Helping to keep the lines of communication well-greased, Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer embarked on his first political trip across the border last week.
Along with Alberta MP Rob Merrifield, Zimmer spent a day and a half in about a dozen meetings with American members of Congress and Senate in Washington, D.C., discussing ways to keep the trade relationship between the two neighbouring countries running smoothly.
Former chair of the Canada-US Interparliamentary Association, Merrifield currently chairs the House of Commons' standing committee on international trade.
"I got to tag along and be part of the conversation," said Zimmer, who sits on the federal agricultural and veterans' affairs committees. "We talked about a few of those issues as well and it was more of a well-rounded conversation."
Zimmer compared the Canada-U.S. relationship to that of his own three sons.
"Brothers often don't always see eye to eye but when it comes right down to the crunch they love each other, they're going to take care of each other," he said, taking that attitude into the meetings. "Look, we'll do much better if we're on the same page, so let's try and do that as much as we can because we both benefit as a result. We want to see the U.S. doing better and, of course we represent Canada first, but we think there's room for both to do well."
As each other's largest trading partners, there were some questions and concerns that could be easily addressed by being in the same room, Zimmer said. The Canadians were also able to impart some advice on ways the Americans could get their own fiscal house in order.
"Canada's on their map, they understand how well we're doing... They were very intrigued and very interested to hear how we did it - we're top of the G7 - what are some of the tax measures that we have in place?" Of particular interest, Zimmer said, was Canada's corporate tax rate reduction that didn't stifle revenue growth. "So they're looking at some of those solutions to find solutions for their own fiscal issues."
One of the concerns the MPs brought up was keeping the borders as open as possible, with the United States' Buy American proviso in their American Jobs Act acting as a hurdle.
"The Buy American thing is one thing we want to make sure they understand, it doesn't really benefit our relationship and we want to make sure our relationship is as open as possible and benefits both of us," Zimmer said. "Most Canadians will see the ongoing benefits of a trade relationship where things are moving and the gears are continually moving along as opposed to stalling. And I think that's what our efforts are intended to do - to keep things moving."