Par­ties back Trudeau on U.S. visit

Lead­ers agree it’s im­por­tant to have a good re­la­tion­ship with new ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE BLANCH­FIELD

OT­TAWA — The past, present and po­ten­tial fu­ture of the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive party of­fered their Lib­eral ri­vals an un­prece­dented show of sol­i­dar­ity Sun­day on the eve of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s first meet­ing with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The olive branch, a de­par­ture from the usual cut and thrust of party pol­i­tics, re­flects a shared un­der­stand­ing that crosses the tra­di­tional par­ti­san di­vide: that Cana­dian jobs de­pend on a strong re­la­tion­ship with the U.S. re­gard­less of who might be re­sid­ing in the White House.

Re­call­ing one of the tight­est re­la­tion­ships be­tween a prime min­is­ter and an un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent, Derek Bur­ney — a con­fi­dant of for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney — called his for­mer boss’s re­la­tion­ship with Ron­ald Rea­gan “the prime ex­am­ple of get­ting along with Amer­i­cans,” one that could prove use­ful for Trudeau on Mon­day.

Bur­ney served as chief of staff to, and U.S. am­bas­sador for, Mul­roney, who he said has had “a num­ber of dis­cus­sions” with Trudeau about Trump, the for­mer prime min­is­ter’s long­time neigh­bour in Palm Beach, Fla.

To those Con­ser­va­tives who might ques­tion why he and Mul­roney want to help Trudeau, Bur­ney has a sim­ple an­swer.

“This re­la­tion­ship is above par­ti­san­ship.

“It’s in the na­tional in­ter­est,” he said in an in­ter­view Sun­day.

“We have some ex­pe­ri­ence that we think is rel­e­vant and so we’re happy to

make use of it, if the gov­ern­ment wants it. I see that as be­ing Cana­dian.”

Bur­ney ap­plauded the let­ter in­terim Con­ser­va­tive leader Rona Am­brose sent Sun­day to Trudeau call­ing for bi­par­ti­san ef­forts in build­ing a re­la­tion­ship with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Am­brose of­fered the ser­vices of sev­eral Tory cau­cus mem­bers.

In­cluded in the list are for­mer trade min­is­ter Ed Fast and for­mer agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Gerry Ritz.

Both men have had ex­ten­sive state­side ex­pe­ri­ence while in gov­ern­ment and forged strong con­tacts with Amer­i­can law­mak­ers.

“I am sure that we can agree that as lead­ers of our re­spec­tive par­ties, our No. 1 pri­or­ity is to cre­ate Cana­dian jobs,” Am­brose wrote in her let­ter of sup­port to Trudeau.

“As we move for­ward, the of­fi­cial Op­po­si­tion is com­mit­ted to play­ing a con­struc­tive role be­cause our con­stituents are count­ing on us to keep our econ­omy mov­ing for­ward.”

Trudeau’s spokesper­son Kate Pur­chase said the gov­ern­ment wel­comed Am­brose’s let­ter, and that he “looks for­ward to work­ing with all par­ties and all Cana­di­ans to build on our pro­found shared eco­nomic in­ter­ests.” She said Am­brose also had a “pro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tion” in Wash­ing­ton last month with Cana­dian am­bas­sador David MacNaughton.

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land has writ­ten to Am­brose and NDP Leader Tom Mul­cair to seek their col­lab­o­ra­tion, said Pur­chase.

Free­land, along with De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sajjan, Public Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale, Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau, will be in Wash­ing­ton with Trudeau on Mon­day.

Am­brose’s ges­ture marked a break from the some­times rau­cous con­fronta­tions be­tween the Lib­er­als and Con­ser­va­tives.

This past week, Am­brose sav­aged the gov­ern­ment for agree­ing to loan $372.5 mil­lion to Mon­treal aero­space firm Bom­bardier. If that’s any in­di­ca­tion of how the gov­ern­ment plans rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, a key Trump pri­or­ity, “we are screwed,” she jeered.

