Harper and Obama: who, if anyone, lost whom? - Macleans.ca

Harper and Obama: who, if anyone, lost whom?

After all, both are ‘aloof, inexperienced in foreign policy, obsessed with [their] voter base’


The morning papers are full of commentary to the effect that Derek Burney and Fen Hampson got it wrong when they argue that Barack Obama — aloof, inexperienced in foreign policy, obsessed with his voter base — lost Canada.

Andrew Cohen: Obama hasn’t lost Canada. Lawrence Martin: Why, in fact Obama has won Canada.

Maybe I can help. Here’s a column from two years ago in which I wrote that the Canada-U.S. relationship “has begun to go quietly, seriously off the rails.” That column attributed most of the blame for that state of affairs to Stephen Harper — aloof, inexperienced in foreign policy, obsessed with his voter base. My main source for the column was Derek Burney.

Burney’s ties to TransCanada have been duly noted, but I suspect his argument was entirely heartfelt. If anything, it reads like a time capsule from the bygone days of late January, when a wholesale realignment of Canada’s foreign-policy and trade priorities in reaction to a single decision to delay a single pipeline by oh, about a year seemed like bold statecraft. Here’s my own contribution from those days, now as dated as a Joan Jett album. And here, published on the Globe website on that same January day, is what Burney and Hampson were writing:

The cornerstone of our foreign policy must be the management of relations with the United States, not for reasons of sentiment but because that’s how we preserve our most vital economic and security interests and our capacity for global influence. When we get this part of the equation right, our relevance and influence on global issues increases accordingly. When we don’t, our influence and relevance wanes.



Harper and Obama: who, if anyone, lost whom?

  1. Harper/Obama are lost to one another? Our two leaders are ideologues – Harper has conservative and liberal tendencies while Obama is a socialist – won’t see eye to eye very often.

    Relationship between PM and President is important but i think people give it more importance than it deserves. Harper/Obama might not be soul mates but our bureaucracies are in constant communication with one another slowly writing new laws for our shared border.

    Also, I work in auto industry and if that proposed second bridge between Detroit/Windsor ever gets built it will be hugely important to quickening trade and is a sign Harper is still managing relations with America, if not Obama.

    • You should look up what socialist actually means.

      • @85a6f3f9430a67f3edbb37c6af50c0be:disqus
        From Wikipedia:

        Socialism /ˈsoʊʃəlɪzəm/ is an economic system characterized by social ownership and/or control of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy,[1] and a political philosophy advocating such a system. “Social ownership” may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises, common ownership, direct public ownership or autonomous state enterprises.[2] There are many variations of socialism and as such there is no single definition encapsulating all of socialism.[3] They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets versus planning, how management is to be organized within economic enterprises, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.[4]

        I would submit that Obamas beliefs and programs fit very will into this definition. Were you thinking of a different definition?

        • What socialist would mandate that you have to buy private insurance?

          • A socialist who didn’t want to pick a fight with the insurance lobby, so he compromised?
            (but seriously I don’t think Obama’s a socialist in any event)

          • You may have a point. He is a compromiser.

            Trouble for me is this. How come every time he compromises he looks like a total corporate stooge? If he ever even once compromised with even his moderate left wing?

            No no. Even then. His moderate left wing is far to the right of any meaningful definition of ‘left’.

            He’s held his ground here and there – eventually – for social causes. But when it comes to Big Money? What do you see?

          • One who knows that this is as far as he can move on it now, but know that the system he has set up will not work. A system like Canada’s is what will step in to ‘save’ them in the future.

  2. Canadians like Obama, and would happily vote for him if they could.

    Why anybody thinks a necessary delay in a pipeline would change that beats me.

    As to us trading elsewhere as well ….we should have been doing that all along. We’ve just been lazy.

  3. Obama has been going out of his way to alienate traditional American allies for some time. A small sample below…





    You are right that the Canadian morning papers are closing ranks around Obama. But this is not the least bit surprising. They will never do otherwise. The morning papers are terrified of offering even mild criticism of
    Obama. Has even one of them mentioned Fast and
    Furious yet??? And Obama’s role in it?

    • Canadian papers are more interested in criticizing anyone who should dare to criticize King Obama, such as those horrible tea-baggers, those crazy southern Christians that they saw at Disneyworld and on the beach at their Florida snowbird complex, those crazy Fox News people who should never have been allowed on the Canadian airwaves along with their psycho brothers at Sun News, and all those crazy rednecks like George Zimmerman and racists like Herman Cain.

      Canadian papers think it should be illegal to say something negative about Obama. Venerating the dear leader is the job of the 4th estate, is it not?

    • @john_g2:disqus
      What tipped you off that Obama had a role in it? Was it the use of executive privilege?

      • Well, that’s not the tip-off, that IS the involvement I’m talking about. By invoking executive privilege to allow Holder to continue to withhold documents from Congress, Obama has inserted himself into this scandal.

        Something like that used to be considered news, especially after having watched a bunch of silly journalists pat themselves on the back on the 40th Anniversary of Watergate, while methodically memory-holing this story for over a year.

        • I think modster was being facetious. Obama invoked executive privilege, basically telegraphing to the press “hello 4th estate, there’s a scandal reaching the president in front of your noses!!” Hello press! Obama scandal! Anybody? Anybody out there?

          Of course the press does absolutely zero to investigate Obama’s broadcast. These media-idiots are the same people who pat themselves on the back for holding the powerful accountable. Clinton was porking his intern, Edwards was banging away at an affair in the local motels on the campaign, Obama was a pothead for years and his so-called memoirs are complete fabrications from beginning to end, and now Obama is broadcasting he’s involved in a scandal, and the press does….. crickets chirping…..

