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Joe Biden’s long-awaited visit to Ottawa as President of the United States begins Thursday night with an official welcome at Ottawa airport, and a gathering that Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will attend with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his spouse at the Prime Minister’s residence.

After a welcoming ceremony at Ottawa airport with the Governor-General, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and other ministers, Mr. Biden and Ms. Biden are to proceed to Rideau Cottage, the prime ministerial residence, for a social gathering with Mr. Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.

The work begins on Friday, with Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Biden holding meetings, backed by members of their administrations. There’s a first meeting scheduled at 11:20 a.m. followed by the larger meeting at 11:45 a.m.

The President will also address Parliament at 1:50 p.m. He will hold a news conference with Mr. Trudeau. In the evening, there will be a gala dinner, with hundreds of invitees.

Later in the evening, the President and first lady are to depart Canada to return to the United States. They are headed for a weekend in Wilmington, Del., where Mr. Biden has a home.

Also Friday, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau will accompany Ms. Biden on the first lady’s program, which will include a discussion with youth and a luncheon event.

Mr. Biden is the first president to visit Ottawa since former president Barack Obama was in the nation’s capital in 2016 for the North American Leaders’ Summit. Former president Donald Trump – Mr. Obama’s successor – did not visit Ottawa, but attended a G7 meeting in Quebec.

Canada has been an inevitable stop for modern-era U.S. presidents although an overview of trips here, provided by the U.S. embassy and consulates in Canada, show two never visited Canada during their terms of office: Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Senior political reporter Marieke Walsh reports here on how Mr. Biden will arrive in Ottawa with a message for Canada to ramp up the speed and scale of its continental air-defence modernization and with the goal of charting a path forward in the response to crisis-torn Haiti.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Strategic Communications Co-ordinator John Kirby provided a briefing on the presidential visit to Ottawa. As is part of the White House routine, a transcript was posted online. You can read it here.


The doors close on the Prime Minister and the President, and their talks begin. Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council – that is the head of the public service – between 2016 and 2019 has seen how these kinds of high-level discussions proceed.

In his 2021 book Governing Canada: A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics, Mr. Wernick described a prime minister’s relationship with the U.S. president as the most important among their international relations. Mr. Wernick, now the Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa, elaborated in an interview with the Politics Newsletter, on the mechanics of these kinds of meetings:

“On the plane to Canada, President Biden will have read the latest assessment of Prime Minister Trudeau and Canada. They know us very well. They will know Trudeau very well. They will have drawn on their intelligence sources for assessments of his strengths and weaknesses and where he is under pressure. They approach it in a relentlessly self-interested, `What’s in it for the United States of America?’ way. They don’t just walk in kind of spontaneously, and say, `Hey. How is it going? What’s up?’

“Ahead of the meeting, there would have been a lot of prep work by ambassadors. In the late stages, it gets taken over by the Prime Minister’s Office staff on the Canadian side and the White House staff on the American side, narrowing the range of topics to what they can get through. They tend to use the language of deliverables. Or what can they get through so they can walk out to the microphones and say, `We had a good conversation and the proof is we agreed to do the following.’ And that would have been under discussion and will be until President Biden gets off the plane in Ottawa.

“We would have our asks. And they would have theirs. If you know there’s a reluctance from the other side to go somewhere we want, you can make a direct appeal to the President and say `I need this and here’s why I need it.’ It can be a policy argument. It can be a political argument: ‘You’ve got to help me here, Joe. This is killing me with such and such a constituency.’ Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

“The leaders want some spontaneity, some authenticity to the conversation so look at the program for moments where the smallest possible group is getting together, usually some private dinner, some private lunch. But even then, the smallest number is usually three or four people with each leader. If you see pictures in the Oval Office, there’s a number of people sitting pleasantly on the couch nearby, and the same thing on the Canadian side. There’s always people who feel they need to be there as witnesses or participants. Maybe the leader will turn to the foreign minister, the defence minister and say, `Well, what do you think?’

