Trump and Canada: Many ways we may feel aftershocks of stunning U.S. presidential election

Donald Trump presidential win stuns Canadians, leaders around the world

WASHINGTON – When an unpredictable nationalist gets elected to lead the globe’s biggest superpower, the political shockwaves from the ground-shaking event will inevitably be felt by the next-door neighbour.

Donald Trump’s win jolted markets and stunned political leaders around the world.

The particularly abrupt plunge of the Mexican peso signalled expectations that the southern neighbour might feel the most effects. The loonie fluctuated too. Trump’s ascendancy to the White House could affect Canada in multiple ways.

An example of areas potentially affected include climate-change measures, trade, oil pipelines, Syrian refugees, labour and capital flows, military partnerships and high-level relations — some to Canada’s possible benefit, and others not.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a congratulatory statement Wednesday morning saying he looked forward to working closely with Trump and Congress on issues related to trade, investment, peace and security.

”Canada has no closer friend, ally and partner than the United States,” Trudeau said. ”The relationship between our two countries serves as a model for the world.”

The relationship will see some changes.

On climate policy, Trump promises to pull the U.S. from international climate agreements. He says he’ll shred President Barack Obama’s greenhouse-gas policies, and gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Canada has numerous climate projects with the U.S. — now they’re in limbo.

The Trudeau government also announced plans to introduce carbon pricing — designed under potentially outdated market assumptions. One Canada-watcher in Washington wondered whether Ottawa’s new carbon policy would be economically feasible.

“Canada is going to be left with very, very, very expensive climate policies,” said Laura Dawson of the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute. ”It will be a disincentive to investment and manufacturing.”

Trump has repeatedly demanded a renegotiation of NAFTA — or he says he’ll cancel it.

That’s sure to cause jitters to the north, given that Canada sends three-quarters of its exports south. Several people interviewed recently downplayed the potential drama.  Trump has the power to scrap NAFTA, but they said it’s mitigated by several factors.

First is the possibility he’d back away from the promise, or seek only a minor renegotiation. Then, even if he cancels NAFTA, several trade experts have said Congress might have to actually reinstitute tariffs for it to have a serious impact. Further, Dawson said, the prior Canada-U.S. trade deal could still cover many parts lost from NAFTA.

One Canadian official expressed doubt a while back that Congress would assist in strangling the economy with trade barriers: “I’ve not met one Republican who thinks you can rip up NAFTA… They all roll their eyes.”

If he does scrap NAFTA, Dawson said, industry groups that remained silent during the election would suddenly start roaring.

”All of those folks are going to be lined up saying, ‘Are you kidding me? Do you know how much of our livelihood is dependent on open borders and trade between these three countries?’ If you were to impose a 30 per cent tariff on Mexico the economic impact would be immediate, swift and would represent even more job losses… There would be huge backlash.”

One other trade dynamic has changed: Polls suggest Trump’s rhetoric has made the Republican party more hostile to trade than Democrats. It remains to be seen whether protectionism and Buy America provisions become increasingly popular in Washington.

Canada’s oil industry will appreciate another stated policy of Trump’s

He has said several times he favours construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, killed by Obama. His campaign literature suggested he’d invite TransCanada Corp. to reapply for a permit. Then again, he’s made difficult-to-decipher comments about demanding a larger share of the profits for the U.S.; American companies and local governments always stood to profit from it.

If he’s serious about proceeding, it could be a bit of welcome news for the Canadian government. Trudeau had supported the pipeline, and now faces political dilemmas at home related to new pipelines.

He differs dramatically with Trump on refugees.

Trudeau went to the airport to welcome them from Syria. Trump refers to these people as a Trojan horse. His son even tweeted a comparison to a bowl of Skittles, where only one bad one can kill you.

Canada works closely with the U.S. on intelligence and screening of foreigners. It’s an integral part of ongoing plans to thin the Canada-U.S. border and facilitate trade. It’s far from certain a Trump administration would be keen on more refugees next door.

This is in sharp contrast with the Democrats, who wanted to be more welcoming. The current administration even looked to emulate Canada’s system for privately sponsoring refugees – another U.S. project potentially in limbo.

