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Last Canadian Knight

Last Canadian Knight

The Unintended Business Adventures of Sir Graham Day
edition:Paperback
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With Faith and Goodwill

With Faith and Goodwill

150 Years of Canada-U.S. Friendship
edited by Arthur Milnes
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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Excerpt

In the world of Canada-U.S. relations, a speech by a president to the Canadian Parliament, or one by a Canadian prime minister to the U.S. Congress is, to use sporting analogies, the World Series or Stanley Cup final of bilateral relations. It simply can’t be topped.
In 1995, shortly after President Bill Clinton spoke to Canada’s Parliament, quick-thinking and historically minded staff at the American Embassy in Ottawa produced the book United States Presidential Addresses to the Canadian Parliament: 1943–1995. In his foreword, then American Ambassador to Canada James Blanchard noted the following about these special addresses:

Presidential speeches in the House of Commons have always been a special moment in U.S.-Canadian history. Each speech powerfully captures the mood of the times. Each represents an important portrait of this, the most unique bilateral relationship in history.

When President Bill Clinton spoke to Canada’s MPs and senators, it fell to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to introduce his counterpart. In introducing Clinton, the wily man from Shawinigan reminded Canada’s distinguished visitor that a speech to Canada’s Parliament could also bring good political luck to a president who, as with Chrétien himself, was still in his first term. As the man from Hope, Arkansas, listened intently, the prime minister observed that presidents such as Eisenhower, Reagan, and Nixon had all addressed Canada’s Parliament and were later returned to second terms at the White House. To laughter, Chrétien noted that other presidents like Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush had not addressed Parliament and had not received second terms.
It was a great line and very much appreciated by Clinton, who was down in the polls then. “I have never believed in the iron laws of history as much as I do now,” the president told Parliament.
The fact that later presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama were elected to second terms after not addressing Canada’s Parliament shows that this “law” of history can now be forgotten. Ambassador Blanchard was right in what he said, though. A presidential visit to Parliament Hill that lacks an address to Parliament may still be important and exciting, but it remains a bit of a letdown. So when, in June 2016, President Barack Obama finally took his turn behind a podium in Canada’s House of Commons to proclaim “the world needs more Canada,” the now-veteran president was met with a wave of enthusiasm.
What many observers forget, however, is that a presidential speech to Parliament actually is a relatively recent custom. Franklin Roosevelt in August 1943 was the first to address Canadian MPs and senators. And it wasn’t until 1977 that a Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, was honoured by an invitation to speak to Congress in Washington. Fans of Canada’s connection to the British monarchy will note with pride that Governor General Vincent Massey, the Queen’s representative in Canada, beat Trudeau to Congress by many years. He spoke there in 1954.
No matter the occasion, however, the persistent and perhaps even defining characteristic of the relationship between the two countries is their friendship. This is not the whole of the partnership, certainly, but it is the foundation. Unsurprisingly, then, some presidents and prime ministers have discovered over the decades that the need to work together closely on bilateral, continental, and global matters can produce a bond that becomes personal. Professional responsibilities can produce — and often have produced — friends in truly high places.

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The Last Canadian Knight

The Last Canadian Knight

The Unintended Business Adventures of Sir Graham Day
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
Borders in Service

Borders in Service

Enactments of Nationhood in Transnational Call Centres
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : geography
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