An attempt by a Saskatoon blogger and others to prevent former U.S. president George W. Bush from appearing at next month’s Surrey Regional Economic Summit is a classic exhibition of shortsightedness.
It also shows how many people have such closed minds that they absolutely refuse to consider there is more than one side on most issues.
This myopia may help them feel secure in their opinions, but it does little to promote understanding of complicated issues, and of the differing perspectives on those issues.
Bush, a Republican, is scheduled to appear on stage with former president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, on Oct. 20. Bush succeeded Clinton in occupying the White House, and together, the two presidents headed the world’s most powerful government for 16 straight years, from 1993 to 2009.
To have both of them in Surrey for an economic summit is a tremendous coup for this city. The period that they were in charge of the U.S. government was a critical period in setting the economic stage for today. Their insights are of great value.
It is revealing, bur not surprising, that there seems to be no concern about Clinton appearing in Surrey. This is obviously due to his politics, and the fact that he is not associated with the unpopular war in Iraq.
Bush was president of the U.S. at the time of 9-11, as has been noted extensively in recent weeks, during the 10th anniversary of that horrible attack. The attack and subsequent tightening of the border has had a significant effect on Surrey, the most important border point in Western Canada.
Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, which has continued to boost efforts by the U.S. government to prevent terrorists from entering their country. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq followed. The Afghan conflict, which continues, involved many Canadians and it was just earlier this year that Canada’s military role in Afghanistan ended.
Both he and Clinton presided over economic boom times in the U.S., and in the latter part of his presidency, Bush had to deal with the subprime mortgage crisis and the near-collapse of the U.S. banking system.
To hear firsthand about these times, and the decisions that were made, is of enormous benefit to the investors, business people and decision-makers who will attend the summit.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair was keynote speaker at an earlier Surrey summit, and was a controversial choice as well. He added immeasurably to the value of the event, and helped ensure that it continues to be regarded as one of the top business forums in B.C. each year.
To have two former presidents attend and speak will boost the value of the summit even further. It is vital that Surrey get the word out to those beyond the city borders of the tremendous economic opportunities that are available here.
Whether it is the scorn of downtown Vancouver elitists, or the indifference of eastern money changers, Surrey has had to struggle in the past to get that message out.
The summits have helped tremendously to change that perspective, and Mayor Dianne Watts and organizers deserve a lot of credit. Surrey has a very bright future, and a good deal of future economic activity will be directly related to the city’s position on the U.S. border and to U.S.-Canada trade relationships.
It would be very unfortunate if a few people with political axes to grind derail this event. Those who care about Surrey’s future and don’t get enmeshed in political shortsightedness are more broadminded and forward-thinking. Hopefully, they will prevail, and both former presidents will make this year’s Surrey Regional Economic Summit the best ever.
Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.