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Annie Gugliotta

Buddy Biden and budget: Enough to boost Trudeau?

Whatever else Joe Biden accomplished in his recent visit to Ottawa, he helped his friend Justin Trudeau change the channel away from a damaging scandal about Liberal inaction in the face of Chinese election interference.

The scandal, which the Liberals had handled with customary awkwardness, was running out of steam anyway. But Biden’s arrival and the 2023 budget that followed gave Trudeau the opportunity to shift attention from whatever it was they didn’t do in the past about Chinese meddling to what they will do in the future with their friend Joe.

The big announcement? A deal to amend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which allowed Canada to close the irregular border crossing at Roxham Road. This removes a huge political irritant for Trudeau, who must keep Quebecers onside if he is to win another election.

But on the big economic question — how Canada will respond to Biden’s massive Inflation Reduction Act — the Liberal plan may not keep businesses from heading south to take advantage of enormous incentives Washington is handing out to anyone with a clean energy project.

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Asylum-seekers board a bus after crossing into Canada from the US in Champlain, New York.

REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

What We’re Watching: Border clampdown, Haiti’s hellish choices

Crackdown at Roxham Road

While the great and the good were celebrating the progressive partnership between Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau at a glamorous Ottawa state dinner with yellowfin tuna and Alberta beef, Mounties were shutting down the irregular border crossing at Roxham Road, south of Montreal.

This delighted Quebec Premier François Legault but came as a shock to the desperate migrants who were en route to the crossing when the news broke. The sad and difficult stories of desperate migrants — fleeing war, crime, poverty, and repression — were not shared at the dinner where Canadians feted Biden. The quid pro quo for Biden’s help was a Canadian agreement to accept 15,000 migrants from the Caribbean and Central America.

Yet, closing the irregular border crossing at Roxham Road will likely have a negligible impact. Even if the move initially slows the influx, smugglers will find other routes — which could be more perilous. In fact, eight migrants died late last week in an attempt to cross the St. Lawrence River from Canada to the US.

One striking thing about the announcement was that nobody got wind of it until the day before. The governments had reached a deal in the spring of 2022 but succeeded in keeping it quiet until the last minute, apparently out of a desire to make sure migrants didn’t make a rush for the border.

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Migrants wait to cross into Canada at Roxham Road, an unofficial crossing point from New York state to Quebec for asylum-seekers.

REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Will US-Canada border deal mean riskier future for migrants?

It had been nearly seven years since a US presidential visit to Canada when Joe Biden arrived in Ottawa last Thursday. President Donald Trump came by in 2018 for the G-7 summit, but it’s not the same as a dedicated stop.

As these things usually go, Biden’s visit was cast as part politics, part policy.

Would it help Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, lower in the polls than he’d prefer and surely thinking about an election that is due by Oct. 2025 but could arrive sooner? Would it help Biden, who comes from a country where presidential elections run 24/7/365? Would anything meaningful come from all the banners and speeches and flags and handshakes?

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau during a bilateral meeting at the North American Leaders' Summit in Mexico City, Mexico, January 10, 2023.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Biden-Trudeau talks focus on immigration and defense

Amid the pomp and pageantry accompanying President Joe Biden’s first official visit to Canada, he and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau are looking to make some deals.

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