In House panel - South of the border edition
Did Justin Trudeau manage to hit the reset button on Canada-U.S. relations? How much did the Prime Minister manage to accomplish during his official visit to Washington?
Our special In House panelists Paul Frazer, a former Canadian diplomat who specializes in Canada-US relations, and Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Centre, share their assessment.
Chris Hall: I want to ask you both about the idea that the state dinner generated all this excitement among Americans towards Canada... A lot of attention for Justin Trudeau. You've both watched politics here. Does a visiting leader get this kind of attention? Generate this kind of attention and a state dinner?
Laura Dawson: There's been a lot of commotion for Canada and that's what's really unusual. I've never seen so much excitement for Canada, for a Canadian Prime Minister, for the family. That little boy, Hadrien, he just romanced everybody, so that's what's really remarkable.
Washingtonians are interested, Americans are interested in this Prime Minister and his family. I'm not sure that the average is really interested in how policy has developed between the two countries however.
Paul Frazer: I think that's true and I think it would be too much to expect at this stage. I see this visit as the beginning of a beginning. This is, to use a number of words, resetting a relationship, reviving it, refreshing it. Now the challenge will be what comes next. But I think that the notion that somehow we were going to get a lot of very substantive deliverables out of the visit, I think that misses for me anyway, the importance of just a relaunch. I think it's very important for Canadians to see that the relationship is back on track. It's got a rotor and it's got a perspective."
CH: Let's look at what was accomplished. Let's start with climate change. Is that a significant thing?
LD: It's significant in that they're signaling Canada-U.S. leadership and cooperation on climate change. That's clearly are shared priority. They have to tiptoe around areas where the states or provinces already have jurisdiction. So the announcement on methane took some of us by surprise. I guess if you're an energy policy wonk it wouldn't be such a surprise. So the announcement on methane was not quite what we expected to hear on climate change, but it's something.
If we read further into it, we say: okay, well, this partnership on climate change maybe this also helps, say, Canada's hydroelectric sector in the future because that is also clean energy. So this is planting the seeds for greater announcements and cooperation down the road.
PF: I would have liked to have seen a little more specific information on assistance to innovation. There's an enormous amount of research and development that's been underway in each country. Canadians would be very interested to see what is the potential.
Laura mentions hydro, for example. Quebec has put a real emphasis on electric vehicles. Maybe there's something there that could have been highlighted a bit more just to give us a bit more to explain.
CH: What was the big get for Canada? Was there one?
LD: The big get... You know, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning... This morning I was looking through the announcements, looking for the gifts and all I could find was the tissue paper and a couple of mismatched socks. This was maybe not the best time to really have huge announcements. I mean, given the state of U.S. politics, given that Obama is on the way out the door. I didn't expect a great deal, but I had hoped for more.
PF: There wasn't a lot of tissue paper nor gifts when I woke up this morning.
I think the challenge from the very beginning was managing expectations. That's not unique of this visit, it's typical of all visits. That got a bit out of hand. It wasn't necessarily managed as well as maybe it could have. And I started from that point because we realize that the President is here for a limited period of time. He's not in retreat, he hasn't given up, he knows what his agenda is. How can Canada take every advantage of that knowing full well that come January there will be a new administration? It was a bit of a line the Prime Minister had to walk. He walked it well.