Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tasked a number of his cabinet officials with traveling to Washington to meet their counterparts in the Trump administration in anticipation of a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders.
Trudeau’s overtures to the White House follow a month in which his personal approval ratings have plummeted following a series of ethics scandals and embarrassing public appearances before hostile audiences during a nationwide town hall tour.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan all visited Washington this week. Freeland met her U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson and reportedly used the occasion to object to a hypothetical tariff on Canadian goods. Freeland’s office also recently opened a special unit for bilateral relations with Washington, CBC reports, at Trudeau’s behest.
On the same day Freeland met Tillerson, Sajjan met with Defense Secretary James Mattis to discuss “ethics in soldiering.” Sajjan did not expand upon the topics of conversation, lending only his support to the U.S. government and dismissing a question about President Donald Trump’s ability to handle a crisis by noting that he is the legitimate president of the United States.
Morneau, meanwhile, arrived in Washington on Wednesday and is currently speaking at Georgetown University.
The meetings are all intended to lay the groundwork for Trudeau and Trump to meet and discuss policy in person – and, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told reporters Wednesday, “to make friends” with the Americans.
The highly-anticipated Trudeau-Trump meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, according to both the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office. Trudeau has a hefty travel schedule before him for next week – the Prime Minister is also expected to travel to France and Germany and deliver an address to the European Parliament. Trudeau will also meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trudeau has yet to establish a concrete relationship with Trump and instead has used the President’s policies to promote his own leftist agenda. Following President Trump’s signing of an executive order limiting refugee flows from terror-prone nations, Trudeau posted on Twitter that Canada would take in those rejected by the United States. Trudeau’s confrontational Tweet did not match Canada’s record of rejecting hundreds of foreign nationals in 2016 for a variety of national security reasons.
Trudeau’s approach also does not seem to match what Canadians are seeking from him as prime minister. A poll by the firm Mainstreet Research released this week found that over half of Canadians approve of President Trump’s national security policy, compared to only 39 percent who approve of Trudeau’s. Similarly, the poll found 53 percent of Canadian respondents supported Trump’s approach to the economy, compared to 41 percent for Trudeau.
Trudeau’s meeting with Trump will follow a tumultuous January that saw the Prime Minister’s national approval ratings drop under 50 percent for the first time since he assumed the top government office. Following several public blunders, including praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and attempting to hide a lavish New Year’s vacation in the Bahamas, Trudeau went on a nationwide tour to speak to Canadian audiences. Upon arriving in Calgary, the crowd loudly booed the prime minister and accused him of lying to the Canadian people on energy policy.
Trudeau is currently undergoing an unprecedented ethics investigation for the Bahamas vacation, in which he accepted a ride on a private helicopter owned by the head of the Ismaili sect of Islam, the Aga Khan. Accepting such free private transportation is a violation of both Liberal Party ethics guidelines and the Canadian government’s ethics rules.