Whole Lotta Frettin’ Goin’ On
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s thick dark locks must have stood up on end when the results of the U.S. Presidential election were finally in. As Canada’s 23rd prime minister, and second youngest in the country’s history, the 45 year-old Montrealer is only one year into his first term. But during this first year, he’s toured the globe and attended numerous meetings with heads of state. And along the way he made pals with the leader of the free world: President Barack Obama. The two became bosom buddies, as did their spouses, Sofie Gregoire-Trudeau and Michelle Obama.
Unfortunately, becoming pals with the U.S. president can be a fleeting experience, worsened if that individual is at the end of a two-year term and if a national election changes the political party in power. What happened on November 8th is a game-changer for Canada. The big question is whether, on net, the election of Donald J. Trump will be good for Canada.
In the days following the election it was clear that, to borrow from rock ’n roller Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s a whole lotta frettin’ goin’ on in the Trudeau cabinet, notably with ministers holding such portfolios as immigration, trade, energy, foreign affairs, and environment.
Like the vast majority of media pundits, pollsters, analysts, strategists and a long list of pseudo experts from the intelligentsia, it was assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the election and that she would carry on with the general thrust of President Obama’s agenda. One particular issue stands out: climate change and the attached-at-the-hip direction that the President and Prime Minister Trudeau have had on reducing carbon emissions. Just days before the election, Trudeau announced unexpectedly his plan to introduce a carbon tax that would increase over time. For provinces that haven’t initiated their own carbon taxes, the federal government will do it for them.
Trudeau’s announcement has been met mostly with positive reviews, though Saskatchewan’s Conservative premier (Brad Wall) went mildly apoplectic, as did Alberta’s NDP premier (Rachel Notley). All was good in the Great White North since, again, it was expected that Hillary Clinton would win. That scenario will never materialize, and in its place is a president-elect who has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in climate change, and indeed wants to allow oil and gas drilling on public lands, including national parks.
While addressing the effects of climate change on the environment is of vital strategic importance to the Trudeau government, this is but one of myriad challenges it’s facing. As one CBC journalist put it on November 11th in a CBC Ottawa Radio interview, the Trudeau government is not panicking, but fretting would be a good word.
Unfortunately, to borrow from another rock icon, Led Zeppelin, there’s unlikely to be a whole lotta love that’s going to be apparent between President Trump after inauguration day and Prime Minister Trudeau. If the prime minister were wise, he’d put down his smart phone and focus on Canada’s inter-connected, complex issues, instead of doing selfies with adoring fans. Canada’s longstanding relationship with the United States is THE most important issue on Trudeau’s plate, spanning cross-border trade (over $1 billion a DAY), security, defence, immigration, labour mobility, environment, energy, and so forth.
In his National Post column on November 14th, John Ivison referred to the Trudeau government “disintegrating like cheap toilet paper” in the context of the prime minister offering up to re-negotiate NAFTA. Or as Derek Burney, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, commented: “Naive would be a polite term.”
Prime Minister Trudeau’s one-year, post-election honeymoon was officially over on November 9th. It came unexpectedly and with a huge (or “Yuge” in Trumpian speak) imminent shift in direction for his government. Trudeau’s big problem is that he has some 230 election promises to fulfill; at last count (October 2016), media sources estimated that he’d fulfilled 34. And now a reality show host and real estate magnate has turned Trudeau’s political world upside down.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, a competent Alberta politician who served capably in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, stated on November 9th that Prime Minister Trudeau had better quickly re-think his carbon tax plan. Otherwise, it will “kneecap” Canada in how it attracts investment, companies and talent, in the context of its economic relationship with the U.S.
Yes, there’s undoubtedly a while lotta frettin’ goin’ on with Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet, and more broadly the Liberal caucus. Creating a solid working relationship with President-Elect Trump is absolutely critical. Trudeau’s mistake would be to not make this effort, reminiscent of Stephen Harper’s weak relationship with President Obama, or Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s similar weak effort with President G.W. Bush.
Let the love in, Prime Minister Trudeau.
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.
— Thomas Jefferson
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