Vive Le Canada

US watches vote with a view to warmer relations
Date: Wednesday, January 18 2006

US watches vote with a view to warmer relations
By Edward Alden and Ben Bain in Washington
Published: January 17 2006 02:00 | Last updated: January 17 2006 02:00

It has been more than two decades since Ronald Reagan, the US president, and Brian Mulroney, the Canadian prime minister, sang an off-key rendition of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling at the so-called Shamrock Summit.

The celebration at that 1985 meeting - which the Canadian historian Jack Granatstein later dubbed "the single most demeaning moment in the entire political history of Canada's relations with the US" - marked the last time that an unabashedly pro-American prime minister moved into 24 Sussex Drive, Canada's official residence.

The election of Stephen Harper, the Canadian Conservative leader, would be equally warmly welcomed in Washington. While Canadians have long chafed at the military, political and cultural might of their southern neighbour, the resentment has become far worse since the election of President George W. Bush. Relations have steadily deteriorated in the face of disputes over the Iraq war, softwood lumber trade and US pressure on Canada to tighten borders to keep out potential terrorists.

Last year, The Weekly Standard, the closest thing to a house organ of the Bush administration, dubbed Canada "The Great White Waste of Time".

"What was once a polite rivalry has become a poisoned well of hurt feelings and recriminations," the magazine wrote. Last month the US ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, took the rare step of rebuking Paul Martin, the Liberal prime minister, accusing him of playing election-year politics by bashing the US.

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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 18, 2006]

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