          Oh, here comes the press with a story on Ann Romney riding horses, a story about an etching on a rock in a place where Rick Perry went on vacation, and a story about an unwanted haircut performed by Mitt Romney in the 1950s. Aren’t the press wonderful!

          It’s comical. It’s also so blatantly obvious these days, everybody knows it. They’re not fooling anyone except the dullest knives in the drawer.

          • @s_c_f – exactly.

  4. I don’t think Burney’s role as TCPL Director should be underplayed, irrespective of how heartfelt he makes his argument. Perhaps that is the problem. As a Director with significant US Int’l/political experience, it was his responsibility to identify this potential issue (Keystone XL) and bring it to the attention of TCPL’s Board. No, it wasn’t unforseen. Depends who you talk to/listen to.

    Same situation with Enbridge and Northern Gateway. Have a look at outgoing CEO Patrick Daniel’s swansong interview with Gordon Pitts ( a bit of an oilpatch cheerleader) that Aaron linked to in an earlier blog. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/enbridges-retiring-ceo-wishes-pipelines-werent-such-a-hot-topic/article4249264/

    Is there any acknowledgement of specific issues in BC related to this project? No? That’s part of the problem.

    Were you ready for the controversy over Gateway?

    I don’t know that you are ever ready for that kind of front-page exposure. We’d seen what the upstream had already gone through with opposition to the oil sands, so we weren’t too surprised when a lot of people turned their attention to pipelines. They realized they wouldn’t get sympathy in Alberta by opposing the oil sands, but they might get sympathy in Washington opposing pipes to carry oil sands crude.
    Do you regret not winning more public opinion over to your side?
    It has been a disappointment, but I don’t relate that to Gateway, but to two other things: industry issues around Keystone XL, which is not an Enbridge project, and the disruption of hearings on our Line 9 proposal, which would re-reverse the flow of oil in our pipeline from Sarnia to Montreal to allow it to carry Western Canadian crude east, rather than transport North Sea oil west. People don’t realize how important energy is. They oppose energy projects at the same time they step on the gas pedal.

    Retirement, at 65 is great timing. Perhaps the “bright young stars” rising within Enbridge will have broader and less traditional views.

  5. “in reaction to a single decision to delay a single pipeline by oh, about a year”

    That’s a disingenuous statement. It’s actually complete BS. Everybody knows Obama had
    (a) no sound reason for a delay, since of course any and all environmental reviews had been completed to the ying-yang already and

    (b) Obama called it a delay in the same way he continues to call the health-care tax a penalty (in other words, as long as Obama is around the delay will be extended and it will never happen).

    Stephen Harper was right that Canada should look for alternative customers given such blatant anti-economic political interference at the highest levels in the US.

    • The House (or was it the Senate? no time to Google it right now) put an absurd time limit on reviews so Obama refused to sign with that rider attached. The Republicans knew full well that he would respond that way. So you might want to point the finger of blame in the right direction.

      • What are you talking about? The reviews were already completed when Obama nixed it.
        You appear to be talking about what Congress did to revive it after Obama “delayed” it.
        You should try getting your news from non-leftist sources because you appear to be unaware of what is actually going on.

      • s_c_f is right. All the reviews has been done, and Obama said that he wanted to wait to do more reviews. Then congress forced his hand (he was stalling, and not making a decision) by adding into another law that this second set of ‘reviews’ must be completed by a certain time (before the election. Obama was using the ‘reviews’ to stall until after the election).

        Get your facts right before you post.

  6. The conservatives would like you to forget that it was Harper’s government that tried to sabotage the election of Obama. Once, in the nomination campaign and another in the presidential race. Also, Harper & his ministers have frequently talked down to the US. That Obama has shown restraint publicly has been interpreted by Harper & his gang as a sign of weakness. So, this Harper-authorized attack on Obama. Harper had better pray that Obama does not get elected; a second-term president will have no compunction to punish Canada because of Harper’s deeds.

    • Is this the same Stephen Harper that asks “how high” when the US says “jump” with respect to intellectual property protection?

  7. I find it amusing the difference in popularity among “Canadians” (by which I suppose means urban eastern Canadians) between George W. Bush and Obama, when all the intelligence and military policies that made Bush a war criminal in their eyes has been continued and expanded by the Obama administration.

    That’s partisan politics for you I guess.

    • It is a cornerstone of progressive thinking that if a conservative does X (e.g., assassinate foreigners using drones, adopt/extend free trade, endorse a VAT), it’s evil and wrong, but if a Liberal/Democrat does X, then it’s ok. Get with the progressive program.

  8. I have been saying for sometime that we should trade Harper for Obama; only thing is, Harper would come back in a body bag. President Obama is not perfect, but he has been trying to improve things for Americans, Harper on the other hand, has been trying to destroy things for Canadians. I hate to imagine where Canada will be if this dictator is in office for another five years. The Conservative Party is similar to the Republican party in the U.S: Lowlife scum. Mr Harper, (Dictator) please do us a favour and quit. Maybe you you can save face, if possible. Harper reminds me of a bloodsucker, just can’t get rid of them.

    • So you think an American should be PM of Canada? I guess you wouldn’t have a problem with a French citizen being PM either then, eh?

    • “Harper on the other hand, has been trying to destroy things for Canadians. I hate to imagine where Canada will be if this dictator is in office for another five years. The Conservative Party is similar to the Republican party in the U.S: Lowlife scum. Mr Harper, (Dictator) please do us a favour and quit. Maybe you you can save face, if possible. Harper reminds me of a bloodsucker”
      Today’s tolerant, progressive Canadian left: always elevating the tone and decorum of our political discourse.

      • The worst ones also manage to contradict themselves in the same sentence. Repeatedly.