Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did the country a favour on Monday when he met with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., and artfully managed to make the whole event completely boring. Diplomacy at its finest, basically.
Not that there wasn't any tension going in. Mr. Trump's oft-repeated threat to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement was, and still is, a great concern to Canada. Our country's economy is built on trade with the U.S., and we would be badly hurt by a surge in American protectionism.
There were also questions about whether Mr. Trudeau, a self-avowed feminist and defender of diversity, could relate to a bully of a president who feeds his base the red meat of anti-immigrant rhetoric. Would they clash? Would there be hissing? Media commentators analyzed their first handshake like zoologists studying the ritual displays of peacocks in mating season.
In the end, there were just the timeless and reassuring rituals of U.S.-Canadian friendship. The two leaders met, posed for the cameras and released a joint statement that could have been delivered by any combination of prime minister and president since the First World War.
As always, the two countries reaffirmed their shared values and their shared concerns with unhindered trade and the security of their citizens. If there were differences, they were ones of emphasis. Mr. Trudeau was preoccupied with the trade part; he made the important point that the economies of 35 of the 50 states are as reliant on trade with Canada as Canada's economy is with the U.S.
Mr. Trump, of course, was far more preoccupied with border security, but Mr. Trudeau let him have that. Anyone who wanted him to scold the President for his executive order restricting Muslim immigrants and refugees was doubtlessly disappointed. But this was not the time or place for marking one's moral territory.
Canada got what it wanted out of the meeting: the reassertion of our special friendship, a firm commitment to free trade across the 49th parallel, and recognition that an open border and the fight against terrorism are not mutually exclusive.
The one downside is that these things came from Mr. Trump. His volatility has a way of making everything – including the greatest international relationship in modern history – feel precarious.