“Drumroll please,” came the American TV man’s deeply sarcastic voice, announcing the location of Barack Obama’s first foreign trip. “It’s Canada.”

What a letdown! What a bore!

Many expected the new U.S. president to open with something exotic. Maybe South Africa to see Mandela! What a jump-start message that would send the world.

But slumbering Canada? How does that constitute change? Most every U.S. president, George W. Bush being an exception, has come here first.

Never mind though. We’ll take the honour. In the case of the most celebrated incoming president in decades, what an honour it is.

The media focus will be off the charts. The Obama visit could well set the new tone for this administration — accommodation in dealing with foreign countries as opposed to the confrontation that marked the Bush years.

“This is the beginning of an initiative by the president,” said Gordon Giffin, a former ambassador to Canada, “to be followed around the world by the new secretary of state, that we’re back in the mode of listening to our friends and co-ordinating with our friends, as opposed to sitting in Washington and instructing our friends.”

Obama will likely address Parliament and, in so doing, set the stage for a much improved relationship with Canada. He can hardly do worse than Bush, whose Department of Homeland Stupidity has continued to put up barriers along the border between two of history’s greatest friends — even though we’re now more than seven years past 9/11.

If the Obama administration is aiming for a new era of trust, this continent is a good place to start.

Stephen Harper will be looking, as any politician would be, for an opportunity to share in the Obama glow. Being a conservative, having been in sync with a good portion of the Bush philosophy, it wouldn’t normally be an easy thing to do.

But the dismal economic conditions are already forcing a liberal turn on the prime minister. The deficit spending and the stimulus spending to bolster the economy reflect what Obama will be doing south of the border.

Moreover, the president and the prime minister can make headway on what they have both talked about — a cap-and-trade system to combat global warming.

Given the energy security needs of Washington, Harper will have some clout at the table. If the president wants to wade into protectionist waters, the PM need only mention our oil and gas riches.

All in all, the visit sets up ideally for Harper. Like Bush, he has brought an arrogant and confrontational attitude to governance.
Now, by basking in Obama’s new way, he has a chance to pretend it never happened.