Mr. Harper acted warmly toward the popular U.S. president — who enjoys an 80 percent approval rating among Canadians while his own is sagging — and said he predicts four years from now the nations will remain “closer economically, socially, culturally, in terms of our international partnerships, than any two nations on the face of the earth; closer friends than any two nations on the face of the earth.”
The last election wasn’t far from Mr. Obama’s mind as the first words he spoke were about a battleground state back home.
“It’s a great pleasure to be here in Iowa — Ottawa,” Mr. Obama said, catching himself before the entire word was out of his mouth but not in time to avoid the remark being labeled as a gaffe.
The president often says “it’s great to be” wherever he goes.
Iowa was a key battleground state, but also the Jan. 4, 2008 caucus was his first win during the Democratic primary election. It swung his way in November, and a downtown Des Moines rally on Halloween was one of his last campaign stops before winning the presidency.
Flubbing the name of a location has happened to many politicians, and has happened to the president before.
Republicans had great fun mocking Obama the candidate last year when he goofed Sioux Falls and Sioux City; and Sunshine and Sunrise.
Mr. Obama was to spend about seven hours on the ground in Canada for a host of meetings and photo opportunities.
“So nice to see you sir,” the president told Mr. Harper upon arriving at Parliament Thursday afternoon.
Mr. Obama’s first meeting was upon arrival at the airport with the Queen’s representative Governor General Michaelle Jean and her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond.
The Royal Mounted Canadian Police in red jackets, tall boots and hats known as boards saluted as Ms. Jean greeted the president.
Also there at the steps of Air Force One was Lawrence Cannon, minister of foreign affairs and Michael Wilson, the Canadian ambassador to the United States.
On the ride from the airport, Mr. Obama passed the world’s largest skating rink, the frozen-over Rideau Canal.
At Parliament Hill, the president participated in a ceremonial signing of two official guest books.