Harper “Snubbed” in America?

I heard a vague rumour this morning that Stephen Harper dropped by the White House yesterday for a brief tête-à-tête with President Obama. One might never have known that however from the non-existent press clippings describing this momentous state visit of great historical importance.

Rough TV footage shows that the PM was unceremoniously welcomed at the White House by an unidentified subaltern of Deputy Chief of Protocol Lee Satterfield prior to being hurriedly whisked from his Cadillac limo through a side door. Veteran Beltway political analyst Mark Plotkin picks up the story…

How our leading politician is treated south of the border perhaps isn’t all that important, but it certainly speaks to the low level of regard in which this country is held these days by our American neighbours. More importantly, it impacts poorly on our manufacturers and exporters that may have quite reasonably hoped the Conservative government could have more advantageously promoted their trade agenda with the U.S. president rather than simply dismissing their present troubles as nothing but “a minor irritant” while touting a breakthrough in the dispute over cross-border charter flights for NHL teams…

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30 Comments

Filed under Obama Administration, STEPHEN HARPER Govrnment of Canada

30 responses to “Harper “Snubbed” in America?

  1. Paul Raposo

    If Ignatieff were Machiavellian, he’d hussle his ass down to DC and get welcomed with open arms by the Dems and Obama with plenty of cameras in tow for many TV worthy photo-ops. That would just about kill Harper and show Canadians whom the American gov’t would prefer to deal with.

  2. I think the Obama administration is bit too savvy and professional to engage in that kind of overt favouritism.

    That said, there’s nothing stopping Ignatieff from engaging in the same kind of self-serving media blitz that Harper did back in the spring when he made the rounds of the cable news channels…

    Maybe he wouldn’t get on the broadcast networks, but he could certainly be booked on PBS, NPR, C-SPAN and perhaps even Fox, CNN and MSNBC.

  3. Tavington

    I think that the reason why the PM is being ignored is because of Canada’s propensity to America-bashing. Especially when it comes to the NHL and the fact that 80% of the teams are American.

    In order for the sport of hockey to survive outside the Canadian market, it is crucial that there are as few Canadian teams and more American teams as possible in the NHL. It is also important that for the Stanley Cup finals that it is better for the sustainability for the league in the long term if it is 2 American teams playing for the Cup.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that there are Canadian teams in the NHL. But realistically, there should really be only 3 teams in Canada (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver). While I was happy that Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa had made it to the finals in recent years, it is clear to any observer that they got as far as they did because the superior American teams that they beat did not take them seriously.

    Gary Bettman clearly has a balancing act. One, he must appear neutral
    during the playoffs. On the other, he knows that the real money is made in the USA when it comes to the television market. In order for American interest to continue in hockey, we need more American teams, not less.

    Ever since the NHL has aggressively expanded into other US markets, it
    has increased the visibility of ice hockey. This is a good thing. When the Quebec Nordiques were moved to Denver, they won the Stanley Cup that year, and the good people of Quebec had the good sense to cheer them on instead of whining and complaining about losing their team. Denver clearly deserved the Cup, not Quebec.

    Let’s face it, when the NHL had only 21 teams, the only people watching
    hockey were Canadians and Americans living in the north. The best-paid
    player Wayne Gretzky was only making $900,000 a year. Gretzky getting
    traded to the LA Kings was the best thing for hockey and for Canada.
    Nowadays, California boasts 3 NHL teams and Canada’s national sport is
    getting American attention even in the most southern areas of the US,
    especially in Hollywood where it counts.

    I think that in order for hockey to survive, the Stanley Cup finals
    should be 2 American teams going against each other. The Canadian
    audience will always be there to watch (where else will they go?) and
    American TV revenues will be there to help support the league. I think
    that an acceptable alternative is an American team VS The Toronto Maple
    Leafs because Toronto is the most well-known Canadian city in the eyes
    of Americans. Toronto has the Blue Jays in MLB and the Raptors in the
    NBA so if Toronto makes it to the Stanley Cup finals, the ratings won’t
    suffer as much in the crucial US market.

