Official visits by heads of state – like the one Joe Biden is about to make to Canada – are “of the utmost importance”. And this is even more the case with the presidents of the United States, says the former Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, in an interview with La Presse.
“It’s more true for American presidents, because the United States and Canada are linked by important issues,” said the former prime minister. The time of the President of the United States is very precious. There are some 200 heads of state at the United Nations and they all want to meet him. »
During his nine years at the helm of the country, from 1984 to 1993, Brian Mulroney hosted Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton. They went through Ottawa, Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver.
Of all these meetings, the Shamrock Summit held on March 17 and 18, 1985 in Quebec made an impression. Six-month Prime Minister Mulroney welcomed Ronald Reagan as he began his second term.
The title of the summit refers to the Irish origins of the two men, eager to decompartmentalize the tariff barriers of economic exchanges, which paved the way for the free trade treaty.
“Some say these visits are a waste of time. But they know absolutely nothing about the international reality, argues Mr. Mulroney. The free trade treaty had the effect of creating the largest international trade between two countries in the history of the world. »
In the process, this treaty led to that of NAFTA, which includes Mexico. “It transformed Canada’s economy,” continues Mr. Mulroney, who says the deal has “created millions of jobs for citizens of all three countries.”
Meetings like that of March 23 and 24 between MM. Trudeau and Biden provide an opportunity to settle important issues, assures Brian Mulroney.
Obviously, these meetings are preceded by lengthy preparations in each of the capitals and discussions between senior officials and ministers. But when the president speaks, things move, believes the former Canadian prime minister.
“When the president says, in front of his ministers and subordinates, ‘I want this done for Canada’, ‘I want this done for Brian’ or ‘I want this done for Justin’, it has the effect of galvanizing the senior public service and ministers,” he said.
Brian Mulroney describes Joe Biden, whom he says he met 40 years ago, as an “excellent fellow, pleasant trade”. “I think he and Justin Trudeau have a good relationship,” he continued. They are ideologically in the same picture, in the center left. Mr. Biden knows Canada well and he is going to want to make gestures of friendship. In my opinion, it will be a good visit, what is called a fruitful visit. »
United States President Joe Biden’s visit to Canada on March 23-24 comes 100 years after the first such event. Reminder of some presidential, official, work, informal or even vacation visits.
Warren Harding was the first sitting president to visit Canada (see next capsule), according to the US State Department. But one of his predecessors, the Republican William Howard Taft, stayed in Charlevoix several times before and after his presidency (1909-1913). His family built a summer residence there and Mr. Taft served as president of the Murray Bay Golf Club. It is not known if Mr. Taft came to La Malbaie during his presidency. “If he came, it was rarely, for security reasons,” said Serge Gauthier, president of the Charlevoix Historical Society. In 2015, La Malbaie renamed a segment of Rue Richelieu to give it the name Côte Taft.
In the summer of 1923, Republican Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States, left Washington for a long trip. His administration is plagued by scandals, his health is poor. Harding toured several towns in Alaska before stopping in Vancouver on July 26. He then became the first US president in office to visit Canada. In Vancouver, he hosted a dinner in her honor, played golf and addressed the crowd in Stanley Park. He then heads for California. A week later, he died of a heart attack in San Francisco.
“Franklin Roosevelt came twice to Quebec, 1943 and 1944, to talk about the Second World War with Winston Churchill,” recalls Rafaël Jacob, associate researcher at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair in Strategic and Diplomatic Studies. Received by Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, the two statesmen had several meetings and conferences at the Citadelle and the Château Frontenac, from August 17 to 24, 1943. Among other things, they prepared the Normandy landings, including a series of plans are forgotten in a living room, as told by the daily Le Soleil. A second Roosevelt-Churchill conference was held in September 1944.
President Eisenhower stopped in Quebec on June 26, 1959, on the occasion of the inauguration of the St. Lawrence Seaway, where he accompanied Queen Elizabeth II aboard the yacht Britannia. Embarked in Saint-Lambert, Ike and his wife Mamie go down to the Beauharnois lock where they are accompanied by Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. They take a helicopter then takes them to Saint-Hubert airport. From there, they take the presidential plane and return to Washington. According to the presidential diary that La Presse consulted, Eisenhower went to play a round of golf upon arriving home.
On May 25, 1967, when tension was high in the Middle East (the Six Day War would begin on June 5), President Lyndon B. Johnson made a short visit to Canada. He first stopped in Montreal to visit the United States pavilion at Expo 67. Johnson then flew to Ottawa to meet Lester B. Pearson. “I consulted the Prime Minister about the Middle East issues he knows so well [Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in the Suez Canal crisis] and our talks were fruitful,” said Johnson, back in Washington late that afternoon.
“The Free Trade Agreement began at the Château Frontenac,” former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said of Ronald Reagan’s visit to Quebec City on March 17-18, 1985. Mr. Mulroney had been Prime Minister for six months and Ronald Reagan was entering his second term. “That visit also marked the beginning of the acid rain treaty,” said Mr. Mulroney. We also adopted new measures for Arctic sovereignty. »
Bill Clinton’s February 23-24, 1995 state visit to Ottawa came at a time of great tension in Canadian politics. The Bloc Québécois, which forms the official opposition, is actively preparing for the holding of a second referendum (October 30, 1995). Its chef Lucien Bouchard, victim of the flesh-eating bacteria, has just returned from a long convalescence. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien greets Mr. Clinton. He addressed the members of parliament.
Obamania reaches the Canadian capital when the 44th President of the United States visits Prime Minister Stephen Harper on February 19, 2009. Mr. Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009, thus honoring the tradition of reserving the first presidential visit to Canada. Thousands of people gathered near Parliament Hill, barricaded and under heavy surveillance, in the hope of catching a glimpse of him. Before returning to Washington, Mr. Obama will buy a beaver tail and cookies at the ByWard Market.
According to the US State Department list, Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Nixon, Bush Sr., Bush Jr. and Trump also visited Canada during their tenure. Presidents Ford and Carter did not come.