PM Trudeau could use show of sup­port

Times Colonist - - Comment - LES LEYNE lleyne@times­colonist.com

If you care about Canada, there’s some­thing un­usual you can do to show it. Write a sup­port­ive note to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau (justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca).

He’s open to crit­i­cism on any num­ber of in­ter­nal fronts. There are le­gions of peo­ple who would find it al­most im­pos­si­ble to send him a pos­i­tive mes­sage.

But this coun­try is un­der di­rect eco­nomic at­tack by a U.S. pres­i­dent, and hang­ing to­gether would go a long way to­ward sur­viv­ing it. One way to show sol­i­dar­ity is to back our elected leader. Even the most ar­dent op­po­nents of the fed­eral Lib­er­als in some of the fierce na­tional ar­gu­ments now un­der­way should rec­og­nize their dis­putes pale in com­par­i­son to what the prime min­is­ter — and Canada — are up against.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is set­ting out to in­flict se­vere dam­age on Canada. Like it or not, Trudeau is our start­ing cen­tre, go­ing up against a vastly more pow­er­ful op­po­nent. He could use some sup­port.

Former Saskatchewan pre­mier Brad Wall de­parted from the agenda at a fo­rum on hous­ing prob­lems this week to de­liver ex­actly that mes­sage. It was star­tling to hear, com­ing from him. He had some se­ri­ous dis­putes with Trudeau and was one of the most pointed crit­ics of fed­eral en­ergy pol­icy.

When Trudeau brought in the na­tional car­bon tax, Wall said it was the last thing the coun­try needed. He called a pa­per out­lin­ing the pol­icy a “ran­som note.”

In 2016, he said Trudeau show­ing a “stun­ning level of dis­re­spect” by im­pos­ing it uni­lat­er­ally.

His es­tab­lished rep­u­ta­tion as an op­po­nent made his sug­ges­tion all the more strik­ing.

Wall asked peo­ple to demon­strate “em­phatic sup­port” for the cur­rent fed­eral gov­ern­ment over the trade is­sues with the U.S.

“He [Trudeau] de­serves the sup­port of ev­ery sin­gle Cana­dian and it’s some­thing we should be keep­ing top of mind in the days ahead.”

Wall con­grat­u­lated B.C. for its strong econ­omy, but warned how quickly things can change. What if the U.S. lashes out at the B.C. film in­dus­try, or the tech sec­tor next? Or dou­bles down on soft­wood lum­ber?

He also re­ferred to how much it means to any leader to hear en­cour­age­ment. As pre­mier, he some­times wor­ried if he had mis­cal­cu­lated the pub­lic mood on some is­sues, and was heart­ened to get sup­port on specific stands.

Cana­dian in­ter­ests have mostly hung to­gether for decades through all the vari­a­tions in the lum­ber trade bat­tles with the U.S. It con­trib­uted to a win­ning record, and mit­i­gated some of the losses. That una­nim­ity is more im­por­tant now, be­cause the sit­u­a­tion is so un­prece­dented.

Trump’s case against Canada is so bizarre that none of the nor­mal an­a­lyt­ics ap­ply. This is more than an eco­nomic or po­lit­i­cal prob­lem. It’s a psy­chi­atric one. The pres­i­dent’s men­tal health is firmly es­tab­lished now as fair game for pub­lic scru­tiny. And pri­vately, it’s likely one of the is­sues on the ta­ble as Trudeau and other G7 lead­ers ponder what to do next.

The Canada-U.S. re­la­tion­ship was de­pend­able to the point of bore­dom for most of the past 160 years. Now it’s a source of as­ton­ish­ment, and could be a smok­ing ruin by the time Trump is ei­ther done or stum­bles off in an­other di­rec­tion.

It’s be­come the dom­i­nant eco­nomic is­sue in the coun­try. The po­ten­tial im­pacts on B.C. are just as bad as else­where. The NDP gov­ern­ment’s own bud­get ac­knowl­edges “the ma­jor risks to the fis­cal plan stem from changes in fac­tors that gov­ern­ment does not di­rectly con­trol.”

The be­wil­der­ing lurches in U.S. trade pol­icy are a shin­ing ex­am­ple of just that. Canada is now tar­geted for puni­tive steel and alu­minum du­ties over bo­gus “na­tional se­cu­rity” con­cerns. When Trudeau re­sponded with cor­re­spond­ing du­ties, Trump heaped ex­tra­or­di­nary per­sonal in­sults on the leader of the best ally his coun­try has ever had.

B.C. was a safe place from which to watch the Trump hor­ror show at the out­set. But the con­se­quences are get­ting closer to home. So Wall’s idea ap­plies to Pre­mier John Hor­gan, as much as any­one.

He has crit­i­cized U.S. du­ties on metal, soft­wood and pa­per. He should go a step fur­ther, even in the midst of the pipe­line ar­gu­ment, and mes­sage some sup­port to the man most re­spon­si­ble for deal­ing with them. So should any­one else who cares.

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