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Presidential Visits: George W. Bush's long-delayed visit

He is the most important leader in the world. And even though the country may not always like what they hear, when the president of the United States comes to Ottawa, Canada listens. From Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, U.S. presidents have been given the honour of addressing Canada's Parliament. Sometimes their speeches draw warm ovations; others are met by catcalls and anger. But over time, each presidential message has been an important indicator of the goodwill — and the problems — facing these neighbours.

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Four years into his presidency, George W. Bush makes his first official visit to Canada, and hopes are high that the trip will ease tensions between Canada and the U.S. Trade disputes over Canadian lumber and beef, Canada's non-participation in the Iraq war and Bush's great unpopularity in Canada have led to icy relations between the two countries. In a strong conciliatory move, Bush pays tribute to Canadians who hosted stranded U.S. travelers on Sept. 11, 2001 and stressed the importance of the Canada--U.S. friendship. Bush then caps off a successful visit by dropping a bombshell about ballistic missile defence that leaves Prime Minister Paul Martin doing damage control.
• U.S. president George W. Bush chose Mexico for his first official foreign visit, marking the first time in 20 years that a president did not make Canada his first stop. Before Bush, three consecutive presidents -- including Bush's father, George H.W. Bush -- chose Canada for their first international trip. • Bush was originally scheduled to come to Canada and address a joint session of parliament on May 5, 2003, but the trip was cancelled three weeks prior. There was some speculation that Bush cancelled the trip because Canada refused to join the "coalition of the willing," the group of nations that participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

• A 2004 poll conducted by the Globe and Mail and CTV News found 67 per cent of Canadians felt Bush "knowingly lied to the world to justify his war with Iraq" and another 74 per cent said the Canadian government made the right decision by not participating in the Iraq war.

• Several thousand protesters turned out for Bush's visit to Ottawa, heckling his motorcade and marching on Parliament Hill. Bush later remarked: ''I frankly felt like the reception we received on the way in from the airport was very warm and hospitable, and I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave -- with all five fingers -- for their hospitality.''

• Bush's comment about "the return of NHL hockey" is a reference to the 1994--95 NHL lockout, a 310--day labour dispute that led to the cancellation of that season.

• Canada repeatedly refused to participate in Bush's plans for a ballistic missile defence system, an issue that further strained relations between the countries. In March 2005, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice postponed her visit to Ottawa amid reports of U.S. displeasure with Canada's decision not to back the missile shield program.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Dec. 1, 2004
Guest(s): George W. Bush, Paul Martin
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Interviewer: Rick Mercer
Reporter: Paul Hunter
Duration: 4:57
This Hour Has 22 Minutes excerpt featuring Rick Mercer: Salter Street Films.

Last updated: February 8, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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