Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Country hopes for Trump defeat after insults, attacks

Published:Saturday | October 31, 2020 | 12:10 AM
US President Donald Trump (left) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
US President Donald Trump (left) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

TORONTO (AP):

Donald Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “weak” and “dishonest” and attacked Canada’s vital trade. He threatened tariffs on cars and imposed them on steel.

The unprecedented tone of attacks on America’s closest ally the last four years left a bitter taste, and most Canadians will be relieved if Trump is defeated in the election.

“He’s been willing to threaten Canada with dire consequences in a way we have never seen before,” said Roland Paris, a former senior foreign policy adviser to Trudeau.

Canada is one of the most trade-dependent countries in the world, and Trump’s move to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement and call to impose a 25 per cent tariff on the auto sector posed an existential threat.

About 75 per cent of Canada’s exports go to the US, so preserving a free-trade deal was critical, and the two countries, along with Mexico, reached a new agreement last year. But just six weeks after it was implemented, Trump announced new tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium.

“Trump has been an unpredictable nightmare,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. “The government and the overwhelming majority of Canadians are looking and hoping for Trump’s defeat.”

About two-thirds of Canadians had a favourable view of the US in 2016, Barack Obama’s final full year in the presidency, according to the Pew Research Center.‎

By this year, that number had tumbled to 35 per cent — the lowest figure since the centre began polling in Canada two decades ago. Only 20 per cent of those polled said they trusted Trump to do what is right regarding world affairs.

Telephone Poll

The June-August telephone poll of 1,037 Canadians had a 3.7 percentage point margin of error.

Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, meanwhile, described Canada as “like family” when Trudeau hosted a state dinner in Ottawa a month after Biden left the vice-presidency. Biden knew Justin’s father, late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and Democratic and Liberal leaders are ideologically aligned.

“Personal relations would improve by about 3,000 per cent” with Biden, historian Robert Bothwell said. “There would be a return to rationality and friendliness. The Biden administration would bring with it a whole bunch of people who value American alliances, so Canada would benefit not just bilaterally and multilaterally in trying to restore the various Western alliances.”

The ties between the two countries are without parallel anywhere in the world. There is close cooperation on defence, border security, and law enforcement and a vast overlap in culture, traditions, and pastimes – with shared baseball, hockey, basketball, and soccer leagues. About 400,000 people crossed the world’s longest international border each day before the pandemic closed it to non-essential travel in March.

The US has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country, but there is a hope in Canada that a Biden administration might better contain the virus.

“We can’t have the border closed forever. The fact that it’s been accepted almost without a peep so far is in part a measure of just how loathed the Trump administration is,” Bothwell said.

Canadians expressed hurt when their neighbour blocked shipments of N95 protective masks from the United States early in the pandemic. Bruce Heyman, a former US ambassador to Canada, calls it a low point.