If Senator Barack Obama wins on Tuesday, as he’s expected to do, I wonder how Canada/U.S. relations will be affected?
For sure we will have a better starting point from which to operate than we did back in 2000 when George W. Bush entered the White House. For President Bush, Canada was a frozen white mystery stretching along his country’s northern border. He knew next to nothing about our country and seemed to care even less.
Nine days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, George W. delivered a speech in which he thanked 34 nations for their assistance. He failed to mention Canada, even though hundreds of flights carrying American citizens had made emergency landings here, when the U.S. government banned flights over their country.
During his first administration, our Country was treated shabbily over the U.S. illegal tariff on imports of softwood lumber from Canada and long delays in lifting an unnecessary 2003 ban on Canadian beef imports into the United States.
When President Bush finally visited Canada in November 2004, Prime Minister Martin had wanted Mr. Bush to speak to the House of Commons, as is customary for visiting American presidents, but Mr. Bush declined.
It was clear to all that the president’s visit had more to do with his effort to improve the image of the United States amid mounting international anger over the war in Iraq. And that he was using that overnight trip as a warm-up to a damage-control visit he was to make to European capitals early the following year.
With Senator Obama, we will have an American president who has, at least, visited Canada and knows something about our country. I believe his half-sister lives here in Burlington and he has visited our town.
I am not too worried about his promise to renegotiate NAFTA. His concerns seem more directed at trade agreements with countries with significantly lower labour standards. Ours are at least the equal of those in America.
And I do see the PM and the senator seeing eye to eye on many foreign policy issues. Stephen Harper is not as far to the right and Barack Obama is not as far to the left politically as many in the main stream media paint them. I see two highly intelligent men with lots of room for shared views.
I think the PM is more likely to follow Brian Mulroney’s model for Canada/U.S. relations than Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin’s. Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government, saw first-hand the benefits of a prime minister getting along well with a U.S. president. Neither Chrétien nor Martin could duplicate the sort of unofficial “most-favoured nation” status Canada enjoyed during the Mulroney era.
Senator Obama has said Afghanistan is going to be his priority. Therefore, Canada is a major contributor to what will be the major overseas engagement of the United States. This will provide an opportunity for Prime Minister Harper to explore the political dimensions of that conflict with an engaged president.
It took George W. Bush four years to get to a point where he understood something about Canada. I believe Senator Obama will be there on day one.