Barack Obama has joined Hillary Clinton in trashing one of her husband’s major economic and diplomatic achievements on the stump. He has told Americans that he rejects NAFTA, the program that created a free-trade zone out of North America, hoping to ride protectionist fever to the White House. However, the man who runs as a different kind of politician has a different kind of message to Canadians about NAFTA:

Barack Obama has ratcheted up his attacks on NAFTA, but a senior member of his campaign team told a Canadian official not to take his criticisms seriously, CTV News has learned.Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have been critical of the long-standing North American Free Trade Agreement over the course of the Democratic primaries, saying that the deal has cost U.S. workers’ jobs.

Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama’s campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.

The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.

Reportedly, lower-level Hillary staffers gave the same kind of warning to Canadian representatives, but Team Hillary flatly denies it. The same cannot be said for Obama’s campaign. They called the warning “implausible” but didn’t deny it.

If true, this would show Obama as the worst kind of demagogue. It would mean he’s telling people what they want to hear while rejecting it himself, or alternately that he has begun his diplomatic relations with Canada by lying to them. Either way if true, it paints a disturbing picture of the kind of politician Obama really is.

In case the Democrats don’t realize it, Canada is our most important trading partner — and they rely on NAFTA heavily. Canada is our number one resource for oil, followed by our other NAFTA partner Mexico. If we junk NAFTA, it will create a fairly large diplomatic rift and ripples throughout our economy. Instead of making us more popular in the world, the Democrats will start making us less popular on our own continent and alienate our closest friend, as well as damage all three economies.

Perhaps that’s why Obama’s campaign didn’t want the Canadians to take him seriously. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are taking him seriously, even if Obama apparently doesn’t return the favor. (via CapQ reader Mark)

UPDATE: I fixed a bit of clumsy text. Canada and Mexico are the two countries from which we import the most oil. Sorry for the confusion, and thanks to Online Analyst for pointing it out.