TORONTO — Here’s an intriguing twist on the whole “NAFTA-gate” scandal: Barack Obama’s campaign may not have been the only one suggesting to Canadian officials that they need not worry too much about the campaign-season pledges of Democratic presidential contenders to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
According to Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, Hillary Clinton’s campaign may also have contacted the Canadians to suggest that campaign-season talk of getting tough on trade issues need not be taken seriously by foreign trading partners.
On February 26, Ian Brodie, the chief of staff for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper — a conservative with close ties to the Bush administration and the Republican Party in the U.S. — reportedly got into a discussion about the trade debate in the U.S. with a group of reporters for Canada’s CTV television network.
“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,” the Globe and Mail reports. “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.”
Hold it right there: “somebody from Ms. Clinton’s campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing”?
According to the Canadian Press wire service, which has also been following the story of trade-related communications between the campaigns of the Democratic presidential contenders and the Canadians, several people overheard Brodie making the reference to the Clinton campaign making the contact.
Brodie’s not talking – he might be worried about parliamentary calls for a Royal Canadian Mounted Police inquiry into leaks regarding the U.S. campaign. According to the Globe and Mail, “There was no explanation last night for why Mr. Brodie was said to have referred to the Clinton campaign but the news report was about the Obama campaign. Robert Hurst, president of CTV News, declined to comment.
The Prime Minister’s communications director, Sandra Buckler, insists that Mr. Brodie “does not recall” discussing the issue.” And, of course, the Clinton campaign denies the back-channel communication – as the Obama campaign did last week.