Former US president Barack Obama is urging voters to re-elect Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, an apparently unprecedented endorsement of a candidate in a Canadian election by a former US president.
Obama on Wednesday tweeted that he was proud to work with Trudeau and described the prime minister as a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues such as climate change.
“The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term,” Obama wrote.
Trudeau later responded with his own tweet.
“Thanks my friend, we’re working hard to keep our progress going,” he wrote.
Trudeau is facing a tough re-election fight ahead of parliamentary elections on Monday next week.
University of Toronto professor of Canadian history and international relations Robert Bothwell said that might have something to do with Obama’s intervention.
“Trudeau is in real danger,” Bothwell said. “If I were a Liberal [Party] campaigner I would quietly point with pride to Obama’s endorsement. I don’t know if I’d run around toting it as a major political issue.”
You would have to go back more than 100 years to find a US president intervening in a Canadian federal election, Bothwell said.
Former US president Theodore Roosevelt, who held office from 1901 to 1909, visited Toronto in 1917 when Canada was having an election about conscription and spoke in favor of it, Bothwell said, adding that he did not know how explicit Roosevelt was.
University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman called Obama’s endorsement rare and said it possibly has not happened before, but he does not think it would affect the polls.
“In fact, some people may feel this is an unwarranted foreign intrusion in Canada’s election,” Wiseman said.
Obama also endorsed French President Emmanuel Macron in a 2017 election and he warned British voters against backing leaving the EU in a referendum in 2016.
Trudeau formed a close relationship with Obama when he was US president and the two were pictured having dinner in Ottawa earlier this year.
The former US president has long been popular with many Canadians.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party posted Obama’s message into a party fundraising pitch that was e-mailed directly to potential donors.
Trudeau’s rival, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, said that he is “not very interested what former foreign leaders are saying.”
Scheer said that he would let Canadians judge whether the former US president’s endorsement is appropriate.
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