Obama, Harper don’t like each other, and only a new leader can thaw relations - The Globe and Mail
U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday kept up his tradition of informal relations with fellow world leaders by summoning Prime Minister. How could Canada, a country widely regarded as being full of socially progressive and tolerant people, elect someone like Harper?. These two men led countries with a longstanding friendly relationship. The U.S. is Canada's only next door neighbor. We share the longest.
They went even further south when Paul Martin infuriated the Americans by withdrawing Canadian support for ballistic missile defence. Stephen Harper came to office determined to reset the relationship. One of the government's first acts was to negotiate an end to the softwood lumber dispute.
The prime minister affirmed and expanded the Martin government's commitment to an expeditionary force for Afghanistan. Obama, who was far more popular among Canadians than Mr.
President Bush and Prime Minister Harper Discuss the Future of Globalization | Bush Center
Harper, became president inthe two embarked on an ambitious plan to co-ordinate continental security, harmonize regulations and make it easier to cross the border. The Beyond the Border accord of marked the high point of the Obama-Harper relationship. But already obstacles were piling up. Congress imposed Buy American restrictions on infrastructure contracts. Beyond the Border turned out to exist mostly on paper, because the Americans were too broke to pay their share of the infrastructure costs.
Harper was left fuming.
And then there was Keystone. A Nebraska court will soon rule on legal issues surrounding the pipeline.President Obama and PM Harper on Ongoing Recovery Efforts
If the ruling is favourable, Mr. Obama may finally give the go-ahead. Or, the new Republican Congress may force his hand by approving the pipeline and daring him to veto the bill. Story continues below advertisement It won't matter.
Nothing that happens now will change Mr. Harper's mind about a president whom he personally rather likes, but for whom he has lost all respect.
Relations between the two capitals for the next year or two will remain no better than lukewarm at best. Obama vetoes Congressional approval of Keystone, things could get as bad as they were in the early s, when John Diefenbaker deeply angered John F. Kennedy by refusing to allow American nuclear weapons on Canadian soil.
But a reset is in the offing. It could occur inwhen Canadians vote on whether to give Mr. Harper another term as prime minister.
Harper and Bush, sitting in a tree
Under Harper, the government took aim at Environment Canadaslashing its budget and restricted the ability of its own regulators to crack down on cancer-linked pollution. Canada was also one of the first countries to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to address climate change and is the only country in the world to have withdrawn from a UN treaty to address desertification. And the list of environmental programs that Harper has slashed funding to is long and devastating.
In reality, this was a blatant attempt to restrict the ability of working families and minorities — the majority of whom are likely Democrats — to vote.
The result is that thousands of seniors, students and First Nations will find it much harder to cast a ballot in this election. Growing up, I learned to describe Canada as a mosaic instead of the melting pot of the United States, where new immigrants were encouraged to adopt Canadian values while keeping their own traditions alive in order to make our society richer. I was proud of this, especially when I compared this tradition to the fraught history that many minorities experienced in the United States.
But under Harper, this may be changing. Recently, Harper has polarized Canada by attempting to ban anyone wearing the niqab from taking an oath of citizenship, or from working as a public servant.
Two weeks ago, I witnessed this myself. While visiting my parents in the suburbs of Montreal, I stood on a street corner as a man heckled a woman in a niqab, shouting bible verses at her.
While the US is learning from its past and addressing the issue of mass incarceration, under Harper, Canada has recently undertaken the largest expansion of prisons since the sdespite a record-low crime rate.