Wednesday, January 28, 2009
(EDIT: The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun are reporting that President Barack Obama's visit will, in fact, be to the City of Ottawa. This conflicts with the report in the Toronto Star, which stated that details of the visit--including the destination--were not yet released, and quotes from the Prime Minister do not state which city Obama will visit. The Globe & Mail does not state which city Obama may visit. Please read the following with that in mind, and I will post further updates as they are available.)
U.S. President Barack Obama will make his first international visit to Canada on Feb. 19, the Toronto Star is reporting. Further details of his visit, including which city he will attend, have not yet been released.
Possibilities obviously include Ottawa, the nation's capital, but our great city does not have a lock on the presidential visit by a long shot. Other major cities are possible, including Montréal or Québec City--although Obama can't speak French so he won't be able to pull a Franklin Delano Roosevelt and make a speech in Canada's other official language--or possibly in Toronto. Mentioned in the article is the rumoured possibility of Obama touring the Alberta Oilsands and likely making a speech in either Calgary or Edmonton, which would serve as a fitting backdrop to the energy security and environmental (Obama once referred to Alberta's major export as 'dirty oil') discussions the president and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are expected to have.
An interesting note made in the Star's story is that the House of Commons is not sitting during Obama's visit, meaning that he wouldn't be able to address Parliament. One would expect that any visit to Ottawa would coincide with a speech to Canadian politicians--as each of FDR, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan (twice), and Bill Clinton have done during their tenures as President of the United States.
Something of great concern is the possible effect that the OC Transpo bus strike could have (or have had) on the decision-making process of the PMO and the president's handlers. Obviously the president wouldn't be riding the bus or anything of that nature, but after seeing the huge security showing during the president's inauguration, you have to wonder whether or not a city without mass transit could be suitably secured for a presidential visit. A Baltimore Sun report suggested that over 1.1M Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration riders were moved into the city on that one day; even at full capacity, Ottawa would not likely have that capability.
Although Ottawa wouldn't likely receive the 2M-plus spectators flocking to see Obama like Washington did, there would certainly be thousands (or tens of thousands) coming in--not just from Ottawa, but likely nearby Canadian cities and quite possibly northeastern cities in the United States. Organization for such an event would require significant time to undertake, and Ottawa politicians and union staff are still busy trying to find a way to get buses back on the roads--let alone actually getting them running.
Would the bus strike have a direct effect on the decision of where Obama will come? Maybe not. But maybe. Citizens and businesses have already paid the price for the strike, and there will likely be a price to pay even after the strike is over; this might be part of that cost.
UPDATE: "CBC News has learned that [Obama's] destination will be Ottawa."