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’

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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.