About the Event

The Council hosted a discussion about U.S.-Canada relations featuring remarks from Mr. Tom Clark, Consul General of Canada in New York. The discussion focused on several key topics, such as Canada’s strategic role in world power politics and the value and importance of the Canada-US alliance in managing the shifting geopolitical inflection point the world is experiencing. Mr. Clark also discussed the deepening North American economic integration, and how to mutually work with its economic partners to transition to a greener economy. Finally, Consul General Clark drew on his past as one of Canada’s most respected journalists and discuss how important media freedom and the fight against disinformation are in strengthening democracies around the world.

The conversation was facilitated by Lauren Swartz, President & CEO of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. Time for Q&A provided audience members with the chance to dive deeper into the topics of their choosing, including his insight into these pivotal moments in history, Canada’s role in the world, and the close diplomatic relationship between the United States and Canada.

The event began with the Consul General’s reflections on the recent visit of President Biden to Canada. Mr. Clark noted that the Prime Minister and President had communicated frequently via video calls and when Biden was the vice president, but the new, in-person visit emphasized the two countries’ common values and objectives. The Consul General first highlighted combating climate change as a major goal, explaining Canada’s complicated situation as both one of the world’s main energy suppliers and a state in transition to green energy through policies such as a carbon tax. Second, the Consul General highlighted the U.S.-Canadian initiative to reduce dependence on Chinese semiconductors, an effort which is assisted by Canada having the 91% of the minerals necessary for chip production. The last common value Mr. Clark chose to emphasize was the American and Canadian history of immigration. He described the system of Canadians “adopting” refugees, which proved so popular that applicants complained when the system ran out of refugees to match with citizens. Mr. Clark explained how Canada views immigration as a solution to its labor shortage problem and how this led to an increase in immigration quotas. He also described the revisions to “The Safe Third Country Agreement” which closed the loophole on irregular migration through unofficial border checkpoints. He explained it as a way of balancing compassion with upholding the rule of law.

During the Q&A, one attendee asked about the stalled progress of the Vancouver oil pipeline. Mr. Clark explained that the project had initially gained the approval of one First Nations’ group but not the one currently opposing the pipeline. He elaborated that a 20 to 50% equity buy-in for affected indigenous groups is becoming a standard practice to resolve similar disputes. The next question was about the production of fertilizer and whether the U.S. and Canada can assist the developing world with exports. The Consul General replied that Canada certainly has the potash supplies to expand fertilizer production, but increasing exports would need to be done through private corporations since a government program would interfere with domestic access to the product. The next question inquired about why the plan to export gas to the Northeast was not implemented. The Consul General replied that energy suppliers decided to export to the region via powerlines from Quebec rather than pipelines. He further noted that Canadian pipelines provide most of the oil and gas to Pennsylvania and have a major impact on the prices for those products. A student asked why migrants crossing into Canada via Roxham Road are arrested. Mr. Clark clarified that the earlier version of the treaty did not allow migrants who cross illegally to be returned to the United States. The new provisions allowing for return are part of Canada’s attempt to reduce irregular migration and process migrants through normal, legal means. Continuing the topic of immigration, an attendee asked how Canada pays for and builds migrant housing. The Consul General said that Canada focuses on integrating immigrants into its society, so the government builds housing across the country with support from community donations. Mr. Clark recounted the story of the Peace by Chocolate Company, started by a family who fled from the Syrian Civil War and settled in Nova Scotia. He further explained that Canada’s immigration system is focused on accepting workers with skills that are in demand. When asked about Canada’s progress on the COP goals, the Consul General observed that it is difficult to measure progress because of the absence of yearly measures but that the states and provinces have settled on the dates and methods of their programs. The last question was about whether NATO and Canada are satisfied with the state of their security relationship. Mr. Clark answered affirmatively, stating that Canadian troops are present across NATO’s operations and that Canada is expanding its fleet in response to security concerns about the Arctic. The Consul General recounted how the Chinese Navy regularly requests Canada’s permission to enter its Arctic waters, likely to establish a precedent that Canada should request permission to enter the Taiwan Strait. He said that the target of spending 2% of GDP on defense can be calculated in many ways and that Americans should be aware that Canada doesn’t follow the U.S. policy of using defense spending as regional development. He also noted that Canada will increase its spending and is building critical infrastructure for jets.

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About the Diplochat Series

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia has provided its members, supporters, and the Greater Philadelphia community with access to domestic and foreign policymakers, global leaders, and influential thinkers.

The Satell Family Foundation “Diplochat” series provides meeting attendees with the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with diplomats from around the world. Audience members can ask questions and engage with those appointed by their governments to represent their country, skillfully negotiate, and use soft power to maintain political, economic, and social relations on the global stage.