U.S. president Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seem to have hit it off on a personal level as one leader prepares to bid farewell to the top job and the other settles into it, says American ambassador Bruce Heyman.
In an interview with The West Block’s Tom Clark, Heyman said his observations of the pair have been very positive so far.
“I saw the president a couple of weeks ago and I had the opportunity to talk to him about the prime minister,” the ambassador said.
“(He’s) very excited about having the prime minister and his wife come to Washington in the New Year, and very excited about the relationship. He did comment on the youthfulness of the prime minister, and we joked a little bit about the comments of the grey hair which the president has.”
Heyman was careful to point out that Canada and the U.S. made great strides on trade, defence and cultural exchange during the tenure of former prime minister Stephen Harper. Observers have pointed out that Harper and Obama’s personal relationship did not seem as strong in later years, however.
Heyman said that he sees a set list of priorities for the Canada-U.S. relationship in the coming years.
“One is trade…the second is energy and the environment. The third is continuing our cultural exchanges. The fourth tackling shared values internationally. And the fifth is always working on enhancing the border.”
The ambassador acknowledged that Americans are extremely concerned about security at the moment, and anxiety over welcoming Syrian refugees to the U.S. remains very high. Canada’s own approach to the refugee crisis has been very different, with 25,000 newcomers expected over the coming months.
“I commend the prime minister of his efforts on being a leader in demonstrating leadership with humanitarian efforts, and he’s being recognized globally for that,” Heyman said.
“We always have to find a balance. The balance between security and then free trade and travel at our border.”