Huffpost Politics

Obama Canada Trip To Address Protectionist Fears

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OTTAWA — Canadians greeted a presidential visit from George W. Bush with 8,000 protesters. For President Barack Obama? They're selling T-shirts, and the conservative government is happy to see him.

"They want to bask in the same glory," said Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto. "Nobody would have gone to Ottawa to try to get a glimpse of Bush except to demonstrate against him."

Obama goes to Canada on Thursday for his first foreign visit as president. It will be short, about six hours long. He is not staying for dinner.

But he will meet with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a working lunch and a joint news conference. He will also meet briefly with Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff at the airport before he leaves.

"If he's here five hours or five minutes he's welcome on Canadian territory," Ignatieff said. "We hope this is the first of many visits."

Harper will be want to be seen as close to Obama, unlike with Bush, said David Biette, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington.

"Most Canadians found George W. Bush radioactive," Biette said. "Canadians love Obama, so Harper has a much freer range to make motions toward the United States."

Ronald Reagan, Bush's father, and Bill Clinton made Canada their first stop, but Bush went to Mexico. Canadians felt snubbed.

When Bush visited in 2004, about 8,000 Canadians protested largely because of America's actions in Iraq.

This time, "we anticipate that the crowds will be very enthusiastic," Ottawa Police Supt. Charles Bordeleau said.

Jessica Franklanv, an employee of Bang-on T-shirts, said they've sold hundreds of Obama T-shirts.

"People are really excited that he's coming up here so soon after the election," Franklanv said. "I think everybody would like the chance to see him."