Barack Obama is ultra popular in Canada, easily one of the most popular presidents in history. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 65 per cent of Canadian voters would vote for him, only 9 per cent for Republican Mitt Romney. Sixty per cent of Canadians think the Obama administration has been good for this country, only 13 per cent bad.
These are staggering numbers. By contrast, Obama predecessor
president George W. Bush was reviled north of the border. In opinion
surveys, he consistently ranked as low as a sea urchin.
So when an
analysis gets published by two Canadian heavyweights titled How Obama
Lost Canada, people can be forgiven for thinking how the nameplates got
mixed up. The analysis, injecting a sour bilateral note at the time of
the countries’ birthday celebrations, was written by Derek Burney, a
former ambassador to the United States, and Carleton University academic
Fen Hampson in the American periodical Foreign Affairs.
been roundly criticized by bilateral specialists on both sides of the
border for lacking fairness and perspective and for being just plain
What the record shows is that given America’s dire
conditions of the past few years and given the political divides between
the Ottawa and Washington governments, the relationship has been
managed for the most part in a pragmatic, respectful and constructive
Following the ugliness of the Bush years, things could
have gone off the rails. Mr. Burney and Mr. Hampson seem to have
forgotten those years. Losing Canada? Do they recall how W. peevishly
cancelled an Ottawa summit because Canada did not join his bogusly
motivated invasion of Iraq? Do they recall his trying to bully Ottawa
into joining his ballistic missile defence program? Do they remember the
introduction of passports at the Canada-U.S. border or the Bush
administration’s blatant abrogation of free-trade rules in the softwood
lumber dispute? How about the economic havoc Mr. Bush’s policies
abetted, his leaving even a one-word mention of Canada out of his
landmark 9/11 address, his unilateralism in spurning a host of
multilateral agreements that Canada was party to?
him, Mr. Obama immediately struck a chord. Canadians liked his moderate
values and fair-mindedness. They sensed that his heart and mind were in
the right place and, despite many disappointments from him, they still
do. He hasn’t been pushy or overbearing in his relations with Canada as
have several presidents.
His popularity here has been such that it
would have been foolish for Stephen Harper to clash with him. Mr.
Harper has been shrewd enough to realize this and deserves credit for
establishing, despite philosophical differences, a strong, working
relationship. As well, ambassadors David Jacobson and Gary Doer have
been adept at keeping temperatures from rising.
Mr. Burney, who is
a board member of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., and Mr. Hampson are
particularly bitter over the Obama administration’s delay in a decision
on the Keystone XL pipeline. It was brought on, they grouse, by
election-year political considerations. As if, historically, domestic
political considerations have not been at the heart of countless
bilateral decisions Ottawa has taken.
The authors complain that
the Obama administration didn’t push for getting Canada a seat on the
United Nations Security Council; this, without noting our Conservatives’
dismissive attitude toward the UN or how their right-wing unilateralism
alienated so many of its members.
The authors even complain,
without reference to Canada’s reputation as an international
laughingstock on environmental policy, of Washington’s lack of
co-operation on climate change. They exaggerate, forgetting other
precedents, difficulties on bilateral trade with this administration and
offer a decades-old Canadian lament about the President not doing
enough to counter Buy American legislation.
They neglect to
balance the ledger by citing the many occasions our Conservatives have
acted against Mr. Obama’s interests, beginning with the infamous
NAFTAgate leak that hurt his image during election primaries.
be sure, there have been disappointments here under Mr. Obama, as there
have been under virtually every president. But to suggest that he
somehow lost Canada is to get history upside down. This President didn’t
lose Canada. After Mr. Bush, he won it back.
Read the full story here.