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Ottawa set to bask in Obama's glow

Anticipation high for first visit here

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/2/2009 (3103 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA -- The world's most recognizable man is about to make the nation's capital the backdrop of his closely scrutinized life.

U.S. President Barack Obama will stroll through Parliament's Centre Block today, and not since John F. Kennedy visited Canada in 1961 has there been so much enthusiasm around a presidential visit.

Back then, 50,000 Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill to cheer Kennedy and wife, Jackie, as they emerged from a limousine. Obama's visit will lack the pageantry and the fun: no public appearances, no address to Parliament, no trees to be planted or schoolkids to pat on the head.

Activists secure banner on a bridge crossing Ottawa River as they prepare for visit by Obama.


Activists secure banner on a bridge crossing Ottawa River as they prepare for visit by Obama.

Obama will instead be shuttled between inner offices and the airport, spending only about six hours in town.

Security for Obama's visit -- from the armoured limo and rooftop snipers to bulletproof glass on Parliament Hill -- will also be in sharp contrast to what passed for security a generation ago.

After all, it was a city where prime ministers walked to work, drove their own cars and even picked up a hitchhiker or two.

Ordinary people could visit MPs' offices and reporters could walk into National Defence Headquarters and knock on a general's door for a chat.

Ottawa officials looked askance at the guards and guns that accompanied visiting presidents even back then.

Even with today's tight security keeping the curious at bay, there's no denying the sense of anticipation around Obama's visit. It is his first foreign foray since the inauguration, happening smack in the middle of his critical campaign to kick-start the American economy. Everything Obama says and does is closely parsed in the midst of the global recession.

From the public's perspective, it's a chance to see a world-level celebrity or at least be in the same general vicinity -- Obama will be kept far from expected crowds.

For the American president, the trip is an opportunity to send a message -- not just to Canada, but to the world -- that his administration is committed to working with international partners on such issues as the environment, security and the global economic crisis. Obama sent clear signals in an interview with CBC-TV this week that he would like to work with Canada to find a collaborative solution to tackling greenhouse-gas emissions, particularly from the U.S. coal industry and the Canadian oil sands.

"I think if they perhaps agree to put some working groups together to explore a North American approach to climate change, that would be something he could come away with and say 'this is a priority for me, it's obviously a priority for Canada,'" said former U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci.

For his host, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there is the chance to bask a little in the reflected glow of the popular president.

But more importantly, it's the moment to have the administration's undivided attention on Canada-U.S. issues.

The top three items on the agenda will be trade and the global financial crisis; how to balance the fight against climate change with energy security; and each country's missions to Afghanistan.

-- The Canadian Press


Dear Mr. President: Some messages from Manitobans

CANADIANS gearing up for Barack Obama's inaugural visit to the country might want to head over to The site, run by the Rideau Institute, an Ottawa-based think-tank, is a collection of well-wishes and advice for the president from ordinary Canadians. Here's what some Manitobans had to say:

In your inauguration speech, you said, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history..." Our prime minister took a step in that direction recently, by side-stepping our democratic process and having our Parliament prorogued to avoid a vote that would have ousted him. He made it clear that he does not respect the democratic process that we hold dear... We cannot be denied our voice, nor should we be prohibited from exercising our responsibility of keeping the government accountable.

Darryl Livingstone -- Winnipeg


Mr. Harper's grip on power is quite weak, and his agenda is quite different from yours. Meet with the opposition parties. He will not ask you to release Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay into Canadian custody. He will not press you to accelerate the move to a green, carbon-free economy.

Fletcher Steward -- Winnipeg


Many Americans are concerned with your desires to implement unconstitutional programs; for example: involuntary servitude for young Americans and violations of the First and Second Articles of the Bill of Rights. As you are probably aware, this has already prompted 21 states to assert their sovereignty according to the 9th Amendment to the Constitution. ...Please, do not take any measures besides those lawfully necessary in ensuring stability and prosperity in the United States. That is the best thing that you can do for Canada!

Adam MacLean -- Winnipeg

Thank you for your wonderful messages of hope, peace and justice. I wish you all the power of people of conscience all over the world to sustain you in your work to create more peace, more justice and more hope in the world.

Fiona Muldrew -- Winnipeg

Without trying to be too specific, I would like to see you lead North America in the creating of a renewable energy revolution. We can heal the wounds caused by your predecessor between our two nations, create energy security and take large steps towards the economic recovery and environmental sustainability of our continent.

T. Furthur -- Winnipeg


U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa -- just six hours long

9:30 a.m.

Barack Obama arrives at Ottawa international airport, where Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean greets him at the steps of Air Force One, the presidential jet. A short, private meeting with Jean follows.

10:40 a.m.

Obama's motorcade arrives on Parliament Hill, followed by a short welcoming ceremony at the Centre Block rotunda with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The pair go to Harper's Centre Block office for a 10-minute private meeting without their staff.

11:05 a.m.

Photo-op with Obama and Harper in the prime minister's Centre Block office.

11:10 a.m.

Obama, Harper and some of their officials meet for about 30 minutes.

11:55 a.m.

Working lunch in Senate speaker's dining room for Obama, Harper and larger group of officials.


1:40 p.m.

Obama and Harper walk down Parliament's Hall of Honour to the Reading Room, with a photo-op scheduled.

1:45 p.m.

Joint Obama-Harper news conference, with two questions from Canadian reporters (English and French), and two questions from American reporters. After the news conference, the two leaders walk down the Hall of Honour to view the Library of Parliament.

2:40 p.m.

Obama's motorcade departs the Centre Block for Ottawa international airport.


3 p.m.

Obama arrives at the airport for about a 20-minute meeting with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

3:30 p.m.

Approximate departure time for Obama aboard Air Force One.

*Times are central standard time

-- Source: Prime Minister's Office




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