Cross-border partisanship hampering our relations with our biggest trading partner, defense ally
It's entirely possible that when John McCain visited Ottawa this past Friday, it may have been merely a preliminary visit to his first visit as President of the United States of America.
So when McCain came north of the 49th parallel to address free trade, one would have thought it would be an excellent opportunity for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to, at the very least, meet with a presidential candidate to discuss matters important to Canada.
But apparently not, as Harper and other members of the sitting Conservative government seem to have deliberately made themselves unavailable.
Of course, there are other matters at stake other than simply an opportunity to touch base with a possible president. Opponents of McCain -- who so often tend to be opponents of Harper's as well -- have been bending over backwards to portray McCain as "George Bush the third". For Harper, whom these individuals do everything they can to associate with George W Bush as closely as possible, meeting with McCain -- who is recieving the very same treatment -- could be handing them too much ammunition for his liking.
Which would be fair enough, if reminding a potential American president of the importance of the Canada/US relationship and discussing relevant policy wasn't as important as it is.
Even a desire not to appear as if Harper were getting too involved in cross-border partisan politics could have been mitigated by extending an invitation to Democratic nominee Barack Obama to come meet with Harper as well, and to discuss the very same crucial issues -- ranging from free trade to defense policy to border security.
This represents yet another golden opportunity that Harper and company have effecitvely discarded through simple lack of foresight: an opportunity to start building some bridges between Canadian Conservatives and American Democrats, and start to break down the walls of petty cross-border partisanship.
If Liberals are allowed to flaunt their close ties with Democrats --- as they certainly did when Howard Dean addressed their leadership convention -- then certainly they cannot fault Harper for deciding to form a few of his own.
It's more than a little unfortunate even as the Conservatives have waved good-bye to this golden opportunity that the Liberals, currently Canada's alternative government -- seem all too determined to do likewise. According to the National Post, a Liberal party aide dismissed the McCain speech as a "a neo-con jamboree," suggesting that there are clearly some ideological limits on how a Liberal party government would choose to associate with a prospective President McCain.
It's rather unfortunate how deeply this cross-border partisanship has crept into our politics: so much so that our government seems terrified to be so much as seen with the individual who may well become President of our biggest trading partner and most important defense ally come November, and that our opposition parties scoff at the very idea.