Don Martin: As a boycott, U.S. ambassador's July 4th party was a bust
As a boycott, it was a bust.
While the U.S. ambassador's July 4th bash – usually a social highlight of the summer in Ottawa – was undeniably smaller than the 4,000 overcapacity crowd of recent years, so was the invitation list of roughly 1,000 names, embassy officials say.
And if there's flared-up tension with the U.S. – the face in Canada being Ambassador Kelly Craft - it wasn't evident by the 100-plus who lined up in stifling heat before the gates opened and hundreds more who lined up again inside the residence to meet the ambassador.
Perhaps the strained relationship was eased by the heavy flow of Kentucky bourbon, no doubt imported before Canada slapped tariffs on the high-octane social lubricant. Perhaps it was just a summer occasion to forget instead of lament the difficult state of affairs.
Either way, the mood seemed upbeat and Craft did the sweating crowd a big favour by delivering the shortest ambassadorial speech I’ve ever heard, which nodded at the elephant in the gathering by noting the Canada-U.S. relationship "will stand the test of time – and believe me these are testing times."
The Trudeau cabinet representation was underwhelming – Transportation Minister Marc Garneau was flying solo in the ministerial compartment.
The fact he showed up seemed significant to the ambassador. Craft bolted from her receiving line duties to chat with Garneau and there was no mention of Donald Trump in the conversation I overheard.
Conservatives were represented by at least five MPs I saw, including deputy leader Lisa Raitt and defence critic James Bezan.
But aside from perennial party attendee Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson sending his regrets in protest, the only high-profile no-shows were the sort who never would’ve attended in any event, specifically the Prime Minister, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and his caucus.
And if there was a prevailing view by the party-goers, it was best muttered by a former ambassador as he left: "I'm here precisely because of the boycott. Avoiding contact is not the way to make this relationship better."
Bottom line: If the modest boycott was supposed to signal national capital displeasure with the ambassador’s boss, it got watered down somewhere between the wine bar, the beer counter and the bourbon booth.