    Canadians need to stop being so selfish about wanting more NHL teams. It is clearly disturbing to see this amount of America-bashing bordering on racism and xenophobia. And Canadians should stop whining about wanting a Canadian team to win another Stanley Cup–stop living in the past! Hockey in the USA is the way of the future and Gary Bettman clearly understands this.

    So count me as a Canadian who wants to save the Phoenix Coyotes and understands that having an NHL team in Hamilton would be disastrous for the other teams in the area: TORONTO (Canada’s true capital) and especially BUFFALO (people who can’t get tickets to Toronto games go there instead). Why are Canadians so selfish by wanting to hurt Buffalo?

  4. Thanks for the incredibly detailed hockey-centric view of things, but I think this aspect of our cross-border relations misses the more important issues pressing on our industrial sector at the moment.

  5. Ti-Guy

    Is that satire, Tavington, or are you on something?

  6. Ted

    I am quite certain any snub, if there was a snub, had nothing to do with hockey.

    As to whether or not there was a snub, much as I like to highlight how irrelevant Harper is and how much more irrelevant he has made Canada on the world stage, I don’t think this one is it.

    Gordon Brown was greeted in the same manner for his brief working visit earlier this year and I don’t think any snub was intended toward him, certainly I am not aware of anyone complaining about his being snubbed although I could be wrong. Fife last night noted that he typically only does 5-10 minute “scrums” after meeting foreign leaders but they had a 25 minute “scrum” which Fife (not surprisingly) took to be a sign of them getting along. Fife needs to get his head out of Harper’s a**, but at the very least I think it is a sign there was no intention to snub.

    It does seem odd protocol though and I wonder what the Obama administration is up to frankly, especially given the reception we gave him. Anyone know how prior Presidents dealt with these kind of brief working visits.

  7. Ti-Guy

    Anyone know how prior Presidents dealt with these kind of brief working visits.

    Who knows? Before 2003 or thereabouts, when people weren’t able to obsess over the minutia of every news item, we rarely paid attention to them. The last thing of significance an American president said with respect to Canada that I can remember is when Clinton declared that the US would prefer to deal with a united Canada during the 1995 referendum.

  8. Fair enough, but given we’re in a different media/news environment than was the case 10, 20 or 30 years ago, it seems only fair that there should have been a semblance of quid pro quo considering the lavish formal reception Obama was given when he visited Ottawa.

    But then, Gordon Brown received the same cold shoulder treatment:

    The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman writes that the meeting “seemed to teeter on the brink of humiliation,” for the prime minister noting that Obama had squeezed him in between a visit to the department of transportation and a meeting with representatives of the Boy Scouts.

    So maybe we should deduce that Obama is a celebrity media whore who doesn’t want to share the limelight with piffling leaders of third-rate countries…

  9. Most Americans are blissfully unaware of America bashing in Canada or any “selfishness” regarding hockey. None of that gets any play in the U.S. press. Outside of a few northern border cities, hockey just isn’t really very important to most Americans.

    As a Canadian living in New York, it seems clear that the pendulum is swinging back to a focus on domestic issues. Americans, for better or worse, were engaged internationally because of the war in Iraq, Iran, Georgia conflict, missile defence in Europe, Axis of Evil, etc. through the Bush presidency.

    Now the tide has turned and they are focused on domestic issues. The appetite to be the world’s leader and policeman is clearly gone, and at least in NYC, most Americans think the years of international superpower status are behind them. The President is putting international issues on the back burner and focusing on managing the economy, healthcare, infrastructure, etc.

    So if there was a snub, I don’t believe it was aimed at Harper or Canada per se. Americans just don’t care about foreign politics at the moment and the president’s attitude reflects that.

