As reported on Sunday at TNB, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the White House on Monday in an effort to strengthen ties between Canada and the United States.
There are no indications he was successful.
First, Harper caused angst inside the Canadian political system by announcing a visit to D.C. without consulting the Trudeau administration. (CBC)
Adding to the confusion, say the sources, the White House did not specify which “prime minister” was expected for the meetings; the Americans often use political titles long after a politician has left office. That led some Canadian officials to believe a visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been planned in secret.
Trudeau’s foreign policy adviser, John Hannaford, contacted his counterpart in the White House, who apologized and explained it was former prime minister Harper who would be visiting.
Harper, now a private citizen, has been critical of Trudeau’s handling of the NAFTA dispute and co-signed (with former Australian PM John Howard) a full-page New York Times ad praising Trump for his decision to pull out of the Iran deal. (Global News) He had a very strong relationship with George W. Bush, and cordial relations with President Obama. He had every reason to expect a similarly positive reaction from the Trump administration.
Harper is not in power, and can do little directly for Trump except for smoothing over relations with one of our strongest allies. If the problem was Trudeau, Harper’s political stock would rise and the US/Canada relationship could easily be saved from further damage.
On Monday, Harper’s expected meeting with John Bolton did not happen, as Bolton declined to meet with him. Instead, what was originally described as a secondary meeting, between Harper and Larry Kudlow, took place.
Kudlow has a long history of supporting NAFTA, friendly relations with Canada, and standing against tariffs. It was to be expected that there would be a positive discussion.
Instead, Harper left the White House with no fanfare and no comments about the meeting. (CBC)
He tweeted three times that day. Once to talk about the previous week’s successful meetings, and twice to post photos about discussions he’d had with DC leaders focused on promoting world freedom. He posted nothing about his talk with Larry Kudlow. His silence speaks volumes.
If Kudlow was still supportive of his life’s work over his devotion to the economic policy of President Trump, there would likely have been at least a photo tweeted by Harper. There was none.
If Trump wanted good relations with Canada, he would have taken the easy opportunity handed him by an opposition leader willing to give him fawning praise. Instead Harper walked away with nothing.
The chill in the U.S. / Canada relationship is not accidental, nor is it Canada’s fault. It is American policy.