POLITICS

Jeb Bush Says He Wants Stephen Harper To Be Re-Elected

05/20/2015 06:01 EDT | Updated 05/21/2015 02:59 EDT

It seems Jeb Bush, the younger brother of George W. and a presumed candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, wants Stephen Harper to remain prime minister of Canada.

Bush, who hasn't officially announced his bid but is considered a GOP front-runner, bemoaned the state of Canada-U.S. relations during a stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Wednesday.

The former Florida governor reportedly accused U.S. President Barack Obama of damaging America's relationship with its northern neighbour and vowed to visit Canada within his first 100 days as president.

But at least two reporters took to Twitter to share Bush's specific endorsement of Harper, who will be running for re-election in October.

Ben Jacobs, political reporter for The Guardian, said Bush added it obviously "wasn't his decision to make."

According to the Washington Post, Bush told a crowd of about 60 voters that animosity between Canada and the U.S. extends beyond the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, but he did not elaborate.

He called on Obama to stop "insulting our neighbour" to the north.

"It's hard to imagine how we could have a bad relationship with Canada, but under this administration we've managed to do it," Bush said.

Harper has pushed the Obama administration for years to approve the controversial Keystone project, calling the pipeline a "no-brainer" and even telling a U.S. audience he would not "take no for an answer."

But the president has made it abundantly clear in recent months that he is not sold on the project, citing environmental concerns and a belief that it won't create many American jobs.

Obama worked in a dig at the pipeline during his state of the union address in January and, the next month, vetoed legislation that would have approved construction of the project.

Despite their differences on energy policy, Harper Conservatives voted in the fall for Canada to join the U.S.-led mission against ISIL in the face of opposition from both Liberals and New Democrats. In March, Tories voted to extend airstrikes into Syria.

Still, the relationship between Obama and Harper is typically described as "chilly," largely because of the long-delayed pipeline project that would see an expected 700,000 barrels of oil a day travel from the Alberta oilsands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson wrote last year that sources told him Harper views Obama as "incapable of making a difficult decision."

Harper was seen to have had a generally warm relationship with George W. Bush, who left office in January 2009. The former president famously referred to Harper as "Steve."

As opposition leader, Harper supported George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, after he became prime minister, Harper decided against joining the U.S. ballistic missile defence program.

In a televised debate during the 2008 election, then-Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe asked Harper if he realized he made a "huge error by supporting Bush" on Iraq. After some prodding, the prime minister admitted the war as a mistake.

"It was absolutely an error," Harper said. "It's obviously clear the evaluation of weapons of mass destruction proved not to be correct. That's absolutely true and that's why we're not sending anybody to Iraq."

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