relationship.

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