“This openness to foreign refugees could…. (affect) confidence in each other’s practices,” Dawson said, adding that it could have a ripple-effect touching trade-and-border initiatives.

Another potential plus for Canada: brain-poaching possibilities.

Even before the election, CNBC reported that the number of Americans searching for jobs in Canada had increased a whopping 58 per cent since last year on the jobs-posting platform Monster Worldwide.

It said the most-searched job for Americans looking to work in Canada was engineer.

Young, college-educated Americans like those who populate Silicon Valley are among the most hostile to Trump. The federal government has been working to rebrand Canada as more than a resource producer, but also a player in the digital economy.

Will Canada go poaching for brains, as well as investors?

The head of a major multinational investment company, Laurence Fink, told Trudeau within earshot of media, in a New York meeting a few months ago: ”A lot of confusion here in this country in investing. There’s probably even greater opportunities in the stable environment of Canada.”

There’s already some debate among Americans about heading north. The writer Jonathan Chait expressed annoyance at people contemplating this, in a piece for New York magazine on election night titled: ”Forget Canada. Stay and Fight for American Democracy.”

Defence spending could become an irritant.

Trump has threatened to leave allies to their own devices if they fail to meet the agreed-upon NATO target of spending two per cent of GDP on the military. Canada is nowhere close and recently said it had no current intention to get there.

Here’s what Trump says about NATO allies: ”The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.”

Finally, the high-level leadership.

Trudeau’s affection for the current president was obvious during their meetings. He’ll soon face a less-predictable interlocutor.

Trudeau bit his tongue, mostly, during the campaign but did make clear his displeasure with Trump’s talk of a Muslim ban. Trudeau dedicated his first United Nations General Assembly speech to the danger of nationalist populism.

Members of his government expressed concern, privately, about a Trump win.

Now they’ll be dealing with a president whose election drew a celebratory tweet from France’s National Front. Also, a president whose default stance on trade irritants during the campaign was to vow punishment of trading partners.

It’s unclear how Trudeau will handle a counterpart with whom he disagrees more often; and might struggle to read. Complicating matters, the Trudeau team has far fewer connections with Trump’s rag-tag campaign outfit, which frequently underwent staff overhauls and relied heavily on political rookies.

The Trudeau PMO had ready-made connections with top allies to Hillary Clinton. Trudeau’s top aides, for instance, knew her campaign chair. Now they’ll be making different contacts. As for who the new team might include, a recent report suggested Trump was weighing making Newt Gingrich his secretary of state and Rudy Giuliani his attorney general.

One final benefit working for Ottawa: Trump and his team have said virtually nothing negative about Canada during the campaign — unlike the constant complaints about the neighbour to the south.

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey for the upcoming season. It is to have 14 mats available nightly for those experiencing homelessness, regardless of weather conditions. (Tracy Holmes photo)
14 beds planned for South Surrey extreme-weather shelter

Webinar tonight to field questions, share info on Peace Portal Alliance Church refuge

White Rock Whalers president Ronnie Paterson (inset photo) is hopeful the team and City of White Rock will be able to find a solution that will allow the Whalers and their PJHL opponents to use the dressing rooms at Centennial Arena. (Jody Harris photo)
Whalers waiting to hear on dressing-room availability as PJHL home-opener looms

White Rock team owner ‘confident’ hurdles can be overcome in talks with city

Fraser Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Delta Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Grace Kennedy photo)
Outbreak over at Delta Hospital

In all, 45 cases of COVID-19 were identified and seven patients died during the outbreak

The Sunshine Band Club video posted to Youtube.
VIDEO: Surrey youth band shines light on ‘COVID blues,’ raises money for hospital

Virtual concert from Sunshine Band Club, established last March

Not everybody lined up to vote on Saturday. In Surrey, 68,396 mail-in ballots still need to be counted for the final election tally. (Black Press Media)
North Surrey voters steer left, South Surrey voters steer right

Once again, it’s NDP orange in the city’s north end, Liberal red in the south

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read