It would appear that there is an emerging consensus in the mainstream Canadian media, from left, centre and right, that the election of Donal Trump means that Justin Trudeau, and, indeed, Canada, is backed into an unhappy, uncomfortable, even dangerous corner; dangerous, that is, to our national interests.
The Toronto Star‘s national affairs reporter and political columnist Chantal Hébert says, “Behind the stiff upper lip that Justin Trudeau has been keeping in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, he and his government are no less traumatized by the result of the American election than the majority of Canadians … [and] … There is not a single member of the prime minister’s caucus and precious few if any on the opposition benches who did not find the president-elect’s campaign abhorrent. That, in itself, is unprecedented in the modern history of the two countries.” She goes on to say that “Trudeau, who is at the dawn of a first mandate, has no alternative but to play the long game. Expectations that he will find productive common ground with Trump are so low that it would normally not take much to exceed them. But then normal is not the first word that comes to mind when one looks at the new North American dynamics.“
From the centre, Campbell Clark, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “These are two leaders going in different directions: on refugees, borders, trade, climate change, even international security, on ideological inclination, political base and personal style. Mr. Trudeau played on the notion that he’s the anti-Trump. And his supporters liked it … [and] … It’s not just that the PM and president-elect are misaligned. Mr. Trudeau is out of whack with a U.S. leader who is casting doubt on the fundamentals of the Canada-U.S. relationship, starting with the rules for the $760-billion trade that’s key to Canada’s economy.” Mr Clark goes on to explain that :”Maybe, some think, Mr. Trump won’t really act on NAFTA. It was campaign bluster. There’ll be pressures to back off. But how can he not go ahead? … [because] … To those who elected him, especially in rust-belt states such as Michigan that clinched his win, NAFTA is bigger than the border wall, a synonym for job losses. Mr. Trump needs a symbol that he’ll deliver. He’s likely to call for early talks and demand deep concessions from Mexico, possibly the kind Mexico can’t accept. Canada isn’t the target, sure, but Mr. Trudeau suddenly needs a strategy for broad, bilateral trade talks with a U.S. in a surly, protectionist mood.” And he concludes that “On the international stage, Mr. Trudeau’s influence rested in part on standing in Washington. His return to UN peacekeeping pleased Mr. Obama. Mr. Trump won’t care. He wants NATO allies to pay more … [but] … of course, Mr. Trudeau is also forging a climate-change policy based in part on the notion that the energy industry’s access to foreign markets depends on reducing emissions – an argument Mr. Trump undercuts. And Mr. Trump will pull out of the Paris climate accord, gutting the international treaty … [and] … It’s not just the environment. The global political environment Mr. Trudeau expected is shifting. His politics will be at odds with Washington. In another time, that might have just meant a stiff leader-to-leader relationship on top of cross-border business as usual. But Mr. Trump has made Mr. Trudeau’s world uncertain.“
Meanwhile, in the Calgary Herald, Matthew Fisher says that “Everyone knows the dynamic between President-Elect Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is bound to be lesser than that between Trudeau and Barack Obama. Nobody is quite sure yet how awkward it might be … [and] … [Tump’s] ascent is a nightmare for the Trudeau crowd. Despite Trudeau’s reticence, the tweets of University of Ottawa professor Roland Paris, who until July was Trudeau’s closest adviser on foreign policy, are one of many clear indicators. One of several such examples: “Uncertainty about Trump’s trade & security policies will be source of instability. But clarification of those policies may be even worse.” … NAFTA, defence spending and climate change have been widely identified as the three issues where Trump and Trudeau are most likely to disagree.” Mr Fisher concludes that “Differences over climate change and defence spending will be stiffer tests. Trump famously opposes the Paris climate accord, which Trudeau has embraced. As Trump’s aggressive promotion of the U.S. coal and oil industries was a major factor in his getting elected, he is unlikely to have anything to do with a tax on carbon emissions. If Trudeau proceeds with his scheme to impose a carbon tax, it would badly hobble Canadian competitiveness in the American market … [and] … If Canada balks at buying the F-35 because of Trudeau’s ill-considered campaign promise that it wouldn’t, Trump is just the sort of president who might declare that U.S. warplanes must take over the front line defence of Canada’s Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific approaches. Canada would be in the rear with the gear … [therefore] … Trudeau will have to perform some rhetorical somersaults on continental air defence and spend a lot more on the military if he wants Trump’s cooperation on trade, climate change and everything else.“
In short, in so far as Prime Minister Trudeau’s agenda is concerned, most media commentators seem to agree that it, and by extension Canada, in so far as Canada shares the prime minister’s vision, is:
should must Prime Minister Trudeau do?
First: secure the CAN~USA free trade agreement. Everything on his agenda depends upon revenue and revenue depends upon Canadians having jobs and many, many of those Canadian jobs depend upon access to the gigantic US market. If he wants to do anything except bow out, three years from now, as a miserable failure of a prime minister, then he must secure our free trade deal with the USA. And it’s a deal, which means that in order for us to get what we want and need the Americans have to get what they want and need, too.
Second, and likely consequential to the first priority: increase defence spending ~ double it if that’s what it takes, buy the F-35, strengthen the Canadian contribution to NORAD and NATO, and then make UN peacekeeping support US and Western strategic objectives.
Third: cancel the carbon tax; it will only make Canadians companies less competitive.
Fourth: force pipelines through to tidewater on both coasts. Keystone XL is OK for getting Alberta’s oil to Texas, but we really need to get it, readily, to the whole world. That means pipelines to Canadian ports … no matter what the greenies and first nations might say or do.
Fifth: negotiate free(er) trade deals with others. Start by ratifying the TPP, no matter what. Negotiate deals with the UK, with China, with India and with the Philippines, all as matters of urgency.
Finally, Prime Minister, please do not get into this position …
Doing this right, or at least not doing it too badly wrong, may mean:
- Disappointing some, probably many constituencies, including first nations;
- Rearranging the cabinet;
- Breaking many promises; and because of items 1, 2, and 3
- Enduring an internal revolt in the Liberal Party, a large part of which appears to be reflexively anti-American.