NDP to push to invite Biden, Harris for a post-pandemic visit to Canada

When the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday, Canada’s federal New Democrats will be advancing a motion requesting all-party approval to invite Democratic president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris to visit Canada as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic has gotten under control in both countries.

According to a copy of the motion provided to in advance of it being presented in Parliament, the NDP will propose that “in recognition of the extraordinary relationship between Canada and the United States,” MPs unanimously congratulate and invite the pair to visit “at the earliest safe opportunity to do so.”

The NDP also want to invite Biden to address Parliament. The last U.S. president to address Canadian parliamentarians was Barack Obama, in June 2016.

Biden was last in Ottawa on official business when he was the guest of honour at a state dinner in December 2016 — just weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump took office — where he exclaimed “vive le Canada.”

NDP House Leader Peter Julian told his caucus feels it’s important to underscore the “very clear victory” and strength of the American democratic process, despite Trump refusing to concede and continuing to cast doubt on the validity of the election without verified evidence to support his claims.

“But the invitation is not immediate,” Julian said, noting that while both Canada and the United States are seeing a consistent and troubling rise in new COVID-19 cases, there is some hope that by next spring with the potential deployment of a vaccine or vaccines, that the pandemic could be under control enough to allow for a state visit and parliamentary address.

“Coming through what was a chaotic four years under Donald Trump, it’s important to turn the page, extend that that hand and greeting to president-elect Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris and to say to them: ‘We would love to hear from you, we want to build a stronger relationship between our two countries,’” Julian said.

Biden and Harris — soon to be America’s first Black, South Asian and female vice-president — clinched their victory in critical battleground states as more mail-in votes were counted last weekend, turning Trump and Vice President Mike Pence into one-term leaders.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh joined the other federal party leaders in congratulating the pair on Nov. 7.  He had been outspoken in the days prior about how he wanted to see Trump voted out of office.

Under current federal travel restrictions, the pair would have to be granted a special exemption to cross into Canada, and given the ongoing 14-day quarantine requirement for most Canadians returning from abroad, it’s unlikely Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be looking to head stateside any time soon.

Julian said he’s optimistic all MPs will come on-side with the invitation.

“I think this is an important milestone and an important invitation to issue, and I think that’s a good way to start off this coming four weeks with all the intense work that will take place in Parliament,” Julian said.


Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the Biden team is getting to work and the presidential transition of power is starting to take shape, despite Trump and most Republicans still refusing to concede.

In an interview with Evan Solomon on Friday, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman said that Trump’s intransigence about the results is not impacting the diplomatic efforts underway to bend Biden’s ear on key cross-border issues.

Hillman said the embassy is analyzing the roster of campaign promises made by Biden and are “reaching out to our contacts to understand them better and to give Canadian views.”

“So in that sense, this is not disorderly from a Canadian perspective, from the job that we have to do down here. We are perfectly able to continue to do that job and we’re doing it,” Hillman said.

Trudeau was the first world leader to speak with Biden on the phone this week and he’s separately expressed no concerns about being quick to congratulate his new American counterpart despite Trump not considering the outcome of the election settled.

“I’m not concerned about that. It’s widely understood here, you know, that president-elect Biden will be the next president of the United States. There are processes that are underway: litigation, recounts… those processes aren’t uncommon,” Hillman said, echoing Trudeau’s remarks earlier this week.

“From what we see, and from what States’ attorneys general and other relevant officials are saying, is that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. And so we will see those processes play themselves out and conclusions will be made. But, we have congratulated president-elect Joe Biden and it’s our understanding that it’s widely understood that he will be the next president of the United States,” she said.

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