Ignatieff expects longer meeting with Obama
Published Wednesday, February 18, 2009 11:06PM EST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 10:14PM EDT
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff wants to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama for at least 20 minutes, amidst reports he may only get 15 minutes of one-on-one time.
The meeting was initially supposed to be 30 minutes. Ignatieff, who has close friends in Obama's administration, hinted it may have been the Prime Minister's Office that influenced the time of the meeting.
"The question of how much time I have with the president of the United States is still being discussed," he told reporters Wednesday. The Americans have their interests; the prime minister, needless to say, has his political interests. I'm not going to let the prime minister's political interests spoil an important opportunity."
He noted that when Harper was leader of the opposition in 2004, he had a "good and extended meeting" with then-president George W. Bush.
"I will expect no less, and I'm sure I will receive no less," said Ignatieff. "The Americans have certainly been very co-operative and helpful."
Harper is expected to meet with Obama for roughly 30 minutes, followed by a much longer working lunch where they will be joined by a large group of officials.
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean is expected to get 15 minutes with Obama, when she greets him at the Ottawa International Airport. Media have been invited to cover the occasion.
According to protocol, the leader of the Official Opposition always meets visiting foreign leaders.
It's expected Ignatieff will meet with Obama at the Ottawa airport, just before the president returns to Washington, D.C. Ignatieff says he wants to discuss border issues, free trade and Afghanistan.
The Toronto Star reports that Bob Rae, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, will also attend the meeting.
Obama will only be in Canada for about five or six hours. But Ignatieff said Obama's visit is still extremely important for Canada.
"If he's here for five hours or five minutes, he's welcome on Canadian territory," said Ignatieff. "He's a neighbour and a friend, and we hope to see him much more in the future."
"What I don't want to do is sound like a dog in a manger about this," he added. "This is a great moment for our two countries to spend time together. I'm looking forward to an exchange with the president, and I hope he looks forward to an exchange with me."
With files from The Canadian Press