The PJ Tatler

McConnell: 'I Don't Know How the Canadian Election Affects Us'

Canadian voters ousted nine-year Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party cruised to a decisive victory, but there’s not much alarm about the sea change among GOP leadership.

Liberals won 184 seats in parliament, with 170 needed for forming a majority government. Trudeau, 43, is the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

The Conservative party is left with 99 seats in the new parliament. Harper will step aside as party leader but will stay in parliament.

Prime Minister-designate Trudeau says he supports the Keystone XL pipeline, though his administration is expected to be more environmentalist than Harper’s.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was asked outside of a policy meeting today about how the election could impact Keystone.

“Honestly, I don’t — I don’t know how the Canadian election affects us,” McConnell replied. “It’s certainly interesting, but how it might affect us, I can’t imagine going to adversely impact the U.S.-Canada relationship.”

“We’ve always had a good relationship with Canada, no matter who they elect, and they’ve chosen to go in a different direction,” he added. “I hope the American people decide to do the same thing next year.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this afternoon that he expected President Obama to eventually call Trudeau and congratulate him on the Liberals’ victory.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that both the president and the country is deeply appreciative of Prime Minister Harper’s acts to build a strong U.S.-Canada relationship,” Earnest added. “As you know, President Obama had a number of occasions to meet first hand — to meet personally with Prime Minister Harper over the course of his tenure. And I’m confident that President Obama will speak to Prime Minister Harper at some point in the not too distant future as well.”

Pressed on the Obama administration’s friction with Harper’s government over the dragged-out State Department decision on Keystone, Earnest said “it would be shortsighted to reduce the relationship between our two countries to just one issue.”

“I think it’s too early to judge exactly how Mr. Trudeau will follow through on some of the policy debates that occurred in the context of the campaign. I’ll confess though, I didn’t follow those policy debates particularly closely.”

One of those campaign promises was withdrawing Canadian air support from the fight against ISIS.

“Obviously, the Obama administration and the United States will be in talks with our Canadian partners about their contribution to our counter-ISIL effort. They have made an important contribution thus far and we’re obviously deeply appreciative of them lending their talent and skill and expertise to that effort,” Earnest said. “And we hope that we can continue to count on their ongoing support for this very important mission.”

Trudeau has also said he wants to nix the F-35s planned by Harper’s government. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said today that they “look forward to continuing the strong defense relationship we have with Canada moving forward.”

“I think it’s — again, if we have that close relationship, I think it’s be — they’re a partner in the F-35 program. I think it’d be inappropriate for me to speculate on how that might change going forward,” Cook said. “But they are a key ally of ours in so many ways, but particularly in — in defense issues and we look forward to maintaining that relationship going forward, improving it.”