Obama is Coming
While the actual date has not been set, President Obama is coming to Canada for a formal visit, "sooner rather than later." He has promised a visit to Canada which will be his first foreign visit.
Traditionally, Canada is the first foreign trip for American presidents. George W. Bush didn't come either out of ignorance or as a snub. He went to Mexico instead. I guess from Texas (part of greater Mexico:) ), America's southern neighbour seems to be the most important neighbour.
I assume George W. Bush just did not know. After all he did not know the name of Canada's Prime Minister before he became President, even if then. Canada is very important to the United States. It is the biggest supplier of energy to the US, oil, gas and electricity. It is a stable well govern neighbour along the US northern frontier. Canada has been a close ally over the decades on most issues, ( much to my chagrin, often). Canada is also the biggest trading partner of the US. And, of course, we have taken in American citizens not welcome in the US from United Empire Loyalists, to slaves and draft doggers and deserters and others throughout our shared history. So it is fitting that the US should acknowledge Canada's importance by having the new President visit here first.
There are issues of concern between Canada and the US that may come up during the Obama Presidency. The NAFTA free trade deal may be revisited if Obama has his way. Hopefully, this time Canada will negotiate a deal that leaves us with sovreignty and control over our oil and gas industry. With the Arctic rapidly losing its year round ice cover, Canada may have to defend it's sovreignty over the arctic archipelago and northwest passage, which the US does not recognize.
Hopefully, issues over the southern border can be rethought so that it is less ridgidly controlled. The American inordinate fear of terrorism and an inability to differentiate between the problems of the Canadian and Mexican borders, has complicated the easy transborder flow of Canadians and Americans , which historically has been enjoyed. I am sure Canada's role in Afghanistan will be a topic of discussion. I think there are reasons for concern that the American increased military involvement in that country may draw Canada into their war effort which may be different from the goals of Canada and NATO, particularly spreading the war into Pakistan.
The one issue I hope gets settled with Obama's visit is the repatriation of Omar Khadr to Canada. Hopefully, Obama will pressure Canada into taking Khadr off the US hands. I am sure he does not want it on his record that his administration prosecuted a child for war crimes particularly when both Canada and the US are signers of international agreements and UN protocols to treat child soldiers as victims in need of rehabilitation and not prosecution for crimes. Omar Kadhr should have been sent home 7 years ago and not have had to be tortured at the hand of the US.
I hope Obama asks Canada to take some other prisoners at the Guantanamo Prison Camp. Several European countries have already agreed to take in some of these victims of the "war on terror". Canada has been silent. The one group I would like to see Canada take in are the Uyghars, the Muslims from Western China. They were declared innocent and no longer enemy combatants two years ago, yet they remain imprisoned. They do not want to return to China where they will be persecuted and no country has been willing to take the final group. Apparently, Canada has considered doing so previously. It is time Canada stepped up made a firm commitment to help this group.
On a lighter side, I hope President Obama will get a chance to meet the creators of the Blackberry, Mike Lazarides and Jim Balsillie, which is the Canadian device for which he has a great affection. A visit to the plant of Research in Motion in Waterloo, Ontario is probably out of the question.
Also, It would also be nice if he were presented with the 50 songs the CBC contest chose as the best Canadian songs for his playlist on his ipod.
I am sure President Obama will be warmly welcomed in Canada as he is much admired here across the whole political spectrum. We wish him and the US well during his Presidency.