December 27, 2009

PRETTY HARD TO MESS THEM UP ONCE W RID US OF CHRETIEN:

Unnatural bedfellows fortify bilateral links: In a year of lemons, Barack Obama and Stephen Harper made lemonade (Mitch Potter, 12/27/09, Toronto Star)

They may not be natural bedfellows. However, Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper set a remarkably warm tone from the outset on Feb. 19, when the president arrived in Ottawa, making Canada his first stop in what would be a year of international overtures signalling a new era of collaborative American engagement. The lightning visit was nothing short of a love-in, replete with Obama leaping from his armoured limousine for a celebrated wander through Ottawa's ByWard Market.

Beneath the photo-ops, a more pragmatic message was delivered. Though Team Obama arrived with significant ties to prominent Canadian liberals (Obama's top adviser David Axelrod has done work for the Ontario Liberal Party; and Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff is tight with several Obama insiders by dint of his years at Harvard), the new American president signalled he was ready to work with the Canadian government that is, rather than the one that isn't and may never be.

"Put it this way: the Americans aren't waiting around for a change in our government," said former Canadian ambassador to Washington Allan Gotlieb.

"In that respect, it is solid and relatively free of rancour. I would rate the Harper-Obama relationship a seven out of 10. And I rarely give higher than an eight."

Gotlieb and others will be watching carefully as that relationship advances into more precarious territory. And not merely on the obvious issue of thickening borders, but also on the potentially dangerous daylight many see between the Canadian and American policies on climate change and Afghanistan.

"Canadian energy is taking a terrible beating as `dirty oil' from Alberta and we have yet to see what the U.S. will actually do in the aftermath of Copenhagen," said Gotlieb.

"In the broader sense, I think we are still waiting for evidence that the Obama White House has a strategic view of Canada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2009 7:38 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« NOTHING LIKE A RECESSION...: | Main | MORE DISAPPOINTMENT AHEAD: »