Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Harper Hits Mark With Border Security Message

(Jeff Davis — Embassy)

It’s a message Canadian diplomats and political heavyweights doggedly repeat, but with only a brief mention, President Barack Obama granted problems at the Canada-U.S. border their moment in the sun.

During his high-profile press conference in Ottawa on Feb. 19, President Obama expressed concern over the “thickening of borders,” and called attention to the need to “eas[e] some of these bottlenecks in our border.”

“Now we’ve got very real security concerns, as does Canada, but I think that it is possible for us to balance our security concerns with an open border that continues to encourage this extraordinary trade relationship in which we have one and a half billion dollars worth of trade going back and forth every single day,” the president said.

Hot on his heels, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to hammer home a clear message that Canada is a committed security partner, and serious about countering terrorist threats at the border.

“Not only have we since 9/11 made significant investments in security and security along our border, the view of this government is unequivocal: threats to the United States are threats to Canada,” Mr. Harper said. “There is no such thing as a threat to the national security of the United States which does not represent a direct threat to this country.”

Broadcast live across the U.S. on networks such as CNN, this one-two punch successfully caught the attention of a few members of the White House Press Corps.

Carrie Budoff Brown, a reporter with Washington, D.C.-based Politico, said the exchange raised an issue she rarely follows.

“The president got my attention, in part because I didn’t understand that there are bridges that are very clogged, when he said we have to start thinking about clearing up the bottlenecks,” she said. “The indication was that we have to pay attention to what’s going on up there.”

Other American reporters said they felt Mr. Harper took good advantage of the opportunity to speak to Americans through the unique lens of their own media. Read more here.