President Biden Addresses Parliament, Says Canada and U.S. Will “Write the Future Together”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden take part in a meeting on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, March 24, 2023. Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Ottawa yesterday for a two-day meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This is Biden’s first official visit to Canada since 2016, when he came as Barak Obama’s vice president.
After posing for an early evening photo-op with the Prime Minister and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau on the steps of Rideau Cottage on Thursday, the 80-year-old president quipped to reporters: “We’re staying.”
The way things are in Ottawa at the moment, Trudeau might be tempted to take Biden up on his offer to help distract voters from the growing election interference controversy.
Just as the U.S. leader’s visit was set to get underway, the prime minister learned that the House of Commons had passed a motion calling for a public inquiry into foreign election interference, specifically that the Chinese government may have illegally meddled in our last election in favour of the Liberal party.
The inquiry vote was a response to a stunning report by Global News that former Liberal MP Han Dong told a Chinese official that “Beijing should hold off freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (two Canadians held in China for over 1,000 days) because “the Opposition Conservatives would benefit.”
Although Dong, who has left the Liberal caucus and now sits as an independent, strenuously denies the allegation, a flood of leaks from national securities reports that suggest foreign election interference has forced Trudeau’s hand — he will now have to bow to pressure and call an inquiry, which could prove to be politically explosive.
So Biden’s visit comes at an opportune moment and should help turn down the heat on the election controversy, at least for the weekend.
While Trudeau tries to change the channel, the U.S. president is riding a wave of political approval. He is being praised for ushering through the Inflation Reduction Act, a US$350 billion bill that seeks to curb higher prices, invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030.
After meeting government officials and members of the opposition, Biden addressed a jam-packed House of Commons today, which included political dignitaries, former prime ministers and the Two Michaels, who drew several standing ovations.
In his introductory remarks, Trudeau called the president “a true friend to Canada,” saying that in the face of challenging economic, climate and global issues, “our two nations stand united, finding solutions, side by side.” Noting that economic, climate and security policies are so interwoven,” that “Canadians and Americans must remain a source of inspiration throughout the world.”
In his speech, Biden referred to the memorable phone call he had with Trudeau after the tumultuous 2020 U.S. elections, his first discussion as new president with a foreign leader.
He also spoke about the strong economic, family, cultural and sporting ties between the two nations, suggesting that we are “two countries sharing one heart.”
Biden quoted John F. Kennedy’s famous address to Parliament in 1961, calling Canada and the U.S. “co-tenants of the same continent, heirs of the same legacy, and fully sovereign associates in the same historic endeavour: to preserve freedom for ourselves and all who wish it.”
Biden suggested that the two countries have always been “the stronghold of liberty. ” And he praised his country’s neighbours, saying “the U.S. chooses to link its future to Canada because we know we will find no better partner.”
With increasing threats to global security, especially the war in Ukraine, Biden said that “your Peace Tower stands as testament” to Canada’s commitment to peace. Canada and the U.S., he said, share a “responsibility and commitment” to stand up and protect North America as well as supporting their NATO allies.
He closed on a rousing note, saying that “we’re living in an age of possibilities.” And that if Canada and the U.S. “stand together” they will “write the future together.”
In bi-lateral meetings earlier on Friday, held in the Prime Minister’s office, Trudeau and Biden finalized a deal that would crack down on irregular border crossings, like Roxham Road, Que., which have become a popular ways into Canada for asylum seekers. The deal will allow both countries to turn away those who cross any border illegally.
Another item on the agenda between the two allies are concerns that the incentives and tax breaks found in the Inflation Reduction Act will give the U.S. an unfair advantage in attracting clean energy investments out of Canada. And the leaders also planned to discuss other trade issues, climate change, Canada’s defence spending and the war in Ukraine and continued civil unrest in Haiti.