Joe Biden's visit to Ottawa gave Justin Trudeau a boost -- precisely when he needed one. Susan Delacourt writes:
The entire Biden visit, awash in cross-border warmth, doesn’t rescue the prime minister from his domestic political troubles — the ongoing furor over foreign election meddling, for instance. But it is a reminder that Trudeau, more so than many other prime ministers, will have a legacy forged by his relationship with three presidents: Obama, Trump and now Biden. The ways in which those relationships have changed are a reflection of bigger changes in the world, and in the leaders’ own jobs.
It isn’t just Trudeau’s future that hinges on his relationship with the United States either — it’s Canada’s. In a world roiling with war in Ukraine, climate change and the spread of authoritarianism, nationalism and disinformation, Canada and the U.S. will probably have to cling even closer to each other.
Biden has known three generations of Trudeaus:
Fifty-one years ago, when Biden’s daughter and his first wife tragically died in a car accident, he received a call of condolence from then prime minister Pierre Trudeau — a gesture he’s never forgotten, the president told Justin Trudeau in one of their early meetings.
Biden definitely is a politician more of the elder Trudeau’s vintage, and there is a temptation to see their relationship in terms of father and son, or “mentor to mentee,” as former U.S. ambassador Gordon Giffin said in a television interview on Friday.
But the tumultuous events of the past few years have often turned that dynamic upside down, with Trudeau finding himself in the role of explainer to the chief — specifically, filling in Biden on how much the world changed during the four years he was out of the White House.
One of Biden’s last trips as vice-president, the one that has been much recalled this week, was his December 2016 visit to Ottawa, when he famously asked Trudeau to carry the torch of progressive values into the world as the Obama era was ending and the Trump years were just beginning.
Trudeau made specific reference to that visit at his news conference on Friday and to the “sometimes challenging times” the two men have faced since then.
New polling from Abacus Data, out this week, show that Trudeau still can boast that things are going mostly right on this big thing. In a poll of nearly 2,000 Canadians conducted last weekend, a full 61 per cent responded that Trudeau had managed the U.S. relationship as well or better than could be expected.
That’s certainly a more positive poll result than many others the PM has faced in recent days and may even surprise his most staunch critics. But that’s become a defining feature of Trudeau’s years in power — presidents, whether foes like Trump or friends like Biden and Obama — have given him a boost.
Sometimes people are in the right place at the right time.
Image: The Toronto Star