Toronto Star

Let’s talk about keeping Canada safe from Trumpism

- Susan Delacourt Twitter: @susandelac­ourt

Jagmeet Singh broke an unwritten rule of Campaign 2019 this week when he said that he hopes Donald Trump gets impeached.

The New Democrat leader was replying to a question about what he would say to Trump if he got to meet him. Singh, with an eye to the momentous events now unfolding south of the border, half joked that he’d rather meet Trump as an ex-president.

“I hope he gets impeached before I get to speak to him,” Singh said at a town hall meeting in Nanaimo, B.C. “I say that a little tongue-in-cheek.”

The kickoff of impeachmen­t hearings against Trump this week could well be a distractio­n from the Canadian election campaign, especially for the political junkies who tend to be as riveted to U.S. politics as they are to events back home here in Canada.

Yet so far the biggest American intrusion into the Canadian federal election has been Time magazine’s publicatio­n of old photos of Justin Trudeau in brownface.

Trump, the state of CanadaU.S. relations, even the new North American Free Trade Agreement — none of them has emerged as an overwhelmi­ng campaign conversati­on, even though these have been precisely the matters that have consumed a huge amount of the Trudeau government’s time in the past few years.

This could be proof — as if we needed more — that elections are composed of entirely different ingredient­s than day-today government. The single biggest preoccupat­ion of Trudeau’s government since 2016 — Canada-U.S. relations under Trump — is conspicuou­sly absent in 2019.

Trump’s election in 2016 changed the course of world history, but it’s barely caused a ripple in Canada’s 43rd federal election.

There was a small stirring of NAFTA talk several days into the campaign, when Conservati­ve Leader Andrew Scheer said he would have negotiated a better deal and accused Trudeau of caving to Trump, especially on dairy-market protection. Singh also put out a statement, accusing Trudeau of “selling out” Canadian farmers in the trade deal.

Liberals, however, have been boasting about the new NAFTA deal, which they were negotiatin­g down to the final hours this very week last year. “We stood up to Donald Trump on trade when the Conservati­ves wanted Canada to back down,” Chrystia Freeland, the foreign affairs minister who headed up that negotiatio­n, says in a Liberal ad.

Still, these are just cameo Trump appearance­s. There seems to some unwritten agreement, Singh’s undiplomat­ic outburst excepted, to not talk about what surely should be a question — if not the most important one — in a Canadian election campaign in 2019.

It’s this: How do we make sure that Canada doesn’t slide into the Trumpism we’re seeing south of the border? How do we make sure that Canada remains an outpost against all the nativism, polarizati­on, authoritar­ianism, demonizati­on of enemies that Trump has unleashed in the United States?

The reason that Canadians have been so riveted to Trump’s America over the past three years, I’d argue, is because it’s hard to believe this is happening so close to home, in what we’ve always seen as one of the world’s greatest democracie­s. Trump has forced us to recognize that democracy, and the civil disagreeme­nt it requires to function, is incredibly fragile.

An election is our ultimate democratic exercise, and yet we haven’t seen any of the political parties willing to kick off a real, existentia­l democratic debate — not about Trump, but about Trumpism.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we’re not having that discussion in Canada because all parties are generally agreed that what’s happening in the United States is a slow-motion democratic car crash.

Still, does anyone running for office here in Canada have any bright ideas on how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen north of the 49th parallel?

Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s party, is voicing some very Trump-like views these days on everything from immigratio­n to complaints about “fake news.” When he was at the Star’s editorial board last week, I asked him whether he wanted to be compared to Trump, and if not, where did he disagree?

Bernier ducked the question, saying he’d prefer to be compared to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. We could see that as heartening: Even the Canadian leader with the most Trumplike policies is averse to being compared to the current U.S. president.

What’s also heartening is that Canada is still in the midst of a multi-party race — that we haven’t devolved into a polarized, one-or-the-other, goodversus-evil contest that now characteri­zes U.S. politics.

Maybe Canadians are too polite to talk about the democratic unravellin­g taking place, not just in the United States, but in Britain and other countries too.

Whoever wins this election will have to deal with Trump, we presume, unless Singh’s tongue-in-cheek forecast comes true.

But while we’re exercising our democratic franchise here in Canada, why not talk about democracy itself, and how to keep it safe from Trumpism?

 ?? EVAN VUCCI THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? U.S. President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. Despite consuming much of the Trudeau government’s time in office, Trump has barely been mentioned in the federal election campaign.
EVAN VUCCI THE ASSOCIATED PRESS U.S. President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. Despite consuming much of the Trudeau government’s time in office, Trump has barely been mentioned in the federal election campaign.
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