Easter says nations getting along

Jim Day
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Liberal MP Wayne Easter

Malpeque MP reports relations between U.S. and Canada very strong after prime minister's visit

Malpeque MP Wayne Easter is no stranger to Washington.

The former solicitor general of Canada has had his share of dealings with the government south of the border.

He has lunched at the White House and has also toured the official residence and workplace of the president.

He was back in the U.S. capital city Thursday. He attended, as co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, a luncheon hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

His visit was part of a series of events related to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's state visit.

Easter says the buzz was palpable. Americans were more than keen to welcome Canada's new prime minister in the first official visit by a Canadian leader in nearly 20 years.

"You could feel it in the air,'' says Easter.

"They see that openness and optimism.''

The long-serving MP sensed a genuine curiosity over this handsome, charismatic PM who, Easter effuses, operates on hope and opportunity.

"He's very much a leader who is welcoming, wanting to be all inclusive,'' he says.

"He has done well on the international stage.''

Trudeau was welcomed with a red-carpet ceremony, and a state dinner.

Easter wasn't among the guests at that high profile meal, but the good vibes of the state visit filtered down through his short stop in Washington.

He enjoyed "quite an impressive luncheon'' at the state department with presidents of banks, several former U.S. ambassadors, and former U.S. State Secretaries.

"It was a good collegial atmosphere,'' Easter notes.

"The settings were pretty impressive but the dinner wasn't a fancy dinner. It was a salad and a piece of beef and dessert...it paled in comparison to that (state dinner).''

Most promising, Easter suggests, was the willingness he encountered to solve differences, like the ongoing trade spat over Canadian softwood lumber exports, or at the very least a desire to not let outstanding issues be a barrier to making inroads in other critical areas.

"It's a different feeling,'' says Easter.

"These leaders (Trudeau and Barack Obama) together can accomplish certain things that may have looked more difficult to do under different leadership styles.''

The state visit comes as U.S.-Canada relations improve, having become strained under Trudeau's conservative predecessor Stephen Harper.

"A personal relationship is extremely important between the president and the prime minister: that there is respect,'' says Easter.

"There is a recognition that the personalities of these two individuals click together well.''

Improved relationship between the two countries can benefit P.E.I., which ships a lot of products to the U.S., adds Easter.

Still, a new president of the United States is less than one year away.

Easter was careful in his words when asked his thoughts on the polarizing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

"I do think people are shaking their heads at his cycle down there,'' he says.

Easter is also quick to add that the Canadian government "will work with whoever is the next president.''

The Malpeque MP, who chairs the House of Commons standing committee on finance, returns to Washington next week for three days of talks on a broad range of issues.

Organizations: Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, U.S. State Secretaries, House of Commons

Geographic location: United States, Washington, Canada

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