Stephen Harper, speaking with Fox News this morning. “There was a long tradition up until about the 90s of U.S. presidents often making Canada their first foreign visit.”

Canadian Press, two weeks ago. “Canadians like to think it’s a tradition that a newly elected president of the United States comes to Ottawa for his first foreign trip, but it’s a tradition that’s been breached as much as honoured in recent years. President Barack Obama is to visit on Feb. 19, but of his seven immediate predecessors, only three made Ottawa their first foreign destination.”



  1. Aaron you’re such a hard marker. You seriously expect our PM to remember from one week – or two – to the next what he says? The man has so much on his plate after all.

  2. What myth have you busted here, Aaron? Harper said ‘often’, not ‘always’, and he further clarifies what he’s talking about when he says “up until about the 90s”.

  3. Also, what about the two-term presidents? I believe that Reagan and Clinton made Canada their first foreign visit at the start of their second terms as well. Harper’s statement is factually correct.

    Reagan + GHWB + Clinton = 20 years

    Nixon + Ford + Carter = 12 years

    • I couldn’t really care less. But for fun.
      5 prez out of the 7 [ Bush.1 straddled 90s?]
      I cant really see how you can say Prez often came here first.
      After 90s [ recently] only 1or 2 out of 3 [ Bush,1 – ?] came here first =SH correct.[?]

      • Between 1980 and 2000, there were 5 presidential terms (each term is 4 yrs long). Canada was the recipient of the first presidential foreign visit for each of these 5 terms. This changed in 2000 when GWB went to Mexico. So Harper’s statement is completely correct.

        • Sorry my slippery friend that’s not what he said. In his earlier statement he said that of the 7 predecesors to Obama only 3 made it 1st to Ottawa. So prior to the 2000 cut off 3 out of 6 Prez didn’t come [ Nixon, Ford and Carter] that’s hardly often [ his 2nd comment ] And if those gents[ i’ve no idea myself ] did then his statement is nonsensical.
          But what do i know, i’ve been up half the night. Why doesn’t Aaron do his own work.:)

        • I really think it doesn’t matter so much either way…but Harper was being a little disingenous.

          First off, regardless of the actual factual nature, in one instance he claims it is a tradition, in the other he claims that it is simply percieved to be one but isn’t. So there’s that.

          As regards the factual content, perhaps the word often means that the two can be to some extent reconciled, but I dont really think so. It is clear in the CP excerpt that he is referencing the 7 previous presidents, this takes us back to 1969 when Nixon was elected, and the implicit claim he makes is that within that time period it was not actually a tradition. Then, in the Fox News excerpt he claims that it was a tradition (although “often”) up until “about the 90s.” So there is a discrepancy in his facts as to when the tradition (or lack thereof) petered out, so to speak.

          • The last century’s worth of presidents and whether or not Canada was their first foreign visit.

            Bush – No
            Clinton – Yes
            Bush – Yes
            Reagan – Yes
            Carter – No
            Ford – No
            Nixon – No
            Johnson – Yes
            Kennedy – Yes
            Eisenhower – No
            Truman – No
            Roosevelt – Yes (if you count a vacation trip)
            Hoover – No
            Coolidge – No
            Harding – Yes
            Wilson – No
            Taft – No
            Roosevelt – No

            Does that amount to a “long tradition?”

          • Except for the twelve-year Nixon/Ford/Carter exception (the Trudeau years), Canada was the first foreign visit for every US president from JFK until the end of the century. Sounds like a long tradition to me.

          • By the way, Aaron, Canada was Roosevelt’s first foreign visit in an official capacity, not just the vacations in Campobello. He even addressed Parliament.

          • CR
            Now yr grasping at life lines, swim Kermy swim.
            The issue is PM’s quote [ as i said i hardly think it was a deliberate lie-or was it? Hardly earth shattering anyway] not yr slippery math. Nice shot at PET, although he got on well with Ford/Carter, Nixon not so!

          • Sure, if you stick to the word “official.” He was inaugurated in 1933 and came to Canada in 1936. In between there were “informal” visits to Haiti, Colombia and Panama.

          • Although… if you want to differentiate between “informal” and “official” then you might have to take LBJ off the list. See here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/trvl/pres/12796.htm

            This is tedious. Let’s go back to debating whether or not Michael Ignatieff condones waterboarding.

          • I agree this is tedious, but just to briefly revisit your point about Roosevelt:

            His first “unofficial” foreign visit after his inauguration was to Canada (Campobello in 1933). His first “official” visit was to Canada in 1936. Not sure why you felt his sailing excursions between those dates were relevant. :)

          • Aaron was there a site that put together where the others went first?

          • CBS, if memory serves, did a list ahead of Obama’s visit. But I don’t have the link handy. If you go the link above, you can get to the travel itineraries for every president since Teddy Roosevelt.

          • Why on earth did SH pick the 7 previous Prez to W?
            Is there anything more to this then seems on the face of it? Anyone?
            It’s just such a silly lie or more likely a mistake.

  4. Ziiing! You really got him there Aaron! Throw him a biscuit, Iggy! Good Aaron, good Aaron.

  5. As much as I love criticizing Harper, you are way off on this one. His statement is about as accurate a statement as you can make. I really don’t see any contradiction here. Seems like you’re engaging in some good old fashioned gotcha journalism.

    • Perhaps Wherry can update his blog posting to reflect how the “myth” he claimed was “busted” is actually an accurate statement of fact. :)

  6. Whats a matter Aaron – slow news day and maybe fishing for comments will kepp you busy. Nothing to to this story that I can see as both are essentially saying the same thing.

  7. Don’t ya rile em Mr. Wherry.

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