COLUMN: Banning Bush a myopic view

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 short-sightedness. 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.

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 men 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 they were in charge of the U.S. government was a critical period in setting the economic stage for today.

There seems to be no concern about Clinton appearing in Surrey. This is obviously due to his politics, and the fact he is not associated with the unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush was president of the U.S. at the time of 9/11. That attack and subsequent tightening of the border has had a significant effect on Surrey.

Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, which has continued to boost efforts to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S. 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 Bush 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 it continues to be regarded as one of the top business forums in B.C.

To have two former U.S. presidents attend will boost the value of the summit even further. It is vital Surrey gets the word out beyond the city’s 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 change that perspective, and Mayor Dianne Watts and organizers deserve a lot of credit. Surrey has a bright future, and a good deal of future economic activity will be directly related to the city’s position on U.S.-Canada trade relationships.

It would be 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 short-sightedness. Hopefully they will prevail, and both former presidents will make this year’s Surrey Regional Economic Summit the best ever.

Frank Bucholz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

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