Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that he has assigned two cabinet ministers to lead a new “Team Canada” to ensure the country and his government are ready for all possible outcomes from this fall’s U.S. presidential election.
Liberal government wants to be ready for ‘whatever gets tossed at us’
Aaron Wherry · CBC News
· Posted: Jan 23, 2024 11:07 AM EST | Last Updated: January 23
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-U.S. vice-president Joe Biden walk down the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 9, 2016. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that he has assigned two cabinet ministers to lead a new “Team Canada” engagement to ensure Canada and his government are prepared for all possible outcomes from this fall’s United States presidential election.
“Canada-U.S. relations are fundamental for the prosperity and well-being of Canadians,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal, where he is wrapping up two days of meetings with his cabinet.
Trudeau said he has asked Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Export Promotion, International Trade and Economic Development Minister Mary Ng to work with Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman on “a Team Canada approach” with “businesses, entrepreneurs, organized labour, civil society groups, different orders of government, to make sure that we’re ready to continue to benefit as Canadians from a strong relationship with the United States.”
Hillman was in Montreal to meet with the federal cabinet on Tuesday.
Ministers also heard from Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association; Laura Dawson, executive director of the Future Borders Coalition; and Marc-Andre Blanchard, Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations and now executive vice-president at the investment group CDPQ Global.
Trump strongly favoured to win GOP nominationJoe Biden, the incumbent president, is expected to face former president Donald Trump in November’s election. Trump is the overwhelming favourite to win the Republican party’s nomination — and could strengthen his hold on the nomination with a win in the New Hampshire state primary on Tuesday night.
The “engagement strategy” announced by Trudeau on Tuesday resembles the diplomatic effort undertaken by the Liberal government in the wake of Trump’s election in 2016.
WATCH: Trump brings a ‘certain amount of unpredictability,’ Trudeau says
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To buttress Canada’s position in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations that followed, Canadian officials and leaders fanned out across American political and business sectors to make the case for continued co-operation between the two countries.
“We know there’s always challenges whenever there’s an American election,” Trudeau said on Monday. “But as we have before, we are going to be ready to deal with whatever gets tossed at us and make sure we’re defending Canadian interests and opportunities in a strong relationship.”
Trudeau acknowledged that Trump “represents a certain amount of unpredictability” but said it’s important for the Canadian government to work constructively with the U.S. president.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with cabinet, Volpe said it was a “good, candid” discussion. Volpe was involved in the NAFTA negotiation efforts and said his association’s role was to be “ready to provide substantive, quantitative information” about Canadian investments in the U.S. and American interests in Canada.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, says his organization has learned something about how to deal with a Trump presidency. (CBC)”I think everybody knows that he goes to the protectionist well very often,” Volpe said of Trump. “When we talk about American interests, it’s important, whether it’s Trump or Biden, we always are ready to turn around and show everybody that the American interest is, in large part, the Canadian interest.”
Volpe said dealing with the ramifications of a Trump presidency from 2016 to 2020 was a learning experience.
“I think we learned that it was important to keep our information and our contacts very current. Specifically, in the auto sector, we know exactly where the 126 auto parts plants that are owned by Canadians are across the U.S. and we know the local congressional representative and we’ve been speaking with the senator,” he said.
“I think we’re better prepared this time because we’ve [rid] ourselves of the idea that you can check in when there’s trouble. You should always be in contact.”
Champagne and Ng both stressed how integrated American and Canadian supply chains are.
“Our integrated supply chains support millions of jobs,” Champagne said. “I’ve said that if there’s one thing that President Trump understood and understands, it’s jobs.”
WATCH | Ambassador Hillman discusses “Team Canada” approach:
‘Team Canada’ approach would be in place regardless of GOP candidate: ambassadorPower & Politics asks Canada’s ambassador to the United States about the prospect of a second Donald Trump presidency.
Hillman argued that Canada must advocate for its interests regardless of who occupies the White House and that it’s important to “focus on the issues.”
“I find that at the local level, Republican or Democrat, people care about jobs, security, prosperity, clean water, energy security, energy affordability — those aren’t really partisan issues,” she said. “I think approaching it in that way is essential for Canada. Because that’s what matters to us and we need to meet them on the issues, not on the politics, which are their own.”
But Thursday also brought a reminder of the unwanted attention that Canada sometimes received during Trump’s time as president.
While campaigning in New Hampshire, Trump repeated his complaints about irregular immigration and security along the U.S. southern border. But he also agreed with a reporter who asked about the northern border — a concern that has popped up during the Republican primaries.
“You have to watch both borders,” Trump said. “And you have to watch fly-ins, you have to watch everything. But the southern border is like nobody’s ever seen. But the northern border is bad too. It’s getting bad.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron Wherry has covered Parliament Hill since 2007 and has written for Maclean’s, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. He is the author of Promise & Peril, a book about Justin Trudeau’s years in power.
with a file from Alexander Panetta