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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 14:30 GMT
Canada waits for 'Bush effect'
By Lee Carter
BBC News, Ottawa

A Canadian 'Mountie' salutes Mr Bush
Some worry that Canada will not gain anything from Mr Bush's visit
US President George W Bush's first official visit to Canada has left many observers here wondering what was really achieved.

"Maybe it's like a time-release pill and the benefits will all become apparent to me later," joked one Canadian TV commentator.

The trip to the Canadian capital Ottawa and the east coast city of Halifax was long on photo and TV picture opportunities, such as Mr Bush being greeted by Canada's governor-general, a glitzy Ottawa dinner, and a visit to a portrait gallery.

It was also short on substance - or any resolution to Canada's trade disputes with the US.

The US closed its border to Canadian beef in May 2003 after a cow in Alberta tested positive for BSE, or mad cow disease.

There have been no other cases of infected cattle since then, yet the border remains closed.

The dispute is proving ruinous for Canada's cattle farmers and has cost them billions of dollars.

Mr Bush says it is a bureaucratic process that could last until April 2005 - and that it's largely out of his hands.

The US president says he is personally in favour of reopening the border.

'Symbolic meeting'

By contrast, the president seemed to have a shopping list for Canada.

The most controversial item on that list is possible Canadian involvement in America's controversial proposals for a missile defence shield.

US President George Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in Ottawa

Canadian public opinion is deeply opposed to the programme, as is the left-of-centre New Democratic Party.

The NDP are currently in a power sharing agreement with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's governing Liberals. It is a minority government that could be brought down at any moment.

Ed Broadbent is a former leader of the NDP and a Canadian senior statesman.

"From a Canadian point of view it's been purely a symbolic meeting," he says.

"I think Mr Bush wants to send a message way beyond North America to a number of countries in Europe.

"As he comes to Canada, a country that opposed the war in Iraq, it may well be a gesture of the Bush administration, saying to among others the French and the Germans, look, there's Canada, we're prepared to talk in a co-operative way with them.

"Who knows? You may be next."


Indeed, Mr Bush seemed to use the visit mainly to hammer home his strong-willed approach to foreign policy.

In his speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia, ostensibly to thank Canadians for their help in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks, he also managed to take a swipe at the United Nations and other multilateral international organisations.

President Bush flanked by images of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill
Mr Bush said global institutions must act in the face of threats
"The purpose of these institutions must be collective security, not endless debate," he said.

"For the sake of peace, when those bodies promise serious consequences, serious consequences must follow."

He added: "America and Canada helped create the United Nations. Because we remain committed to that institution, we want it to be more than a league of nations."

The president acknowledged Canada's opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, but said that Ottawa and Washington now agreed on the way forward.

Again, little was specified, but there is speculation that the US might want Canada to help train Iraqi army officers in neighbouring Jordan, or help monitor planned elections in January.


In Ottawa, protestors didn't get anywhere near Mr Bush. They were cleared from the route between the city airport and the parliament buildings.

As a result, the president saw instead a handful of supporters waving, "with all five fingers", as he put it.

Protesters in Halifax, Nova Scotia
About 80% of Canadians opposed the Iraq war, polls suggest

But about 5,000 people opposed to the president's policies did make themselves seen on the lawn of Canada's House of Commons, where they held a candlelight vigil just hours after scuffling with riot police.

Canadian public opinion is more sympathetic to the protesters than to the toasts and platitudes being offered at the official dinner within the Museum of Civilisation in Quebec.

Before the trip only 17% of Canadians said they supported Mr Bush's policies, and Mr Martin knows he must not be seen as too cosy with Washington.

Symbolically at least, though, the Bush visit appears to signal an improvement in the cross-border relationship from the low point it reached under Mr Martin's predecessor, Jean Chretien.

He opposed the war in Iraq and did little to rein in anti-American MPs in the governing Liberal Party.

Immigrant nations

The ties between the two countries were perhaps underlined best by the setting for the president's visit to Halifax.

There Mr Bush thanked Canadians who sheltered some 33,000 airline passengers whose planes were diverted to Canada from US airspace on 11 September 2001.

He spoke at Pier 21, Canada's equivalent of US immigration centre Ellis Island, where more than a million immigrants arrived during the 20th century to begin new lives.

It was also the departure point for nearly 500,000 Canadian troops who joined Allied forces during World War II.

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