Canada in U.S. blindspot, Harper says

Globe & Mail, By Steven Chase

After seven years as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has just one complaint about relations with the United States: Americans still don’t pay sufficient attention to Canada.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease in Washington, he says. “And we’re not the squeaky wheel.”

The Prime Minister offered up this gripe, unbidden, during a publicized sit-down interview with a Canadian-American business group in Ottawa Monday.

It’s a revealing comment from a Prime Minister who came to office in 2006 vowing a stronger relationship with the United States. At the time,the Conservatives said past Liberal governments failed to make headway in Washington because they’d neglected the relationship with the Americans – a dynamic they vowed to change.

Today, however, Mr. Harper has a more nuanced perspective – one he offered as Canadians still wonder whether the White House will green-light a Canadian pipeline project to ship crude to Texas that was temporarily blocked this past January.

“My only complaint about the United States – and every Canadian will say this, but it’s just the way it is – is we always like to have more attention in the United States,” he told Maryscott Greenwood, a senior U.S. adviser to the Canadian American Business Council.

“We certainly pay a lot of attention to you; you sometimes don’t pay enough attention to us.”

The United States tends to focus on those who make the most noise, Mr. Harper said Monday, adding that this isn’t how Canada operates.

His comments came during an interview in which he described his Conservative government as “extremely pro-American” but one that can stand up for Canadian interests without “any sense of anti-Americanism.”

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