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Monday, November 29, 2021

Don Martin: The Canada-U.S. ‘partnership roadmap’ ignores many potholes ahead

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The bromance bounced back Tuesday – and it’s almost too gushy for political distancing comfort.

Still, after four years of holding our collective breath following every prime ministerial meeting with the mercurial former U.S. president, Tuesday’s summit afforded a welcome sigh of relief at the happy harmony of it all.

President Joe Biden poured on the platitudes about a ‘partnership roadmap’ while reading his Teleprompter-fed script, ignoring the reality of the many nasty potholes ahead.

With the president nodding approvingly across the video link, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded with equally bubbly rhetoric about the reborn relationship, no longer having to fear a Donald Trump Twitter tirade for a perceived insult and feeling unchained enough to take a shot at the former president for his climate change foot-dragging.

Of course, the Biden-Trudeau lovefest couldn’t compete with Tiger Wood’s car accident as most, if not all, U.S. networks ignored the summit wrap-up to better track the wreck as it was towed through Los Angeles traffic (naturally I flipped over to get the latest details myself).

Yet it was a meeting loaded with symbolism and beckoning future payoffs between leaders on a comfortable first-name basis who probably have each other’s private number on speed dial.

Now, there’s a limit to how close Canadians want their prime minister to buddy up to a U.S. president, especially one who seems determined to put Alberta out of the oil pipeline business.

It’s doubtful Trudeau protested the president’s first-day executive order to kill the Keystone XL pipeline, if the issue was raised at all.  

In fact, Biden may turn out to be worse for Canadian interests than Trump on multiple fronts.

His America First procurement policies could hit us harder than provisions in Trump’s renegotiated NAFTA.

His first-priority axing of the Keystone XL pipeline was Exhibit A of his administration’s no-special-favors policy toward Canada.

And if Canadians think COVID-19 vaccines from Michigan will be coming to Canada before every willing American has been jabbed, well, you probably believe injecting disinfectant will kill the virus anyway.

But Tuesday’s summit was never billed as a breakthrough opportunity for any of the many contentious cross-border files now and in the future.

It was unrealistic to expect much beyond Biden’s nod to the injustice facing Canada’s two Michaels, held as political pawns in China to avenge a U.S. extradition request for Huawei executive Meng Wanghou.

The dirty details are best kicked down the road so smiling national leaders can seize common ground in front of the cameras and not take reporter questions which might force them to give uncomfortable answers.

What started Tuesday was simply a conversation between adults who will agree to accept future differences without hard feelings.

And if, after four years of the Trump tempest, the only lament from this first meeting of minds is an overdose of syrupy syntax as they take aim at making the world a better place, there’s no real basis to complain.

For once, the planned agenda did live up to the advance billing of this summit.

The most newsworthy topic was indeed about climate change, but of a different sort than rising gas emissions or winter storms battering Texas.

It’s the political climate which has changed – and it’s more than a few degrees warmer.

In a relationship where an angrily polarized American elephant is hovering over a perpetually-nervous Canadian mouse, a bromance beats a brouhaha any day.

That’s the bottom line… 

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