Even Con­ser­va­tive party lead­er­ship hope­ful and for­mer Dragon’s

Both were un­der­dogs in their re­spec­tive elec­tion cam­paigns, and both have be­come savvy users of so­cial me­dia.

Den par­tic­i­pant Kevin O’Leary de­clined a U.S. TV in­ter­viewer’s in­vi­ta­tion Sun­day to take an easy bite out of Trudeau.

Asked on MSNBC whether Trudeau’s re­cent Twit­ter post­ing de­fend­ing Canada’s ac­cep­tance of Syr­ian refugees was “com­plete in­y­our-face pol­icy in­ter­fer­ence” with Trump’s now-failed ex­ec­u­tive or­der ban­ning peo­ple from seven mainly Mus­lim coun­tries, O’Leary de­murred.

“He’s mak­ing a state­ment that all Cana­di­ans be­lieve,” he said. “I my­self am the son of a Lebanese and Ir­ish im­mi­grant. So if there was a wall around Canada, I wouldn’t ex­ist.”

O’Leary par­roted the talk­ing points that Trudeau and his cab­i­net have been re­peat­edly recit­ing — ac­tu­ally, he in­flated them slightly — that 9.5 mil­lion Amer­i­can jobs de­pend on Canada and 38 U.S. states have Canada as their top cus­tomer. (The Lib­er­als have been say­ing it is nine mil­lion jobs and 35 states)

Cana­dian prime min­is­ters have no more im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity than to main­tain strong eco­nomic re­la­tions with the United States, no mat­ter how un­palat­able the pres­i­dent, said Ian Lee, a pro­fes­sor at the Sprott School of Busi­ness at Carleton Univer­sity in Ot­tawa.

It would be “child­ish and ju­ve­nile and ir­re­spon­si­ble” for any­one to think Trudeau’s job is to go to Wash­ing­ton to preach Cana­dian values to Trump, Lee said.

“This is a pro­found mis­un­der­stand­ing of his­tory, a pro­found mis­un­der­stand­ing of the role of the prime min­is­ter of Canada.”

A new NAFTA, a pos­si­ble im­port tax and “Buy Amer­i­can” pro­tec­tion­ism are all on the ta­ble for Trump, all of which would be cat­a­strophic for Canada, Lee added, so Trudeau must make sure Canada is ex­empted.

David Wilkins, a for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador who served un­der Ge­orge W. Bush, an­other pres­i­dent who was un­pop­u­lar with many Cana­di­ans, said Trudeau and his cab­i­net served Canada well by avoid­ing the temp­ta­tion to “jump into the fray” and crit­i­cize Trump dur­ing and after the frac­tious pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“Re­la­tion­ships mat­ter and it’s im­por­tant to be re­spect­ful to each other and de­velop a good strong, per­sonal re­la­tion­ship,” said Wilkins, who ini­tially sup­ported Bush’s brother, Jeb, for pres­i­dent be­fore Trump pre­vailed.

“Go­ing into this meet­ing, the ob­jec­tive is to make a good re­la­tion­ship even bet­ter, make a great trad­ing re­la­tion­ship even stronger.”

Bur­ney said be­yond any shared eco­nomic im­per­a­tives, Trump and Trudeau could po­ten­tially build on a cou­ple of other sim­i­lar­i­ties: both were un­der­dogs in their re­spec­tive elec­tion cam­paigns, and both have be­come savvy users of so­cial me­dia.

“I think Trump, as a guy who’s rat­ings con­scious, pop­u­lar­ity con­scious, he’s go­ing to be aware that there’s some­thing there, and that can’t hurt.”


While some Cana­di­ans were protest­ing U.S. border pol­icy on Sun­day, for the good of all Canada, ex­perts say we must find com­mon ground with our south­ern neigh­bour.


Peo­ple lis­ten dur­ing a “No Wall, No Ban” rally at the Dou­glas border cross­ing in Sur­rey, B.C., Sun­day. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is sched­uled to meet U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the White House Mon­day.

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