Prime Minister Harper in New Zealand for talks on trade, world hot spots

Stephen Harper is meeting today with his New Zealand counterpart in the first official visit by a Canadian prime minister since Jean Chretien made the lengthy trip exactly 19 years ago.

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Stephen Harper is meeting today with his New Zealand counterpart in the first official visit by a Canadian prime minister since Jean Chretien made the lengthy trip exactly 19 years ago.

Harper and John Key have a warm relationship, meeting on the sidelines of various global events over the years, including in March in the Netherlands at the Nuclear Security Summit. Key also visited Canada four years ago.

The two men are both fiscal conservatives leading Commonwealth countries, and the nations share similar colonial and military histories.

Kiwi and Canuck soldiers fought together in conflicts that include both World Wars, the Korean War, the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. Harper will honour New Zealand war casualties by laying a wreath at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in a noontime ceremony.

His talks with Key are expected to focus on an array of topics that include trade, regional security, crises in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine and New Zealand’s deepening economic ties to China.

“We will discuss a range of international issues of mutual interest such as New Zealand’s recent appointment to the United Nations Security Council,” Key said in announcing Harper’s visit just over a week ago.

That’s a coveted spot Canada failed to secure in 2010. Canada backed New Zealand’s bid for a temporary seat on the powerful council.

The only sore spot in the Canada-New Zealand relationship is Canada’s sky-high tariffs on foreign dairy products.

New Zealand is the world’s biggest dairy exporter and is pressuring Canada to slash tariffs. The tiny nation of four million even objected to Canada’s inclusion in TransPacific Partnership talks three years ago because of the Canadian supply management system.

Harper’s trip to New Zealand is his first in any capacity, but his wife, Laureen, has a Kiwi connection.

Her first husband was New Zealander Neil Fenton, a tech company founder. Their marriage ended in 1988, five years before she married Harper.

Some New Zealanders have apparently not forgotten Laureen Harper, who’s accompanying her husband on his visit.

A Customs official at the Auckland airport told a Canadian reporter entering the country that he once knew the 52-year-old Laureen Harper, describing her as “a lovely person” and asking how she was doing. He couldn’t be identified because of his work as a Customs service agent.

The Canadian flag is also something of a celebrity in New Zealand these days.

Key wants to change the New Zealand flag to one that is more recognizably Kiwi, and has pointed to Canada’s switch to its famous Maple Leaf flag in 1965 as evidence that it won’t dishonour New Zealand’s war dead by having a new ensign.

The country’s citizens will vote on whether they want a new flag in a referendum next year. Key has suggested a silver fern — an iconic image in New Zealand, on par with Canada’s Maple Leaf — for a new emblem.

After Harper’s day in Auckland, he will then head to Brisbane, Australia to attend the G20 leaders’ summit.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, another world leader who enjoys a close relationship with Harper, also visits New Zealand today on her way to Brisbane.

Harper arrived in Auckland following a gruelling 24-hour trek that involved two stops to refuel. It was the second trans-Pacific journey he’d made in three days after he returned to Ottawa from Beijing to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley (5) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer
Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past banners for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, to mark 100 days before the start of the Summer Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eugene Hoshiko
Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter
‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

Most Read