Justin Trudeau and Conrad Black don't have much in common, but they both had a good week with President Donald Trump.
While black got a presidential pardon, Trudeau won what he and his government boasted was a "full lift" of steel and aluminum tariffs. In both cases, the good news came in no small measure due to the relations established with the unpredictable president of the United States.
In Black's case, loyalty is not a big surprise. As Black himself said, he and Trump go back a long way. Trump, then a private citizen, had even offered to come and testify on behalf of Black in the 2007 trial that had sent the newspaper's former tycoon to a US prison for 42 months. When he gave the pardon, Trump reported to Black that he had "a bad blow".
With Trudeau, Trump also seems to want to help a friend north of the Canadian-US border who is suffering a bad rap with China. The two leaders are currently involved in their intense and high-risk struggles with China, which have suddenly pushed themselves towards a deeper bond – at least for now – between Trump and Trudeau.
They had three long phone calls in the last week, each lasting 20-25 minutes, according to government sources. Trudeau initiated this latest series of calls while Canada was looking at the United States: talks in China stalled on tariffs last week.
Government sources say it was a good time to remember Trump's friendship between Canada and the United States, and the huge points that remain in it – namely, the new free trade agreement that has not been ratified here and a Washington, and, of course, the steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump leveled on Canada almost a year ago.
These were the same rates, and Trudeau's open criticisms of them at a press conference after a G7 summit in Charlevoix in June 2018, which notoriously sent Trump in an anti-Trudeau scene in public and on social media.
A Trump tweet from that time would have become permanently burned out in the history of relations between Canada and the United States, prompting many to wonder if irreparable damage had been done.
"PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so mildly and mildly during our @ G7 meetings just to hold a press conference after I let it be said that" US rates were a bit offensive "and he "will not be pushed around". Very dishonest and weak ".
Trudeau did not respond in kind. He told me that in a December interview he had been tried, but he stopped himself. "As gratifying as it may be to let it tear in public or respond to personal attacks or personal comments with personal comments, does this help me do my job? This helps Canadians? No. So I put it aside."
Now, a year later, the two are apparently in very friendly terms, the sources say, and their phone calls include business conversations and friendship. Trump reports to Trudeau about his family, including his mother Margaret Trudeau, who knows, as well as articles on the Canadian list of the United States, that they focused on last week's exchanges and tariffs.
On Friday, Trudeau said that there was no "turning point" that led to the lifting of tariffs, but from all accounts, the intensification of tension with China for both countries has broken down some barriers between Trump and Trudeau.
All together, the two have spoken 40 times in the 35 months in which Trump was president, Canadian government sources say, and the last three – last Thursday and Friday and again this Friday – were among the longest and most complex .
While Trump and Trudeau could not be more politically separated, they share some personal traits that help them to agree, say those who have witnessed their relationships. Both have experienced fame before coming to an elected office, for example, and are seasoned with the ups and downs of celebrity. Both believe they have been elected to shake up the status quo in their respective capitals, even if at the moment it is a very polarized debate.
In a couple of weeks, the former US President Barack Obama will be in Ottawa for a big speech to thousands of Canadian political addicts, no doubt he will feel sad in the heady days of Trudeau-Obama's "bromance". President Mike Pence will also be in town that week, as announced on Twitter on Friday.
No one will ever call the relationship between Trump and Trudeau or an old friendship, like the one Trump has with Conrad Black. But for their mutual interests in China at the moment, Trump and Trudeau have forged something that has worked well enough to get them past the last year's price turbulence.
Susan Delacourt is the head of the Ottawa Star Office and a columnist for national politics. Reach it via email: [email protected] or follow it on Twitter: @sandandelacourt