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Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada at the Air Quality Agreement Signing Ceremony in Ottawa

March 13, 1991

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, distinguished guests: I'm very pleased to welcome President Bush to Canada on his first foreign trip since the end of the Gulf war. He comes to Canada today as a President who is greatly admired at home and widely respected abroad, and one whose skill and resolve provided the international community with a stunning success in a war over Iraq.

In my many meetings and conversations with President Bush since August 2d I have been struck both by his grasp of the issues and by the breadth of his vision in regard to this remarkable problem. He instinctively chose to work within the United Nations. He painstakingly constructed and nurtured a great and disparate coalition of sovereign nations. He provided the perspective and the patience required for successful statecraft. And when, at the 11th hour, a diplomatic solution was again rejected, President Bush provided the strength and the decisiveness required for the successful prosecution of war.

I'm not entirely certain how history will interpret the expression "defining moment," which appears to be pretty much en vogue in certain quarters these days. But I assume it means the crystallization of great need and wise, confident leadership in a manner that indelibly affects succeeding generations. In that regard, the conduct of the Gulf crisis and the war, from its uncertain beginnings to its triumphant end, was in fact, a defining moment for the United Nations, the United States, and the world. And for this extraordinary achievement the name George Bush will live proudly in the history of free men and women.

In fact, this Presidency in my judgment will always be remembered for the uncommon courage and the strong leadership that President George Bush of the United States of America demonstrated throughout an exceptionally challenging and potentially explosive period in world history.

Canada and the United States are close friends and trusted allies. And the President of the United States is always most welcome in our country. And, Mr. President, I bid you on behalf of everyone a most warm welcome here today.

I have noticed that President Bush has acquired along the way a 91-percent approval rating. [Laughter] Because of our close relationship and because this is a special day -- George Bush and I have been friends for many years -- I know that the President will want to pool his ratings with mine. [Laughter] We can then, George, divide by two, and we both come out ahead. [Laughter]

But it's a particular pleasure for us to welcome you, Mr. President, on this visit to sign the Canada-United States Air Quality Accord. This agreement has had a long and sometimes difficult history. It has involved three United States administrations and five successive Canadian governments. You and I, Mr. President, have worked on this issue since the days when you were still Vice President. And I see Allan Gottlieb here today -- when Alan was our Ambassador in the United States, and so many others who have played an important role in it. But no one has played a more critical role than you.

You have demonstrated sensitivity to Canadian interests in your proceeding with domestic clean air legislation and in signing this agreement today. It commits the Governments of both countries, this arrangement today, to a series of targets and schedules, and requires both to make public the progress that is achieved. The agreement also provides a framework for cooperation to solve other transboundary air pollution problems.

[At this point, a telephone rang.]

That's Gallup calling, Mr. President. [Laughter] I expected a push, but not this fast. [Laughter]

With this agreement and with the control programs now in effect in both countries, we are confident that the acid rain menace will be eliminated by the year 2000.

I would like to take this opportunity -- there are many people who deserve to be thanked today. Davie Fulton from the IJC, and I mentioned Allan. And so many others: John Fraser, who is the Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. President, but in his previous incarnation was Minister of the Environment, and a most successful one. And I see Bill Reilly, who is here from the United States; and Robert De Cotret; and David MacDonald, who is Chairman of the Environment Committee of the House of Commons; and so many parliamentarians who are with us today who played a key role.

But I would like to thank Michael Phillips, of External Affairs, and Bob Slater, of Environment Canada, our negotiators, for a job well-done. And I would like to thank their American counterparts and the scores of people on both sides, many of whom are present this afternoon, for working so hard to make this happy day possible.

Mr. President, this agreement is very important to Canadians. Our national soul takes its breath from the forests and lakes and mountains and prairies that give life to our country. The aboriginal peoples of Canada have taught us that we hold this magnificent land, as you do yours, in trust for future generations. And so, today's agreement will help us correct many of the errors of the past.

With this agreement we are guaranteeing our children that air quality will never again be taken for granted on this continent. The sensitivity and idealism of children on both sides of the border are our environment's best hope.

Mr. President, your colleagues from the administration, Governor Sununu and General Scowcroft, and your colleagues, Ambassador Ney: on behalf of Canadians young and old, I would like to express our appreciation for your cooperation.

There is someone here, Stan Darling, Mr. President, who is right over there, who, as he says, is a member of the Conservative Caucus, soon to be 80 years young, as he says every Wednesday. He was one of the often unmentioned guiding lights who fought the fight over many long and difficult years to make this possible. And while you and I get to sign it today, Mr. President, what we sign is a tribute to Stan Darling and so many Members of Parliament and Members of Congress and members of the administration on both sides who deserve this tribute today.

