We see and feel things that might pass unnoticed in other countries. Whether this is because of our one-sided perception that we enjoy a ‘special relationship’ with the U.S. (Americans largely reserve that phrase for Great Britain) or because we’re especially insecure is up for perennial debate.
When George W. Bush made Mexico his first foreign trip upon taking office in 2001, more than a few Canuck noses were out of joint. It was tradition, some claimed, that the American president made Ottawa his first visit outside the United States. Indeed, the three previous presidents from Ronald Reagan to the elder Bush (George H.W.) to Bill Clinton had done so. This normally happened quickly upon them taking office – usually within the first few months and certainly within the first year.
Although George W. Bush would find himself on Canadian soil to attend two international summits during his first term (one in Quebec City and the other in Kananaskis), it would not be until his fourth year in office that he finally made his first official visit to Ottawa.
Aha, some thought, that showed that the former Texas governor had no real understanding or love for Canada – a quality we seem to crave when it comes to our southern neighbour’s chief executive. The fact that most of them have to look down at briefing notes while heaping praise on us in no way takes away from the magic glow we feel in our hearts.
In the 20th century, A-listers like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy dutifully made the trek north – sometimes on multiple occasions. Go down the list since the 1930s and you can tick off the boxes next to every president’s name as they earned their Canadian bona fides.
Well, not quite. Neither Gerald Ford nor Jimmy Carter made an official visit to Canada the entire time they were in office. Richard Nixon made only one such foray. Suffice it to say, the 1970s doesn’t appear to have been a love fest between our two countries, no matter if the president was Republican or Democrat.
Which brings us to Donald Trump (and doesn’t it seem that all roads lead to him these days?). President Trump has been in office a little over one year and has not set foot in the Great White North. Nor does it appear he has any great desire to do so. It should be noted that the invitation has been extended from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but, hey, when you can spend weekends and down time at Florida’s Mar-a-Lago, the Ottawa offerings probably don’t turn many heads amongst the Trump entourage.
Trump doesn’t want to come, doesn’t need to come and will gain nothing by coming. He may or may not attend the G7 summit in Quebec City in June but, like George W. Bush before him, even if he does that won’t be an official visit where the spotlight shines uniquely on Canada-U.S. issues.
Trudeau should be thanking his lucky stars that Trump isn’t packing an overnight bag. It relieves him of a potentially awkward domestic tightrope where he has to be hospitable to a man many Canadians find, to say the least, distasteful and objectionable on every level from the political to the personal.
To this point, North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations notwithstanding, Trump has shown a benign disinterest in Canada. It would be far better that this continue rather than have him experience the full brunt of beaver rage. The inevitable protest of an official visit would no doubt prickle and prune his notoriously thin skin.
So, tradition notwithstanding, Trudeau and Trump are better left as outwardly cordial neighbours who, for the time being, are best served by the American president staying on his side of the international fence.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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