“Usually, in any summit with the Americans, it’s necessary to remind them how important we are to them in trade and security, and try not to get side-swiped by protectionism. That happens whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. There’s always a tendency for them to be on some kind of “Buy America” thing or things come out of Congress with limitations that only American businesses can bid and so on. So often the Canadian side is trying to say, `We’re inside the tent with you’ whether it’s North American defence or security or energy security or whatever.

“Both leaders will be careful to have a record of who said what. And that’s why they do written summaries of the meetings that are released to the media, called readouts: They don’t, for example, want the other side walking out to say, `We had a great meeting, and Joe agreed to X’ and Joe has to go, `Whoops. I didn’t actually.’ So they always want a note taker. They always want a witness.

“If there are any deliverables out or announcements at the end of the meeting between the President and the Prime Minister, that would exceed my expectations. I would be looking more for the tasking, follow-ups, `We have agreed to have a further meeting on this’ or to ask our ministers to meet and look at what track they can lay down going into the summer or the fall.”


PM GETS POSITIVE GRADES FOR HANDLING U.S RELATIONSHIP – More than half of Canadians surveyed say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have managed the relationship with the United States as well as should be expected, according to new research by Abacus Data. Five per cent think he has done better than should be expected while 24 per cent think he’s done worse than should be expected. Details here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


MP LEAVES LIBERAL CAUCUS – Don Valley North MP Han Dong announced Wednesday evening that he is leaving the federal Liberal caucus to sit as an independent, but denied allegations related to his interactions with a Chinese diplomat. Story here.

“MESSY SITUATION” HELPING AFGHANS ESCAPE: JOLY – Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says it was “a messy situation” trying to help Afghans escape the Taliban, as Conservatives questioned her department’s decision to install a plaque commemorating the August, 2021 airlift. Story here.

HATE CRIMES INCREASE PROMPTS CALL FOR VICTIMS SUPPORT – A new report shows a record jump in hate crimes against the LGBTQ, Muslim and Jewish communities, prompting calls for more support for victims of the abuse. Story here.

U.S. STRATEGIST APOLOGIZES FOR JOKING HE COULD HAVE KILLED P.M. – An American conservative strategist is apologizing for making what he called a “dumb joke” about having an opportunity to kill the prime minister. Story here from CBC.

CRA RESUMES DEBT COLLECTION AROUND CHILD BENEFIT OVERPAYMENTS – The Canada Revenue Agency has resumed collecting debts tied to overpayments of the Canada Child Benefit, a move that some parents say resulted in drastic reductions of their benefit payments for March. Story here.

DUCLOS ANNOUNCES RARE DISEASES STRATEGY – Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has announced details of Ottawa’s long-awaited strategy for rare diseases, including $1.4-billion over three years to help provinces and territories pay for drugs as well as improve early diagnosis and screening. Story here.

MEMBER OF B.C. LEGISLATURE DEALS WITH KNIFE-WIELDING MAN – A former Mountie turned member of the B.C. legislature is calling for more mental health supports after kicking a knife away from a man in crisis outside a café this week. Story here from Global News.

LONGER WAITS FOR SOME SURGERIES: HEALTH INFORMATION INSTITUTE – Patients have continued to wait longer for certain surgeries, particularly knee and hip replacements, than they did in 2019, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Story here.

SUPREME COURT SKEPTICAL ABOUT ARGUMENT OTTAWA UNDERMINING PROVINCES ON RESOURCES – The provinces’ rights to determine their own future are being undermined by the federal government’s assumption of sweeping powers over development projects, lawyers for several provincial governments told the Supreme Court of Canada on Wednesday. Story here.

HOLD OFF ON POLICY: HARPER TO POILIEVRE – Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper says current party Leader Pierre Poilievre should not be putting out too many policy prescriptions now, but rather holding onto those ideas for the next federal election. Story here.


TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, March 23, accessible here.

