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Canada’s proximity to the United States was famously characterized in 1969 by then-Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau as analogous to sleeping with an elephant: “No matter how friendly or even-tempered the beast is… every twitch and grunt affects one.”

The “elephant” to the south of Canada would at least be more predictable than it was under Donald Trump, with Joe Biden in the White House, decades later, said Daniel Beland, director of the McGill Center for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal.

“The Trump years were very hard in terms of Canada-US relations. It was a rollercoaster,” Beland told Al Jazeera. “With Biden, it’s a return to more stability in Canada-US relations.”

The decision by Biden to hold his first official meeting with a foreign head of government on Tuesday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is part of the return, Beland said, to a more predictable relationship between the two neighbors.

On their first trip abroad, most US presidents remain close to home, with many traveling to Ottawa, the Canadian capital, during their first months in office, while Trump avoided that pattern when he took his inaugural trip abroad to Saudi Arabia in 2017.

While Biden and Trudeau will meet virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beland said choosing Canada sends a message. “It’s Biden sticking to tradition and I think this is sending a signal that Canada is still an important partner of the United States,” he said.

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