So, I would like to express our appreciation for your cooperation, and I want to thank you for your vital contribution to preserving the common environment we both hold in trust for future generations. I'm aware, Mr. President, of the pressures on you. There are actually some pressures on us in the same ways up here in Canada. And to have moved as you did the environmental question so quickly within your own borders, so far and to such heights, is a tribute to the commitment that you made to the American people and to the Government of Canada -- that if elected, you would make this your highest priority and you would try to bring about a day like today. Well, we're here, Mr. President, and we're here on a happy day in very large measure because you provided that principal leadership. You followed through when you gave your commitment. And for that and many other reasons I express our thanks. And I give you the warmest of welcomes to Canada.

Minister De Cotret. President Bush has certainly demonstrated an unprecedented interest in the bilateral environment affairs of Canada and the United States. Mr. President, Canadians look forward to making further improvements to our shared heritage. Allow me to add my appreciation to that of the Prime Minister. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

The President. Thank you all very much for that welcome to Canada. And, Mr. Prime Minister, it's a delight to be with you and Mrs. Mulroney again. And to Minister De Cotret, why, thank you, sir, for presiding at this historic occasion, one that we've been looking forward to very, very much.

To the Members of the Parliament and to our able Ambassador, Eddie Ney, it's a great pleasure to be up here and then to add my name along with our country's commitment to an agreement of great environmental importance. I, too, would like to pay my respects to Mr. Darling. I can't say I have felt his lash or his determination as much as others in this Parliament have felt -- [laughter] -- but I would like to assure him that while he was fighting the domestic battles here, sensitizing Canadians -- and sometimes it spilled over to sensitizing those south of the border here -- Ambassadors Gottlieb and Burney were no paper tigers. They were on us like ugly on an ape, I'll tell you. [Laughter] And they stayed on us, and appropriately so, because I think because of their leadership they had brought many in the United States Congress and many in the administration to understand just how important a priority this was to the Prime Minister and to the Members here. And so, I salute them as well.

Before I speak about this agreement briefly, let me just make a brief comment to underscore my sincere appreciation for the key contribution made by your country to the coalition's recent victory in the war to liberate Kuwait. Mr. Prime Minister, since the very first minute that you and I talked, Canada and the United States were appropriately, significantly side by side. And I thank you, sir, I thank the Canadian people, I thank the Members of this Parliament for standing in partnership for the principles that gave justice real meaning in the world. I once again want to say that I would talk -- I'm sure it seemed to him endlessly -- but to your Prime Minister, and the American people knew from day one exactly where Canada stood. And we are very, very grateful for that.

This agreement that we're fixing to sign is added proof that the challenges we face require a new partnership among nations. Last year at the Houston economic summit, we agreed to give this effort real priority. Our negotiators gained momentum with the passage in the U.S. of our landmark environmental legislation, the clean air act of 1990. Credit for this accord belongs to the EPA in our country, its able Administrator, Bill Reilly, who is with us today. And of course, credit goes to the negotiators on both sides for the spirit in which they completed this task. Let me thank our special negotiator, Dick Smith, and his colleagues, as well as their counterparts across the table on the Canadian side for a job well-done.

Beyond our common interest in our shared environment, this agreement says something about our overall relationship. The fact that Canada and the United States were able so quickly to craft a wide-ranging and effective agreement on such a complex subject says a lot about the extraordinarily strong relationship between our two countries.

Mr. Prime Minister, I do recall our own discussions on environmental issues, and especially our meeting before I became President back in January of 1987. I made a comment then that made its way into more than a few Canadian news reports, that I'd gotten "an earful" from you on acid rain. That was the understatement of the year. [Laughter] So now, I came up here to prove to you that I was listening, and all of us on the American side were listening. And again, we appreciate your strong advocacy, your articulate advocacy of this principle that I think will benefit the American people, the Canadian people. And I like to think it goes even beyond the borders of our two great countries.

So, thank you very much. The treaty that we sign today is testimony to the seriousness with which both our countries regard this critical environmental issue. And here is one that did take two to tango. Here is one where each had to come give a little and take a little, and it's been worth it. And I think we're doing something good and sound and decent today.

Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The Prime Minister spoke at 3:50 p.m. in the Reading Room at Parliament Hill. In his remarks, the Prime Minister referred to Allan Gottlieb, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States; E. Davie Fulton, Chairman of the Canadian Section of the International Joint Commission -- United States and Canada; John Fraser, Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons and former Minister of the Environment; William K. Reilly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Canadian Minister of the Environment Robert de Cotret; David MacDonald, chairperson of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment; Michael Phillips, Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister for External Affairs; R.W. Slater, Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister for the Environment; John H. Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President; Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Edward Ney, U.S. Ambassador to Canada; and Stan Darling, Canadian Member of Parliament. The President referred to the Prime Minister's wife, Mila; Derek H. Burney, Canadian Ambassador to the United States; and Richard J. Smith, U.S. Special Negotiator for Acid Rain Talks With Canada.

George Bush, Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada at the Air Quality Agreement Signing Ceremony in Ottawa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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