  10. Maybe so, although I’m not convinced that most Americans were ever all that terribly engaged in foreign affairs during the Bush administration other than to the extent of surmising who was “agin’ em” or otherwise antagonistically loathed their freedom, etc.

    Naturally during a period of economic downturn it’s expected that most attention will be concentrated on domestic issues, but we are America’s largest trading partner and number one supplier of oil and gas — the very lifeblood of the U.S. economy…

    I could be wrong, but in our weird love-hate relationship with the USA, many Canadians resent being considered as just another foreign nation while at the same time not appreciating being taken for granted as the ever-compliant, supplicant “good neighbour” that can forever be imposed upon…

  11. You are being way too logical here. 😉

    You are correct that the average Main Street American didn’t know much about international affairs, other than who they were supposed to be afraid of this week, but the Bush Administration was all about international affairs and I think that’s changed.

    And yes, I completely agree that Americans should pay attention to Canada, because it is America’s #1 energy supplier (and I would add electricity to that list), but most Americans (including many in Congress) aren’t aware of that, and Canada is a peaceful friendly neighbour that doesn’t make trouble, so what difference does it make anyway?

    My prediction is that while Obama may take a more collaborationist stance than Bush did, I don’t expect there to be much progress on bilateral issues in the next 8 years.

  12. Ti-Guy

    Americans just don’t care about foreign politics at the moment

    They never have and they never will. The US is uniquely blessed among nations to be big enough and diverse enough to make the rest of the World irrelevant to the average person.

    This is pretty understandable. What bothers me most about this though, is that they tend not to notice what their elites are doing all the time.

    Frankly, I wish Canadians would stop being so obsessed with them (beyond trade, movement across the border and global geopolitics), but our elite (the Anglophone one, almost exclusively) is singularly incapable of defining itself except in terms of how America (and the UK to a lesser extent) sees them. Although they explain this as a problem shared by all Canadians, they really only mean themselves.

    Whenever I read a member of our ruling class say “Why do we Canadians…” (Andrew Coyne, Jeffery Simpson, John Ibbitson are a few I can think of do this far too often) I really wish I had a gun to reach for.

  13. You are absolutely right.

    OT for comic relief, you have to love this. The Teabaggars at last weekend’s rally are angry that the “socialist” Washington DC Metro subway didn’t provide enough service and some had to take “capitalist” taxicabs.

    Tea Party Protesters Protest DC Metro Service

  14. counter-coulter

    I too think you’re being overly analytical here RT. If it’s a working visit versus some sort of “summit” then where’s the harm — especially if Brown’s visit was very similar.

    As to Obama’s focus on the domestic rather than the international, I don’t think that flys as well. The neocons have absolutely no love for Canada and have treated Canada as an ungrateful child. Look at how Harper was treated by Bush at their joint press conference. Bush was more interested in a reporter’s birthday than with Harper standing right there next to him. I actually felt a little sorry for Harper on that one.

  15. foottothefire

    The subsequent, ‘ photo circus’, (White House in the background) that played nationally on Global news showed 3 Conservative ministers (their embarrassment glaring) that really…really, didn’t want to be on that ‘stage’ while Wafer Stuffing Steve, obviously more comfortable than the others with mimicking a Republican at at photo shoot, was left to look like an hamass.

  16. Well, you all maybe right. Perhaps I’m over-analyzing the situation and reading far too much into it. However, I don’t think a little pro forma pomp and circumstance flourish would have gone entirely amiss under the circumstance given the dreary little affair evidently wasn’t so much a legitimate, for-real “working visit” as it was an obligatory meeting and awkwardly staged photo-op that sadly failed to generate any traction or the slightest bit of interest whatsoever in the media on either side of the border.

  17. Navvy

    Exactly how I feel Ti-Guy. I marvel at the lack of self-awareness when Cohen, Coyne, Simpson or even someone like Dan Gardner write an article about how Canadians are so damned self-conscious.

