Congressional visits to Canada…few

      Comments Off on Congressional visits to Canada…few

U.S. foreign relations scorecard: Burkina Faso: 2 Canada: 0

Washington politicians weren’t inclined to venture north of border last year

By Ian MacLeod, OTTAWA CITIZEN February 15, 2014
U.S. foreign relations scorecard: Burkina Faso: 2 Canada: 0

U.S. Sen. John McCain was among a small group of American politicians who came to Canada last year — Halifax, in particular — but it wasn’t for official government business.

Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS , CP

OTTAWA — We’re the world’s largest trading partners, with the world’s longest border, a common heritage, an extensive security and military alliance and neighbours for more than two centuries.

So, guess how many times elected politicians from Washington visited Canada on bilateral, government-to-government business last year?

Zip. Zero. Nada. Rien.

Not that those working on Capitol Hill don’t like to travel. U.S. senators and congressmen are world-class globetrotters, according to congressional records.

Even Burkina Faso, the diminutive and destitute western Africa nation, saw two U.S. congressional delegations arrive last year.

Yet the Americans seem to have cold feet when it comes to our fair land.

The 2013 foreign travel financial reports for the Senate and House of Representatives show not a single member of Congress ventured north of our shared border on official U.S.-Canada business.

“This is, unfortunately, illustrative of congressional and administration attention to Canada. They take us for granted and think they know all they need to know about Canada,” says Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Canadian politicians, he adds, are good at legislative exchanges at the state level, “but terrible in working Congress.”

A U.S. delegation of four senators and one congressman did travel to Nova Scotia in November for the Halifax International Security Forum. But that was to address global security issues with 300 other delegates from 50 nations. (Even the name is a bit misleading. The Halifax International Security Forum is actually a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.)

It’s doubtful the likes of delegation leader Sen. John McCain would have buttonholed then-defence minister Peter MacKay or Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to discuss the Keystone XL pipeline, or a new Windsor-Detroit bridge or other issues languishing in the Ottawa-Washington relationship.

The post of U.S. ambassador to Canada has also been vacant for six months now, awaiting Senate confirmation of nominee Bruce Heyman.

To be fair, for the day or so they were in Halifax, the U.S. lawmakers did contribute $5,086.77 US to the Canada-U.S. economic partnership for hotels, food, taxis and tips.

One was Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger. He represents the 16th Congressional District of Illinois, which includes the city of Ottawa, county seat for LaSalle County. (Ottawa was the site of the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 and where William Dickson Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America in 1910.)

But, perhaps fittingly, Kinzinger’s office ignored repeated requests from the Citizen here in Ottawa, Canada this week to comment for this story.