Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel may have dubbed the duo “polar opposites” in an interview with The Daily Caller, but President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau keep finding nice things to say about each other.
During Trudeau’s recent official visit to Europe, he told skeptical Euro liberals that Trump is a man who “gets things done.”
And Tuesday night, during his Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress, Trump cited Trudeau’s recent visit to Washington and the prime minister’s interest in Ivanka Trump’s women’s business group project.
“With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams,” Trump said in the primetime address.
References to Canada in presidential speeches to Congress — be they state of the union addresses or special sessions — are rare. In 2001, following the 9-11 terrorist attack, President George W. Bush did not once refer to Canada as an ally in the War on Terror and many Canadian commentators took it as an indicator of Bush’s anger at then-prime minister Jean Chretien’s perceived low-key response to the tragedy.
But Trump did not stop there. He also cited Canada’s “merit-based” immigration system as a model for the U.S. to follow.
“Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others — have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” he said. “Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.”
Canada operates an immigration points system whereby people wanting to immigrate to Canada are assessed on the basis of their education, work experience and language skills. It is supposed to bring highly-educated and highly-skilled workers into the country but critics say it favors white-collar occupations over blue-collar and agricultural workers who may not be university-educated but highly-skilled nonetheless.
Before the address, Trump told journalists that he was willing to pursue immigration reform that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who had not committed crimes.
The call for immigration reform was considered by most analysts to be a key component of the address.
Canada came up for a third time in the speech when Trump reminded his audience that he had fulfilled his promise to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — an initiative that Trudeau also supports but which has angered his environmental supporters who form a significant portion of his political base.
Canadian political commentary on Trump is generally highly unfavorable but the president’s speech seemed to strike a chord: “Donald J. Trump stood in the well of the House of Representatives, gazed up at his family in the gallery above him and at the politicians, jurists, diplomats and generals on the floor before him, and gave the best speech of his short political career,” wrote usually hostile columnist Andrew Cohen of the Ottawa Citizen.