Since confederation in 1867, Canada’s greatest ally and trading partner has been their southern neighbor, the United States. During these past hundred and fifty years, the relationships between the Prime Minister and President has been relatively steadfast. Up until the last twenty years, ideological differences between the two leaders have rarely led to any major snags.
Still, one reason for the love affair might be the way we elect our leaders. It wasn’t uncommon for the two countries to elect their ideological counterpart on each side of the border. For instance, Lester B. Pearson and Lyndon B. Johnson were liberals (although one was a dove, the other a hawk). Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan were both conservatives, Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton were both neo-liberals.
At the turn of the millennium however, thing started to change. Ideological difference in both countries began to grow further apart. Conservatives in Canada were no longer progressive, Democrats is the US were no longer liberals. As a result, conservatives in both countries went further to the right.
Since George W. Bush was elected, Canada-US Relations have been on a rocky path. It started off well enough in the aftermath of 9/11, but quickly soured after Prime Minister Chrétien rejected Bush’s call to send Canadian troops to Iraq.
Aside from a Brief period from 2006 to 2008 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Bush held hands, Canada-US Relations have been colder than a winter in the Yukon. President Obama and Harper did not get along to say the least.
Obama helped to open up the United States to fracking and natural gas, all but handicapping Canada’s dirty tar sands industry. Furthermore, Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline that Oilman Harper pushed for years.
The relationship started to smooth over when Liberal Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015, but his election came on the tale end of Obama’s presidency and was not able to bloom further.
Through it all, despite the differences, free trade continued uninterrupted through NAFTA. As did Immigration in both countries and the mutual respect each country has for each other. The relationship was bigger than its leaders.
Canada-US Relations in the Trump Era
All that might be about to change. Prime Minister Trudeau is set to meet with President Trump today in Washington. For Trudeau, he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t regardless of the conversation. He can’t be seen getting too close to Trump, but on the other hand he can’t be seen keeping his distance.
While it might be self-serving, Trump has signaled the go ahead for Keystone XL, a gift for Trudeau and Alberta, but that’s where the appreciation will stop. Canadians are worried, as demonstrated by the Woman’s March last month. Trudeau needs to try and alleviate those fears.
I believe Trump’s threat to renegotiate or tear up NAFTA to be as believable as the Bowling Green Massacre. If he really does want end NAFTA, it will be the only thing I’ll ever agree with him on. Still, many Canadians don’t understand the negative consequences of NAFTA and big business (and the corporate media) has them spooked. Trudeau, a neo-liberal, will be expected to try and keep the status-quo and stand up to Trump.
Then there are Canadian values. Canada under Trudeau has taken in 40,000 Syrian Refugees in the year he’s been in office. Trump on the other hand refuses to take in just one and has tried to ban Muslims coming from seven different countries.
Ironic given that the US is largely responsible for the destabilization that led to the refugee crisis in the first place. Let’s not also forget one of Canada’s most deadly terrorist attacks came at the hands of a Trump supporter who killed six Muslims praying in a mosque… How does Trudeau criticize someone who can’t take criticism?
It has yet to be discussed, but this spring, Canada is set to start taking steps to legalize Marijuana. This was a key Trudeau campaign promise. How will he pull it off now that an anti-marijuana administration is in the White House?
It’s rumored that Sarah Palin is Trump’s primary choice for US Ambassador to Canada. While Canada is big enough for her to see it from her house, I’m not sure his rumored choice of ambassador can be more insulting to any Canadian with half a brain.
Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau reneged on a major campaign promise. He promised election reform to Canadians which meant some form of proportional representation. The reason Trudeau changed his mind was the election of Donald Trump. He didn’t want a racist fringe group to hold the balance of power in Canada.
Trudeau and Trump’s initial get-together will probably go off without any major snafu. It’s what lies ahead that worries me. Canada and the United States are tied at the hip, economically and culturally. In my lifetime, however, I’ve never seen two extremely close allies with two leaders so extremely different. It’s not like Stalin and Hitler trying to be friends, but that’s what I’m reminded of.
Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin’s Father, rarely saw eye to eye with Republicans Nixon and Reagan. How can we now expect the more liberal son Justin to get along with the more conservative than Reagan, President Trump?
The Trudeau/Trump relationship is just getting started, but if Mexico and Australia are any indication, it’s going to be a rocky one. Three weeks in and at least three years to go. Will Canada-US relations survive?