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD – Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, in Kamloops, B.C., made a funding announcement at Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc, formerly known as the Kamloops Indian Band.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held private meetings, and, with, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau was scheduled, in the evening, to host United States Presiden Joe Biden, and the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, at the prime ministerial residence. In the morning, an interview with Mr. Trudeau was scheduled to air on TVA’s Salut Bonjour and CTV’s Your Morning.


Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, in Ottawa, delivered a keynote address to the annual Canada Strong and Free Network Conference.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, was scheduled to participate in Question Period then meet with the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association to discuss the NDP’s plan for expanding dental care.

No schedules released for other party leaders.


On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, climate-change columnist Adam Radwanski explains what a “green economy” will look like for Canada, and how Canada can establish itself as a major player as it competes with the United States, its biggest ally and rival. The Decibel is here.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Budget 2023: Canada’s indefensible military spending: “It comes down to a choice for Ottawa: spend less on some programs so that more can go to defence. That’s what writing a federal budget is all about – prioritizing. And right now, in the world we live in, the Trudeau government patently has its priorities wrong. Ottawa needs to rapidly increase its defence spending, with the ultimate goal of meeting the NATO threshold. Doing so would put our armed forces on a better standing. More importantly, it would demonstrate that Canada is shoulder to shoulder with NATO in the defence of our values.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how other world leaders may be brought to account, but Canadian prime ministers, it seems, are invincible: “Which brings us to … Canada. Hold on: We don’t know that Justin Trudeau has done anything wrong yet, let alone broken the law. Or at least, we don’t know that he has in the matter of China’s attempts to interfere with our elections. Previous episodes – the SNC-Lavalin affair, the WE Charity affair, the Aga Khan affair, have I left any out? – have certainly landed him and/or senior members of his government in trouble with the Ethics Commissioner.”

Shannon Proudfoot (The Globe and Mail) on how, long after giving up control, former prime minister Stephen Harper still commands the room: “By the time prime minister Stephen Harper left office in 2015, his tendency toward dour control freakery had generated a low hum of fatigue across the land. It could be dressed up in intellectual political garb, but the underlying sentiment was pretty much, “Dude, could you chill a bit?” Increasingly over the last few years, however, if you’re talking to someone in the orbit of Parliament Hill and Mr. Harper’s name or the unruliness of the current Conservative Party comes up, often someone will say something broadly complimentary about how that guy really had a handle on things.”

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on whether the survivors of the Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school ever get justice: “It has been nearly one year since Cassidy Caron – the president of the Métis National Council, which represents the governments of the Métis Nation in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia – travelled to Rome to seek an apology from Pope Francis and the Vatican for the Catholic Church’s role in Indian residential schools. Since that time, the Pope has apologized, completed a historic “penitential pilgrimage” in Canada and even described the residential school system as a genocide. (Though it should be noted he didn’t say the word “genocide” until reporter Brittany Hobson, a member of Long Plain First Nation, specifically asked him about it on the plane from Iqaluit back to Rome.) But Ms. Caron is still waiting for acknowledgment and compensation for survivors who attended the Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school in northern Saskatchewan.”

Navdeep Bains (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Canada must note U.S. friendship during Joe Biden’s visit, but also stand up for itself: “In an increasingly fractured world, we need to be clear about who our friends are, and clearer still about how we can work together to advance our shared ideals. There is much work to be done on the energy transition, and the fight against climate change requires a global effort. There is no doubt that the U.S. is our closest and most important neighbour, friend and partner. To paraphrase Mr. Biden, we must Build Back Better Together. Welcome to Canada, Mr. President.”

Neil Price (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Mark Saunders’s candidacy for mayor of Toronto is untenable: “After a 37-year career in policing, former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders has declared his intention to run for mayor of Toronto. But Mr. Saunders, who seems desperate to follow his police-chief predecessors Julian Fantino and Bill Blair into politics, has made a deeply misguided and self-interested decision – one that doesn’t bode well for ethical municipal government or civil liberties.”

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