"It means, stop insulting our neighbor to the north. It's hard to imagine how we could have a bad relationship with Canada, but under this administration we've managed to do it," he said.
Friction between the two countries is not just focused on disagreements over construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, "but across the board," Bush added. "Our largest trading partner, our strongest ally, the country that we can count on to be our partner in establishing a safer world, we need to establish stronger relations, not just with Canada, but with Mexico as well. Our neighborhood should come first."
Asked later what he would do during his first 100 days in the Oval Office, Bush listed several items, including undoing most of Obama's executive actions or executive orders; finding ways to help Congress pass legislation that enjoys broad bipartisan consensus; and "Go[ing] to Canada."
Bush has raised concerns with the U.S.-Canadian relationship before during a March visit to New Hampshire and during a town hall meeting on energy policy in Denver in April. But beyond a mention of the XL pipeline, he has never elaborated on how the relationship between the two countries has suffered, or from whom he's heard such concerns.
Polling on Canadian perceptions of the United States is scant. In a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, 64 percent of Canadians had a favorable view of the United States -- and 81 percent of Canadians expressed "a lot" or "some" confidence in Barack Obama. In a similar 2005 Pew poll, 40 percent of Canadians expressed confidence in George W. Bush.
As Florida governor, Bush led at least one trade mission to Canada in 2003, according to local news reports. After he left office, Bush traveled to Canada at least four times a year in recent years as part of his duties with the investment firm Barclays, aides said. Bush served as a consultant to the company, focusing primarily on geopolitical matters, but resigned his position late last year.
On the subject of Iraq, Bush seized on his own missteps from last week by saying that Obama has "abandoned" the country and destabilized the Middle East by withdrawing thousands of U.S. military troops.
A handful of people in the crowd offered Bush support following a rocky week in which he struggled over four days to explain whether he would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In response, Bush explained that after mistakenly hearing a question about Iraq asked of him during a Fox News interview, "it got a little bumpy. But all is well now, the ship is stable."
At the height of his stumbles last week, Bush expressed a distaste for hypothetical questions, saying that presidential candidates should keep focused on the future.
But on Wednesday, he said that "the focus ought to be on, 'Knowing what you know now, Mr. President, should you have kept 10,000 troops in Iraq?'"
Bush said the question is relevant given that the Islamic State terror group seized control of Ramadi, an Iraqi city just 70 miles north of Baghdad, in recent days.
"ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president," he said, using a different acronym to refer to the group. "Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure, but the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq that the president could have built on and it would not have allowed ISIS, or ISIL, depending on your view."
In an aside, Bush said that he prefers to refer to the group as ISIS "because it’d like to contain it and shrink it to where it becomes ISI and then it’s gone."
Speaking with reporters, Bush dismissed suggestions that Obama's decision to withdraw troops was driven by an agreement that was started by George W. Bush's administration before he left office.
"There were issues related to legal issues that could have been resolved," Jeb Bush said.
"He could have kept the troops in and he could have had an agreement," he added. "This was a policy decision, not some legal decision. The United States had enough influence to be able to deal with the immunity issue. He made the decision to get out -- I don’t begrudge him that, but it was a decision made based on a campaign promise, based on conditions in Iraq at the time, and I think we’re now paying a price for it."
Bush is making his third visit to New Hampshire this year ahead of an anticipated campaign launch. He'll attend a house party thrown in his honor on Wednesday evening in Bedford; on Thursday, he will meet with voters over breakfast in Concord and hold a lunchtime event in Salem. Once he departs here Thursday afternoon, Bush will have visited each of the four early primary states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- at least twice this year.
Polling analyst Scott Clement contributed to this report.
This story was corrected to accurately reflect poll numbers. The 81 percent approval number from Canadians in the 2013 Pew poll was for Barack Obama, not George W. Bush.