NAFTA Dance: Harper’s Chief of Staff outed as one source

posted at 10:00 am on March 6, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Hunt For The NAFTA Dancer took an unexpected turn today as journalists pointed to Ian Brodie as one of the sources that launched the story. Ian Brodie, the chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, started the controversy with an off-hand comment to reporters on background not to read too much into the demagoguery of Democrats on the trade agreement. He told them that the Clinton campaign had contacted the Canadians to reassure them of their commitment to the pact:

The leak of a confidential diplomatic discussion that rocked the U.S. presidential campaign began with an offhand remark to journalists from the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Ian Brodie. …

Mr. Brodie, during the media lockup for the Feb. 26 budget, stopped to chat with several journalists, and was surrounded by a group from CTV.

The conversation turned to the pledges to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement made by the two Democratic contenders, Mr. Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton’s campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing.

In fact, CTV’s original reporting included assertions that both the Clinton and Obama campaigns had contacted Canadian diplomats with essentially the same message– that they were slinging rhetoric at NAFTA to win votes, not to actually change the policy. CTV downplayed the Clinton connection in its report, apparently unable to find confirmation outside of the Brodie comment. The Clinton connection to the story has mostly been lost ever since.

However, CTV reported the Obama connection in much stronger terms, and later we found out why. They obtained separate confirmation from the Chicago consulate that one of Obama’s campaign figures, economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, had met with Georges Rioux to discuss NAFTA and other issues. When the Obama campaign and Barack Obama himself gave a complete denial, the AP got the notes created by the consulate of the 40-minute discussion between Goolsbee and Rioux, complete with the NAFTA commentary.

Despite the argument from Obama supporters, this new development doesn’t change those facts. Obama’s adviser met with Rioux and downplayed the Obama campaign rhetoric to the Canadians. The question is whether Brodie mistakenly named the Clinton campaign, or whether Hillary’s team essentially performed the same hypocritical outreach as Goolsbee conducted on behalf of Obama.

It also extends the embarrassment for the Harper government, although it won’t last long. NAFTA has great importance to the Canadian economy, and the Harper government needs to ensure its long-term viability. The problems got created by the Democrats who have recklessly promised to abrogate the treaty — which a Democrat negotiated and signed.

UPDATE: I wrote Peter Brodie rather than Ian Brodie in the first paragraph.  My apologies for the error.


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It also extends the embarrassment for the Harper government, although it won’t last long.

Yeah…three, two, one. It’s over, Ed.

Jaibones on March 6, 2008 at 10:05 AM

Ahem, told you so, ahem…. some things are just obvious.

TheBigOldDog on March 6, 2008 at 10:09 AM

I still want to know why it is ok for a politician, other then POTUS, to talk U.S. policy with a foreign government.
Pelosi, Reid, Hillary, Obama…..hello? I’m waiting….

Limerick on March 6, 2008 at 10:11 AM

I still want to know why it is ok for a politician, other then POTUS, to talk U.S. policy with a foreign government.
Pelosi, Reid, Hillary, Obama…..hello? I’m waiting….

Limerick on March 6, 2008 at 10:11 AM

I agree. Most of those idiots are MORE than capable of making an offhand (or intentional for that matter) remark that could cause a national crisis!

kcd on March 6, 2008 at 10:20 AM

BTW, the Canadians aren’t worried too much about the Clintons. They are known and predictable. Obama is neither. That’s why he needed to be nipped in the bud if possible from the Canadian perspective.

TheBigOldDog on March 6, 2008 at 10:20 AM

I’m confused – are Peter Brodie and Ian Brodie the same person?

BuzzCrutcher on March 6, 2008 at 10:22 AM

NAFTA will not be re-negotiated. The threat of limited access to Alberta tar sands will make sure of that.

The_Freeze on March 6, 2008 at 10:26 AM

BuzzCrutcher on March 6, 2008 at 10:22 AM

I don’t understand either.

amerpundit on March 6, 2008 at 10:29 AM

It’s not an embarrassment to the Canadian government. It goes to show how sly the democratic nominees are. I am glad this thing leaked out and I can tell you that this is not isolated. There are more sleazy things going on behind the scenes. You just cannot trust the Democrats. If they did not do this posturing than there is nothing to report right? So what are people complaining about?

mariloubaker on March 6, 2008 at 10:35 AM

I don’t understand why our neighbors are embarrassed. Isn’t knowing this in everyone’s best interest? Except the dem candidates, of course.

shibumiglass on March 6, 2008 at 11:10 AM

NAFTA has great importance to the Canadian economy

…and great importance to the American economy, I might add.

bongo on March 6, 2008 at 11:37 AM

Knowing that the Liberals are in total disarray, Stephen Harper will do anything to trigger an election. I wouldn’t be surprised if he engineered this “diplomatic war” to anger the opposition – force them to bring down his minority government, then crush them in the federal election.
The guy’s been double-daring them for the past two years.
Go ahead Stephane, bring down my government – I dare you, I double-dare you.

RMR on March 6, 2008 at 11:48 AM

This super hypocrisy of the democrats will be useful to McCain. It really points out the ability of both demo candidates to talk out of both sides of their mouths…..and smile at the same time.

b4lucy on March 6, 2008 at 11:49 AM

There are more sleazy things going on behind the scenes. You just cannot trust the Democrats. If they did not do this posturing than there is nothing to report right? So what are people complaining about?

mariloubaker on March 6, 2008 at 10:35 AM

Believe me NAFTA is not the only issue the Dems are using for political posturing. The other issue that is going to come back and bite them in the ass is the war. Hillary and Obama are not blind to the progress as a result of the surge. They know politically they cannot change their position from retreat at all costs so they continue to pander. Meanwhile I would not be surprised if they havn’t sent the same sort of letters to the Maliki gvt explaining the need to tell the American voters that they will “end the war” once elected in order to become elected. Afterall, they are just words, right?

Zetterson on March 6, 2008 at 12:25 PM

Harper’s? Bizarre.

(sorry, had to)

29Victor on March 6, 2008 at 12:48 PM