VANCOUVER, BC-Increasing negative attitudes and rising
criticism of Canada-U.S. cooperation have dominated the
bilateral debate in Canada's Parliament since 2006, according
to a new, peer-reviewed study from independent research
organization the Fraser Institute.
Measuring Parliament's Attitude towards Canada-US
Cooperation, points out that an enormous decline in support for
Canada-U.S. cooperation occurred in 2006, where 57 per cent of
the parliamentary debate surrounding the Canadian-American
relationship expressed a negative outlook towards cooperation.
The year 2006 also saw the Liberal Party suddenly double its
share of critical comments to 50 per cent, despite having
expressed generally warm sentiments towards the Canada-U.S.
relationship prior to the 2006 change in minority government
from Liberal to Conservative.
"This pivot suggests that the Liberal Party is willing to
change its overall favorable sentiment in support of close
cooperation with the United States while it is in government to
a critical attitude of overall Canadian-American cooperation
when it is in opposition," said Alexander Moens, professor of
political science at Simon Fraser University and coauthor of
The study, scrutinizes the parliamentary Hansard for
instances where MPs expressed their support for, or opposition
to, more cooperation and/or better relations with the United
States. It does so using an objective, quantifiable method
called content analysis. A total of 918 comments relating to
trade and economy, borders and security, and political
relations between Canada and the U.S. were identified and
analyzed. A team of four independent judges was enlisted to
score in an objective and reliable way whether the sentiment of
each comment was positive, negative, or neutral.
The study reveals a consistent trend of negative sentiment
and rising criticism towards Canada's relationship with the
United States through 2002-2007, where softwood lumber and
border issues were always at the forefront of parliamentary
Three significant trends are identified with regard to
- Comments from both the New Democratic Party and the Bloc
Québécois were consistently negative over the entire period
studied and across all categories;
- The Conservative Party scored most positive of all
parties but increased its volume of neutral comments after
- Comments from the Liberal Party were generally positive
until 2006, after which its sentiment became primarily
According to the report, parliamentary debate regarding
Canada-U.S. cooperation was 54.5 per cent positive following
9/11 from 2002 to 2003. In 2006, however, this overall
cooperative attitude dropped to as low as 14 per cent, while 57
per cent of the parliamentary comments studied for the same
year presented a negative outlook.
These observations appear to contradict the notion that
Canadian attitudes towards the United States were negative
after 9/11 and only turned positive after the 2006 switch in
government from Liberal to Conservative.
To interpret these findings as objectively as possible, the
study considers whether major changes on the top issues could
explain observed trends but finds little variance in the issues
themselves, where the border and softwood lumber were always
the most contentious items.
The study is based on the premise that a cooperative
approach towards Canada-U.S. relations serves Canada best.
"Our findings show a large presence in Parliament that
either criticizes more and better cooperation with the U.S. or
is willing to use this relationship as a tool for political
advantage and power," Moens said.
"These findings should be a concern to Canadians and
Americans alike, as improved cooperation is the key to North
American prosperity and security."