Former prime minister Stephen Harper is planning a trip to the White House next week, and hasn’t notified the current Canadian government of his visit, CTV News has learned.
According to emails obtained by CTV News, American officials are expecting Harper to visit D.C. on July 2, the day after Canada’s retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. goods and American-made steel and aluminum are set to come into effect.
It is unclear what the purpose of Harper’s visit is, and how long it has been in the works, but officials say he is planning to meet with American National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was the U.S. ambassador to the UN when Harper was prime minister.
In planning his visit, the former prime minister has effectively blindsided the current Canadian government, bucking convention by not notifying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his office about the visit. Harper also did not reach out to the Canadian embassy in D.C., Global Affairs Canada, or the Privy Council Office.
This move comes amid heightened tensions in the Canada-U.S. relationship with the prospect of a full-blown trade war on the horizon, including new tariffs on autos. U.S. President Donald Trump and his officials have also engaged in personal attacks on Trudeau via televised appearances and social media.
CTV News has reached out to Harper’s office for comment, but has not received an answer.
After avoiding the spotlight in the months after his defeat in the 2015 federal election, Harper has made a return to the international scene. He got international headlines in the last year over his comments about the Canada-U.S. relationship and the American administration, some of which have been in stark contrast with the current Canadian government’s policy, while other times he’s defended Canada’s position.
In October, The Canadian Press reported on a leaked memo from the former prime minister to clients of his firm Harper & Associates. In the memo, titled “Napping on NAFTA,” Harper criticized Trudeau’s approach after returning from a trip to D.C.
Then in May he raised eyebrows for being among several former international leaders and diplomats to co-sign a full-page advertisement in the New York Times hailing Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
At that time, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan described Harper weighing in publicly as “not helpful.”
In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, Sajjan said that in his view, Canada should be speaking with one voice when it comes to U.S. policy, citing the ongoing NAFTA talks. His take was a departure from the message track of Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said as a private citizen Harper was entitled to his opinion.
Earlier this month, Harper appeared on Fox News where he weighed in on the state of NAFTA talks. He said he understood Trump’s position, but also highlighted the American trade surplus, saying Canada was the wrong target for a trade fight.
On Wednesday, he was speaking at a Five Eyes panel discussion in London, U.K., where he said he thinks Trump’s “America First” policy will outlast the president’s tenure and that the “rapid, unorthodox, populist political change” will be part of the American fabric after Trump leaves office.