Harper Boldly Blindsides Trudeau With White House Meeting

With U.S. President Donald Trump imposing tariffs and embarking on an America-first policy that spits in the face of guys like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, maybe it was time for Canada to call in a pinch-hitter.


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Special Message: Stephen Harper
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN10 - Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, 2010 G8 Summit and Toronto G20 Summit, speaks during the session 'Special Message' at the Congress Centre at the Annual Meeting 2010 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 28, 2010. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger
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With U.S. President Donald Trump imposing tariffs and embarking on an America-first policy that spits in the face of guys like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, maybe it was time for Canada to call in a pinch-hitter.

Well, it appears former Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn’t about to wait for Trudeau to call him up from the minors. CTV News says Harper has blindsided the prime minister and plans to visit the White House July 2.

According to emails obtained by CTV News, American officials are expecting Harper to visit D.C. the day after Canada’s retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. goods and American-made steel and aluminum are set to come into effect. 

It is unclear what the purpose of Harper’s visit is, CTV News says, or how long it has been in the works, but officials say he is planning to meet with American National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was the U.S. ambassador to the UN when Harper was prime minister.

Harper is making a bold move here. He could easily sit back and watch the show as Trudeau and his Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland bungle the North American Free Trade Agreement and struggle with steel and aluminum tariffs announced by Trump. The Trudeau government retaliated with tariffs of its own and it appears we have a full-scale trade war brewing.

The prime minister is in Toronto today meeting with the chief executive officers of Bell Canada, the Toronto-Dominion Bank and Scotiabank in the morning. All events are closed to the media, so we probably won’t hear much about those.

We probably won’t hear much about what Trudeau thinks of Harper visiting the U.S. behind his back either.

It was a little over a month ago, Susan Delacourt of The Toronto Star wrote a rather insightful column on Trudeau and his battle with two pesky ghosts – the ghost of his father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the ghost of Harper. 

Maybe the younger Trudeau really is afraid of ghosts. Especially the ghost of Harper.

“The former prime minister’s name is being increasingly invoked by the Liberals to take pokes at Conservatives, with the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, leading the charge. During just one question period…Trudeau raised Harper’s name no fewer than seven times,” Delacourt wrote.

“While it was once said that Pierre Trudeau ‘haunts us still,’ his son seems to have his sights set on a more recent ghost of prime ministers past. Harper, according to Trudeau this week, “still very much apparently controls the backbench of the Conservative party,” Delacourt wrote.

“All of this Liberal talk about Harper has been ratcheting up ever since last month’s big convention in Halifax and Trudeau’s speech to the troops, heavily laced with references to the former PM,” The Star’s columnist continued.  “Clearly, and not so subtly, Trudeau’s team seems to have decided that the best way to fight the next election is as a sequel to the last one — party like it’s 2015.”

Then she concludes her column this way: “Conservatives keep cheering in the Commons every time Trudeau mentions Harper, demonstrating that prime ministerial legacies are also a matter of opinion.

“But when Trudeau is talking about Harper these days, it may not just be the last prime minister’s legacy on his mind — but his own as well.”

Well, with Trudeau mentioning Harper’s name, seemingly every time he gets the chance, maybe Harper thought it was time to join the fray. Maybe, he had enough of the current prime minister bashing him all the time. Maybe, he plans to do a little bashing of his own. And meeting with U.S. officials at the White House with NAFTA in peril, may just be the perfect way to hit back at Trudeau. Now, Harper is not a Canadian government official anymore. But he is chair of the International Democratic Union.

Their Wikipedia article reads: “The International Democrat Union (IDU) is an international alliance of centre-right political parties. Headquartered in Munich, Germany, the IDU comprises 71 full and associate members from 63 different countries. It is chaired by Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada.” 

“The IDU provides a forum in which political parties holding similar beliefs can come together and exchange views on matters of policy and organisational interest. From this, they act cooperatively, establish contacts, and present a unified voice toward the promotion of centre-right policies around the globe. The IDU has some overlap of member parties with the Centrist Democrat International (CDI), but the CDI is more centrist and communitarian than the IDU,” Wikipedia’s description continues.

So maybe Harper’s intervention in these talks isn’t such a bad idea. Maybe he’s just the man Canada needs.

“President Donald Trump’s declaration of broad tariffs on imported steel and aluminum complicates North American trade talks and threatens to doom them altogether,” wrote Patti Domm of CNBC way back on March 2. 

So maybe, it really is time to send in one of Canada’s heavy hitters.

In a story May 6, Katie Simpson of CBC News put it this way: “NAFTA negotiators are nearing the end of the runway.

Observers tracking the ups and downs of these intense trade talks say that if Canada, the United States and Mexico can’t get something on paper over the next few weeks, negotiations could easily drag on into 2019.”

Let’s not kid ourselves. These negotiations are going nowhere.

On June 1, CBC quoted Trump saying this: “This message was conveyed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada: The United State (sic) will agree to a fair deal, or there will be no deal at all.” 

Well, Trump’s version of a fair deal no doubt differs from Trudeau’s view of a fair deal or even Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s version of a fair deal. And Mexico’s version of a fair deal might change again after its elections slated for this Sunday.

We’re nearing the end of the line for NAFTA. That is unless pinch-hitter Harper can belt a home run.


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Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson is a retired writer, who worked 35 years in print and broadcast journalism before retiring. He also served in the press operations crews at the 2015 Pan Am Games and the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto.

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