Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect what Global News has confirmed about Stephen Harper’s trip.
Global News has learned that former prime minister Stephen Harper may be meeting Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton next week amid a burgeoning trade war between Canada and the United States – which the Prime Minister’s Office found out about by accident.
According to senior officials in Ottawa, Harper may meet John Bolton for discussions regarding “Friends of Israel,” a initiative of which Harper is a founding member along with other former politicians in the western political community.
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In February, Harper was also elected chair of an alliance of centre-right political parties from around the world called the International Democratic Union. This meeting was not intended to discuss the state of Canada’s trade relationship with the United States, despite the recent fallout between the leaders of the two countries.
It’s important to note that the location of the meeting has not been confirmed to be the White House, nor has it been confirmed that the meeting was to take place with John Bolton. A senior official told The Canadian Press that Harper did not mention the visit to the office of the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, in a break with tradition.
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Instead, the Canadian embassy in Washington reportedly got a call from Bolton himself, asking who would be accompanying the prime minister to the meeting on Monday. The embassy was surprised to say the least, and called over to the Prime Minister’s Office to see whether Trudeau had failed to mention he’d planned a visit with Washington.
John Hannaford, Trudeau’s policy advisor, contacted his counterpart at the White House, who apologized for the mix-up and explained that it was the former prime minister who would be visiting.
Harper has made a habit of visiting with other world leaders in recent years. Most recently on Thursday, Trudeau visited with the British Home Secretary. It’s not required that these meetings are reported back to the Prime Minister’s Office, which would also be the case for any potential future meeting with Bolton.
Earlier this month, Harper appeared on Fox News to defend Canada’s trade relationship with the U.S., and suggested that Canada may be the “wrong target” for Trump’s anger over unfair trade practices.
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However, he hasn’t always agreed with the current prime minister for his handling of trade disputes. In a letter to his clients last fall, titled “Napping on NAFTA,” Harper accused Trudeau’s government of stumbling through negotiations on the contentious trade deal.
Asked Thursday if Harper should have advised the government that he planned to visit the White House, Garneau said, “Mr Harper is a private citizen and I’m sure he’s sensitive to those things because he’s a former prime minister himself.”
Harper’s office did not respond to a request for comment and it wasn’t clear Thursday whether the meeting is still scheduled to take place Monday.
-With files The Canadian Press.