The pomp and circumstance of a presidential visit will give way today to a series of talks about green energy, migration and Haiti, as U.S. President Joe Biden heads to Parliament Hill.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to greet Biden late Friday morning for a welcoming ceremony at West Block.
Dignitaries from the House of Commons and Senate, including the Speakers from each chamber and the leaders of each elected party and most Senate groups, are set to join them.
Biden and Trudeau plan to then have a bilateral meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office.
That is to be followed by an extended chat between Biden and senior Trudeau cabinet ministers in the room where they typically craft major policy decisions. It is possible that some of Biden’s own cabinet ministers will join the discussion.
The presidential flight included at least 18 officials and aides, including State Secretary Antony Blinken, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
Shortly before 2 p.m. eastern time, Biden is set to address the House of Commons, which is expected to be packed with prominent Canadians.
Biden and Trudeau are to then cross the street in front of Parliament Hill and hold a press conference at the Sir John A. Macdonald building.
Senior U.S. administration officials have also said that Biden plans to have what is known as a "pull−aside" conversation with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, and to exchange pleasantries with other party leaders. It is unclear when that might occur.
First lady Jill Biden will have a separate program alongside Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.
In the evening, the Bidens are expected to join the Trudeaus and other high−profile guests for a dinner at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
The brief visit has prompted layers of security throughout the capital, with the RCMP, U.S. Secret Service and provincial police stationed across the parliamentary precinct and around the two airports closest to the city.
Roads are closed and official planes have been circling over the city in preparation for a whirlwind 27−hour visit with lots on the bilateral agenda.
Canada is pushing to have Biden reconsider the Buy American doctrine, in which Washington enacts policies aimed at shoring up domestic industry at the expense of foreign companies, including those bound by the Canada−United States−Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA.
The two will also discuss green energy and collaboration on projects like electric vehicles, as a massive U.S. spending package puts pressure on the Liberals to implement costly corporate subsidies.
Both sides say they also want to discuss the gang crisis in Haiti, an impoverished Caribbean nation where a political vacuum has led to roving gangs, a cholera outbreak and more Haitians claiming asylum in the U.S.
The Biden administration has said Canada should consider the request of Haiti’s de facto government to lead a military intervention to clear out the gangs, but Trudeau has argued that past military deployments haven’t stemmed violence in the country.
After months of pushing at the United Nations for a multinational force, American officials said this week that it might not be what Haiti needs.
Meanwhile, a senior government official in Ottawa said Canada and the United States have reached an agreement in principle that could see asylum seekers turned back at irregular border crossings, ending the use of a loophole that sees roughly 130 people cross into Canada each day via Roxham Road in Quebec.
The source spoke on the condition they not be named to discuss matters not yet made public.
The deal would mean that migrants who continue to cross there, or at any other unofficial crossing, would be treated as if they crossed at an official border checkpoint, and be returned to the United States to make an asylum claim there.
This change to what’s called the Safe Third Country Agreement would not physically close off the Roxham Road unofficial crossing, but act as a disincentive to crossing there, and across all 8,900 kilometres of the shared border.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.