Canada-U.S. re­la­tions will en­dure, en­voy says

Ties be­tween two na­tions deep enough to with­stand out­come of Tues­day’s vote


OT­TAWA— As an ac­ri­mo­nious and bit­ter U.S. elec­tion counts down its fi­nal hours, Amer­i­can am­bas­sador Bruce Hey­man re­mains op­ti­mistic about one fact — the Canada-U.S. re­la­tion­ship will en­dure, no mat­ter who moves into the White House.

Hey­man says that ties be­tween the two na­tions are broad enough and deep enough to with­stand what­ever Tues­day’s elec­tion may serve up. But he con­cedes that re­la­tion­ships mat­ter and that it’s tough to pre­dict the pre­cise fall­out of a vic­tory by ei­ther Don­ald Trump or Hil­lary Clin­ton. “No mat­ter who oc­cu­pies the White House, the United States and Canada will re­main not only pros­per­ous part­ners but en­gaged neigh­bours, stal­wart al­lies, we’ll be the best of friends,” Hey­man told the Star in an in­ter­view Mon­day.

That re­la­tion­ship ex­ists not only along the bor­der but also around the globe, where the two coun­tries are “pur­su­ing very sim­i­lar out­comes,” he said.

“But look, the tone and style of in­di­vid­ual lead­ers con­trib­ute to those out­comes. It’s hard to gauge ei­ther of these two can­di­dates at this stage, how that will play out,” Hey­man said.

“I’m con­fi­dent, given the con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had with folks in the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice and the prime min­is­ter, they will en­gage who­ever is pres­i­dent and work very hard to drive out­comes that are good for both of us bi­lat­er­ally,” he said.

In his year in of­fice, Trudeau has struck up a chummy re­la­tion­ship with Barack Obama that has been marked by a state din­ner at the White House in March — the first for a prime min­is­ter in decades — and the pres­i­dent’s ad­dress to Par­lia­ment to June.

In­deed, Hey­man claims that Canada-U.S. re­la­tions are bet­ter now than at any point in his­tory.

But come Wed­nes­day, Trudeau will be seek­ing to strike a new re­la­tion­ship with the next pres­i­dent, who will take of­fice on Jan. 20.

Trudeau has been care­ful to avoid di­rect com­ment on ei­ther can­di­date run­ning to be pres­i­dent, a point he re­in­forced when speak­ing with re­porters last week. But he con­ceded that his govern­ment will have to work to get its pri­or­i­ties in front of the new pres­i­dent.

“When­ever the pres­i­dency of the United States goes from one in­di­vid­ual to an­other, there are go­ing to be changes and there’s go­ing to be a need for Canada to reaf­firm the is­sues that are im­por­tant to Cana­di­ans . . . and that’s ex­actly what I’m go­ing to do,” Trudeau said last week.

“I’m not go­ing to ex­press per­sonal opin­ions on who may or may not oc­cupy that role in the com­ing months . . . when I’m go­ing to have to work to de­fend Cana­dian in­ter­ests re­gard­less of who Amer­i­cans choose next week,” he said.

Still, it’s clear that hav­ing Trump in the White House would al­most cer­tainly pose a big­ger chal­lenge for Trudeau and his govern­ment. Trump’s stances on is­sues such as trade, refugees and im­mi­grants and cli­mate change are at odds with the agenda laid out by the Lib­eral govern­ment.

Trudeau is ex­pected to watch the U.S. elec­tion re­sults at home af­ter re­turn­ing from an event in Bri­tish Columbia.

The prime min­is­ter will prob­a­bly have his first con­tact with the pres­i­dent-elect on Wed­nes­day or Thurs­day, when he makes the tra­di­tional con­grat­u­la­tory tele­phone call.

Aca­demic Fen Hamp­son said the prime min­is­ter would be smart to fol­low up on that phone call with a quick trip to Wash­ing­ton to meet the win­ning can­di­date, be­fore they take of­fice, and en­sure that Canada is on their radar screen.

Canada has its own is­sues it needs Wash­ing­ton’s help on — im­proved trade, smooth flow for goods and trav­ellers across the bor­der, soft­wood lum­ber and glob­ally, col­lab­o­ra­tion on cli­mate change and the fight against Daesh ex­trem­ists.

“The mes­sage is get in there early and see them of­ten be­cause re­la­tions re­ally do mat­ter. It mat­ters on the small stuff and it also mat­ters on the big stuff,” said Hamp­son, direc­tor of the global se­cu­rity and pol­i­tics pro- gram at Water­loo’s Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Gov­er­nance In­no­va­tion.

“What you re­ally want is a re­la­tion­ship that you can call in your chips on the stuff that re­ally mat­ters to you,” he said. He noted that Obama and Trudeau ap­pear close but sug­gested that such warm re­la­tion­ships can be over­stated, es­pe­cially if they fail to pro­duce tan­gi­ble re­sults.

“You want good re­la­tions to ac­tu­ally trans­late into things that ad­vance the Cana­dian in­ter­est. That’s the name of the game,” said Hamp­son, who is also a pro­fes­sor at Car­leton Univer­sity.

Hey­man, an Obama loy­al­ist likely to be re­placed with the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, said he’ll be spend­ing his fi­nal months work­ing to get the U.S. to sign on to the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, a 12-na­tion trade pact.

“I’d like to see Canada come along. I think we live in a world where we are all go­ing to trade with each other,” he said.

The U.S. am­bas­sador said he’s also keen to see ex­panded U.S. cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion pre-clear­ance promised for Canada, in­clud­ing Toronto’s Billy Bishop Air­port, Que­bec City air­port and Mon­treal’s train sta­tion, be­come a re­al­ity.

U.S. Am­bas­sador to Canada Bruce Hey­man said Canada-U.S. re­la­tions are bet­ter than they have ever been.

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