Report questions Clinton NAFTA position
Report questions Clinton NAFTA position
By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 6
TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of
staff said someone in Hillary Rodham Clinton's
campaign gave Canada back-channel assurances that her
harsh words about the North American Free Trade
Agreement were for political show, according to a
report by the Canadian Press.
The report comes just days after a Canadian government
memo stated Barack Obama's senior economic adviser
told Canadian officials that the Illinois senator's
own comments about NAFTA were for "political
positioning." The release of that memo helped Clinton
defeat Obama decisively in Tuesday's Democratic
primary in Ohio, where the trade treaty is unpopular.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Press quoted an
unidentified source at Canada's CTV television network
as saying that Ian Brodie, Harper's chief of staff,
made the comment last week to a CTV crew during a
press gathering to discuss Canada's budget.
According to a person with knowledge of the incident,
the source was a CTV journalist.
According to the report, a CTV reporter asked Brodie
about remarks by Clinton and Obama that they would
seek to renegotiate NAFTA.
"He said someone from Clinton's campaign is telling
the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. ... That
someone called us and told us not to worry," the
journalist quoted Brodie as saying, according to the
On Thursday, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said the
campaign "flatly denied" the suggestion that a Clinton
adviser had told Canadian government officials to take
the candidate's tough talk on NAFTA with "a grain of
Brodie did not immediately respond to a call seeking
Some Democrats, as well as Canadian opposition
parties, have accused Harper's Conservative government
of meddling in the U.S. primary elections in which
Obama is in a close race with Clinton for the
Democratic Party's nomination.
In Ottawa, Canadian opposition parties demanded Brodie
Harper told lawmakers in Parliament that the
government would investigate the entire affair,
referring to the alleged leaks about both the Clinton
and Obama campaigns.
"We're going to investigate this entire matter and
take whatever action that is deemed necessary based on
the facts that we are able to discover," Harper said,
a day after he called the release of the memo unfair
and possibly illegal.
Canada's New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton
blasted the alleged leaks.
"There can be no doubt about it: The leak from within
the Canadian government has had an impact now on the
American elections," Layton said. "That is about the
worst thing a country could do to another country to
have an effect on their democratic process."
The U.S. ambassador to Canada called the release of
the memo "unfortunate."
"The prime minister yesterday stated that it was
regretful that it happened and it shouldn't have
happened," Ambassador David Wilkins told The
Associated Press on Thursday. "Now we need to get it
behind us and move forward and continue to actuate the
positive and build on this great relationship we do
Both Obama and Clinton said last week they would use
the threat of pulling out of NAFTA to persuade Canada
and Mexico to negotiate more protections for workers
and the environment in the agreement.
NAFTA is unpopular among many blue collar workers in
the United States who say it has cost American jobs.
A CTV report last week by Washington-based journalist
Tom Clark said that both the Obama and Clinton
campaigns gave Canada assurances over NAFTA. But the
report led with Obama, and all the attention since
then has been on his campaign.
Clark told the AP he had multiple sources on his story
including a senior official at the Canadian embassy in
His TV report said a senior member of the Obama
campaign contacted Canada's ambassador in Washington
and told him any tough talk on NAFTA would just be
campaign rhetoric. The Canadian embassy and the Obama
campaign have both denied this.
Clark's report also quoted sources as saying the
Clinton campaign made "indirect contact" with the
Canadian government to express their support for
NAFTA. The Clinton campaign has denied this too.
A 1,300-word memo obtained by the AP on Sunday, widely
circulated within the Canadian government, said
Obama's senior economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, told
Canadian officials in Chicago that the debate over
free trade in the Democratic presidential campaign was
Goolsbee later said his comments were misinterpreted,
and Obama denied offering the Canadians any such
ideas. "Nobody reached out to the Canadians to try to
assure them of anything," Obama told reporters Monday
in Carrollton, Texas.
Harper earlier denied his chief of staff leaked that
memo, but didn't say anything about the CTV's report
ABC last week reported that Brodie was Clark's source.
Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Harper said
"Brodie does not recall discussing the matter."
Clinton seized upon the memo to criticize Obama.
"I think that's the kind of difference between talk
and action that I've been talking about," Clinton told
reporters while campaigning in Ohio on Monday. "It
raises questions about Senator Obama coming to Ohio
and giving speeches against NAFTA."
The Canadian Press report raises questions about the
Clinton campaign doing the same.