Mexican President to be Harper's first overnight guest at PM's cottage

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August 14, 2007 at 5:37 AM EDT

Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his family are about to share in that most Canadian of summer experiences – a day at the cottage.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has invited his NAFTA partner and new-found political soulmate to spend the night at the prime minister's official summer residence at Harrington Lake next Tuesday, the first time Mr. Harper has extended an overnight invitation to a foreign leader for a stay at the cottage.

Mr. Calderon, his wife Margarita and their three children will be heading to Harrington Lake in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec at the end of the North American free-trade agreement summit with U.S. President George W. Bush in nearby Montebello, Que.

The invitation is seen as an indication of the two leaders' close relationship and is intended to highlight Mr. Harper's emphasis on a strengthened Canadian relationship with Latin America.

Mr. Bush, who is interrupting his vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., for the summit, won't be coming to Harrington Lake, also known as Lac Mousseau. His schedule calls for him to fly out of Ottawa on Tuesday to Kansas City, Mo., before returning to Crawford.

Mr. Calderon will stay on in Ottawa on the day after the summit for a series of bilateral meetings and a joint news conference. A previous plan for Mr. Calderon to travel to Toronto and Calgary has apparently been cancelled, according to sources.

Mr. Calderon and Mr. Harper have a lot in common. They are both economists by training and conservative in their politics. Mr. Harper is 48 while Mr. Calderon turns 45 this week, and they both have young families.

Benjamin Harper is 11 and his sister, Rachel, is 8. The Calderon children are Maria, 10, Luis Felipe, 7, and Juan Pablo, 4.

The Harper family is apparently very fond of Harrington Lake, which has been the official country residence of the prime minister since 1959. It's hardly a typical cottage. The main house has 16 rooms and there are eight out-buildings on 13 acres.

Last year, Australian Prime Minister John Howard visited Mr. Harper at Harrington Lake, but the Calderons will be the first overnight guests.

Stuart Trew Communications Administrator The Council of Canadians 700-170 Laurier Avenue West Ottawa ON K1P 5V5 p. 613.233.4487, ext. 228 f. 613.233.6776