U.S. President Joe Biden to meet Trudeau, address Parliament today
U.S. President Joe Biden has made it to Canada, and is waking up to a full day of events in the capital as part of his first official visit since taking office.
Alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Biden will be meeting with top officials and addressing Parliament in an effort to reaffirm the strength of the Canada-U.S. relationship after rocky years under the previous Trump administration, and make progress on cross-border irritants.
He and first lady Jill Biden’s whirlwind overnight visit began on Thursday evening with a warm welcome from Canadian cabinet ministers and foreign affairs officials, followed by a brief meeting with Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and her husband Whit Fraser.
The Bidens then had an intimate dinner with Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau at their Rideau Cottage home.
Today, the itinerary is jam-packed. Ahead of events kicking off, American flags line the street in front of Parliament Hill, and security throughout Ottawa is extremely tight.
It’s a cross-jurisdiction effort resulting in a heightened police and first responder presence around the parliamentary precinct, military aircraft in the skies, and rolling road closures each time POTUS’ Secret Service motorcade is on the move.
According to the White House, Biden will start his day with his daily briefing, before making his way to Parliament Hill. There, the president will be welcomed in West Block by House and Senate representatives, and opposition party leaders, before signing a guest book.
POTUS will have a bilateral meeting with Trudeau inside his office, followed by an expanded meeting with cabinet ministers and members of Biden’s delegation. It is in these talks that the visit’s substantial policy conversations are expected to occur, though with weeks if not months of pre-trip preparation, officials from both sides have come into today having likely already discussed many of the details.
Expected to be in attendance for these high-level talks from the Canadian government: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne, International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Minister Mary Ng, Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson, Defence Minister Anita Anand, and the Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault.
It remains to be confirmed which American officials will be joining this meeting, but Biden’s entourage to Ottawa includes more than a dozen officials, including: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Jake Sullivan, and Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall.
The main event of Biden’s visit will be his 2 p.m. ET address to Parliament. Happening inside the glass-ceiling temporary House of Commons chamber, the U.S. president will be speaking to an audience of MPs, senators, dignitaries, other key stakeholders and community members. Biden will be the ninth U.S. president to deliver a speech to Parliament, with the last being Barack Obama in 2016.
Biden is expected to underscore how the Canada-U.S. partnership is beneficial to both sides and encourage ongoing collaboration on pressing challenges. The last time he was in Ottawa on official business he was the guest of honour at a state dinner in December 2016 — just weeks before former U.S. president Donald Trump took office — where he exclaimed, “Vive le Canada.”
Both FLOTUS and Gregoire Trudeau will attend the speech, after spending the morning off the Hill meeting with young curlers to talk about mental health in sport and visiting the National Gallery of Canada for a luncheon and to see an exhibit focused on Canadian women artists.
Following the address, Biden and Trudeau will make their way across the street from Parliament Hill, to the Sir John A Macdonald building, for a joint media availability at 3:45 p.m. ET to discuss the outcomes of the morning’s events.
With no scheduled detours from Parliament Hill, many eyes in Ottawa are waiting to see whether Biden makes any impromptu visits that would put him in a public setting with Canadians.
Both Canadian and American officials that briefed reporters in advance of the visit spoke about how the world leaders plan to use this “meaningful” visit to discuss ways to work together to tackle the big challenges both countries, and the world are facing.
From the need to step up on Artic defence and continue offering aid and further defence support to Ukraine and Haiti, to how to address climate change and build a competitive clean economy. Another major cross-border point of contention is Biden’s “Buy-America” approach and Canada’s need to compete with his Inflation Reduction Act.
There is also optimism being signalled from both sides that an agreement can be made to address the influx of irregular migration stemming from a loophole in the 20-year-old Safe Third Country Agreement. A senior government source speaking to CTV News on background said that the Canadians are encouraged by signals from the U.S. but nothing will be finalized until leaders meet.
With both sides feeling political pressure to come away from the meeting with wins, it remains to be seen how concrete any commitments will be.
Once the substantive portion of the day is behind them, Biden, the first lady and the American delegation will attend a gala dinner hosted by Trudeau and his wife, alongside a few hundred guests at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum at 6:30 p.m. ET. Here’s what’s on the very flavours-of-Canada inspired menu.
Biden’s current departure time from the Ottawa Airport is 9:25 p.m. ET on Friday night.
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