When the 44th President of the United States takes office this coming January, one of his first meetings with a foreign leader is likely to be with the Prime Minister of Canada; it is possible that the Prime Minister with whom President Obama or President McCain meets will not be the current officeholder, Stephen Harper.
Prime Minister Harper has called a quick and unexpected general election to be held on Tuesday, October 14 - three weeks before the U.S. Presidential election.
I have commented previously on the difference between our approach to national elections, which seem virtually endless, and the approaches of other western democracies - which call elections and have them done pretty quickly. In particular, I commented on Australia's six week national campaign of about a year ago - one which saw a change in Prime Ministers - and contrasted this with our elections, which were still a year in the future.
Now, we may see a more dramatic demonstration of this contrast as either President Obama or President McCain meets with either Prime Minister Harper or Prime Minister (Stephane) Dion early next year.
Of course, we're comparing our Presidential system with the parliamentary systems of Australia and Canada. The parliamentary systems have well-established and well-functioning party mechanisms - perhaps so well-established and well-functioning that they do not allow as much innovation and responsiveness as our system allows.
On the other hand, not only are our allies not in constant campaign mode, but there usually are fewer concerns expressed about the experience of the party leaders who will be running a government if their party wins.