  18. Ti-Guy

    How could I have missed Andrew Cohen? He’s the worst of the lot. The hectoring, the lecturing, the badgering… Like a mother telling her kid that sometimes she wished he had never been born.

  19. Navvy

    Yeah, I eagerly await his Canada Day article every year. Never quite know for what reason I should feel disgusted with myself until I read it. I think this year he put in a rather disappointing effort about how awesome the Danes are… but I shouldn’t have doubted him, he followed it up with an article about how much he hated all the Canadian students he has to teach at Carleton a couple days later.

    Just thank your lucky stars you never had to attend one of his courses. He looks on you with disdain for being stupid enough to attend a Canadian university.

  20. Ti-Guy

    Heh. I went looking for some of Cohen’s recent articles (which, since they are published in the worst capital city newspaper in the world, I never read) and came across this lament for a nation:

    Spend a summer at a cabin, and see how swell it is to rely on a pair of shorts, a shirt, a sweater and socks. Spend some time on a canoe trip, and learn anew the meaning of contrast we lost long ago in urban life: hard and soft ground, hot and cold food, dry and wet clothes.

    Does this supercilious twit actually know any Canadians?

  21. Ted

    No. But these kids seem to have a better grasp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWQf13B8epw

  22. Navvy

    Whoops, I must have gotten the dates of his articles messed up. I forget what his Canada Day article was this year, but this is the one that came after it. Vintage Cohen, prepare to be belittled!

    http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/columnists/story.html?id=21e5e1bd-75e0-4f71-8b1c-adc3211347ae

  23. Ted — Great video! Thanks for sharing. It may take quite a while to wipe the smile off my face. 🙂

  24. Ti-Guy

    Oh gawd, that awful. Cohen goes on and on about how various technological issues and then puts this smack in the middle:

    “We should ask why the Sami, the indigenous people of Scandinavia, are among the most successful in the world and our Inuit are not.”

    “Our Inuit?”

    Christ, we’re pathetic. We can’t build high speed trains or decent indigenous people. And frankly, “our Jews” are pretty disappointing too.

  25. Navvy

    And let’s not even get started on our ability to rebuild Lodz and Wroclaw (!?).

  26. Even our indigenous people aren’t up to snuff!

    But maybe this is explains why the Laplanders are so successful:

    The constitutional amendment states: “It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life.” This provides a legal and political protection of the Sami language, culture and society. In addition the “amendment implies a legal, political and moral obligation for Norwegian authorities to create an environment conducive to the Samis themselves influencing on the development of the Sami community.” (ibid.).

    The Sami Act provides special rights for the Sami people (ibid.):

    • “…the Samis shall have their own national Sami Parliament elected by and amongst the Samis” (Chapter 1–2).

    • The Sami people shall decide the area of activity of the Norwegian Sami Parliament.

    • The Sami and Norwegian languages have equal standing in Norway (section 15; Chapter 3 contains details with regards to the use of the Sami language).

    For all of Harper’s shallow bluster about Arctic sovereignty and the importance of “Our Inuit” in protecting the Great White North from Russian and American incursions, what has he really done over his time in office other than promise some future slush-boats and harbour improvements?

  27. Ti-Guy

    The situations are barely comparable. The Sami are related to the Finns and have co-existed with Indo-Europeans for millenia.

    Cohen should have been complaining about “our Newfoundlanders” or “our Acadians” who actually haven’t been doing too badly lately.

  28. Indeed. It also should be noted that Canada’s indigenous people comprise a vast number of ethnically diverse groups with all kinds of regional differences, cultural histories, varying aspirations, unresolved land claims, and numerous other grievances that have been stubbornly frustrated for hundreds of years…

  29. Ti-Guy

    The real issue I have with Cohen’s whining is that he traces the causes of the problems he perceives to something essential about Canadians…that we’re petty, provincial, lazy and unambitious.

    It’s so dreary and dull.

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