To hear Donald Trump tell it, Canada is a suave international swindler, repeatedly conning American leaders and waltzing away with his country's money.
The U.S.'s neighbour to the north is "very smooth," has "outsmarted our politicians for many years," and has been "very rough" as it has "taken advantage" of the hapless superpower.
For months, the U.S. President has painted this portrait of Canada as Machiavellian manipulator in his public comments. Earlier this week, he took it to a new level.
During a meeting with state governors to discuss school safety, Mr. Trump went on a lengthy digression about trade policy, rounding on his country's partners in the North American free-trade agreement, which is being renegotiated this week in Mexico City. Mr. Trump accused the slick Canadians of trying to trick him into believing the deal is working well.
"We cannot continue to lose that kind of money with one country. We lose a lot with Canada. People don't know it," he said. "Canada's very smooth: They have you believe that it's wonderful, and it is – wonderful for them. Not wonderful for us."
This doesn't exactly jibe with the Great White North's usual image – the guileless neighbourhood nice guy, maybe a little quietly insecure next to his hyper-confident next-door neighbour.
"'Canada is very smooth.' – Donald Trump," tweeted CNN pundit Chris Cillizza. "No one has ever said this about Canada before. Not ever. Never."
In the Reputation Institute's 2017 list of the best-regarded countries, an annual survey of 39,000 people in the world's 55 largest economies, Canada scored high on perceptions of public safety, ethics, effective government and favourable business climate. The country topped the list, just ahead of Switzerland and Sweden. (The U.S. was 38th, between Mexico and Venezuela.)
"It's both an unusual and exaggerated take," Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, Reputation Institute's executive partner and chief research officer, said of Mr. Trump's apparent image of Canada. "Outside of, maybe, some stand-up comics, there's no one with any substance who would characterize Canada in such a disparaging light."
Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said Mr. Trump's comments serve a political purpose: The Trudeau government has been lobbying free-trade-friendly governors and members of Congress, and encouraging them to pressure the White House to drop its protectionist demands in NAFTA talks. What Mr. Trump is trying to do, Mr. Sands argued, is drive a wedge between those American politicians and their new Canadian best friends.