Never go swimming without a buddy

Michael Johansen
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"Happy Obama Day!" I called to a local church leader in passing at the post office, the day after the U.S. presidential election.
He looked surprised at my joke, but laughed with his usual good humour.
"Is it a new feast day?" he asked.
"I declared it myself, yes," I answered.
He laughed again at my blasphemy and went on his way, but I noticed he didn't disagree.
And why should he? Or why should any of the many others who were on the receiving end of my celebratory joke? The American election of Barack Obama as the 44th president is welcomed by a clear majority of everybody everywhere so, around here at least, it's difficult to find anyone who would take offence or be disappointed that the joke can be told.
In fact, it's impossible.
Nobody seems to think anything except that, after eight years of a disaster called George W. Bush, the Americans have finally redeemed themselves by making the right choice. Nobody around here seems to fear Obama, as his opponents said he should be feared. People believe Obama stands for good things.
Obviously, that trust and confidence is widespread. The whole world watched the Americans count their ballots. Celebrations erupted everywhere when the results became known. Or, just about everywhere. While Obama has so far shown himself to be an intelligent, reasonable man, clearly some people don't like and are maybe even afraid of what he might do.
Unfortunately, one of those people happens to be the prime minister of Canada.
If it's true that Stephen Harper called Canada's last federal election largely because he didn't want to be swept out of office in an Obama-inspired progressive tsunami, then Harper must be treading water real fast right now.
The prime minister must have taken swimming lessons when he was a kid. He's learned never to go into the water without a buddy, for safety's sake.
Now he's got his recommended buddy right along side him: George W. Bush, treading for all he's worth in the Obama wave. This is good for the two of them, of course, but it should cause most Canadians concern.
The problem's not about the prospect of Harper (as Bush's last foreign friend) granting the failed president political asylum after he and his administration get charged for war crimes.
It's scary to think of him living here, but if Bush is allowed sanctuary in Canada he won't be in public view. He'll be hidden away somewhere out of harm's way.
The problem is about the days this current U.S. president has remaining in office. It's about the power and influence he still wields.
Even now the Bush team is pushing through drastic changes in environmental, financial and political laws, stripping safeguards from mining operations and further deregulating the stock markets.
There's a lot a president can do without the need of approval from Congress if he (or the man behind him) is dedicated to completing his agenda, even a lame duck president, just as there are a lot of agreements a Canadian prime minister can make with a foreign leader, if he can keep them out of sight of Parliament, even a minority prime minister.
There aren't likely many people taking Bush's calls at the moment, but it's sure if he rings up his swimming buddy in Ottawa he'll get him on the line. What they discuss, the things they agree to, is what should be of concern to all Canadians in so many different ways.
It's time for the opposition parties to express the Canadian will - one that clearly supports the change that has taken place south of the border.
The first thing the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc QuÉbecois should do together with their numerical majority in the House of Commons is to insist and ensure that no negotiations are conducted with officials from the outgoing administration and that no new agreements are concluded with the United States until Barack Obama is sworn in as president next January.

Michael Johansen writes from Labrador.

Organizations: Bloc QuÉbecois, House of Commons

Geographic location: United States, Canada, Ottawa Labrador

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