David and Goliath
There are times when partisanship must be set aside. Anyone with the barest interest in politics has partisan views. It can’t be helped. It is part of the political process and an essential ingredient in a true democracy. But that is no excuse for blind compliance. No political party is perfect and no political philosophy provides all of the answers.
Most people who read this column know that I come from a Conservative perspective, much more of a red Tory than a right-wing extremist, but a Conservative nevertheless. Fundamentally, I believe in less government and controlled public debt. That is just who I am. But I would like to think that I am also the type of individual who is not afraid to step out of his partisan comfort zone when it is the right thing to do. In that context, and I am sure to the chagrin of some of my Conservative friends and with apologies to Mark Antony, I am writing this column to praise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, not to bury him.
During the past few weeks, Justin Trudeau has made a number of decisions that took courage and are not without serious risk. The first was his decision to nationalize the Kinder Morgan pipeline in Western Canada. I am not generally in favour of nationalizing private assets but this time it was necessary. Whether we like it or not, oil is a resource that Canada has in abundance. It is an important part of our economy and, especially at a time of real tension in relation to trade issues with the United States, it is important to get our products to international markets.
When it comes to oil, a pipeline to the West Coast is essential in this regard. Trudeau’s decision to take over the Kinder Morgan pipeline, at least until it is built, was in the national interest of Canada. It will cost him votes in British Columbia and it will ignite a debate on Provincial jurisdiction, but it was the right thing to do.
At the end of May, President Donald Trump placed $16.5 billion of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum going into the United States. The Canadian Government was ready for this and reciprocated with an equal amount of tariffs on American products, strategically placed in a manner that would affect the political turf of key members of Congress. At the time, Trudeau stated that Trump’s declaration that Canada was a threat to the national security of the United States, a finding Trump was required to make by international law in order to impose the tariffs, was insulting to Canadians. He was right of course and Trump’s response that Canadians had burned down the White House during the War of 1812 was both inaccurate and laughable, if not extremely sad.
Fast forward now to the G7 Summit that took place in Quebec this weekend. It started out well enough. Trump actually showed up, stayed for most of it and pretty well behaved. That is until he got on his plane and someone gave him back his iPhone.
At the conclusion of the G7 Summit, after announcing the communiqué that at that point all members including the United States had agreed to, Trudeau was asked by a reporter if any progress had been made on the issue of tariffs. The Prime Minister responded exactly as he had responded at the end of May and as he had directly communicated to the President. He said that if the American tariffs held, the Canadian tariffs would come into effect at the end of June. He pointed out that Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will not be pushed around. There was nothing the Prime Minister said in that scrum that President Trump was not aware of when he arrived at the Summit meeting of G7 leaders in Quebec.
True to form, however, Donald Trump took the coward’s way out and waited until he was safely ensconced in his bully pulpit, high in the sky, to torpedo the G7 Summit and to trash our Prime Minister. He called Trudeau weak and dishonest and said: “I have instructed our U.S. representatives not to endorse the communiqué as we look at tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. market.” Typical Trump; he had to make it all about him, his threats and his power.
The Trudeau government has spent months in the back halls of diplomacy trying to negotiate a fair and reasonable trade deal with the United States. It has not worked and Justin Trudeau has recognized that it is time for plain talk. He is right to say that Canada has been insulted and will not be pushed around and he is right to indicate that in a trade war initiated by Donald Trump, Canada will not sit around with its thumb in its mouth.
If the NAFTA talks break down, as they now may, it is not the end of the world. Canada is rich with natural resources and talented citizens. We have the ability to negotiate strong trading relationships around the world to mitigate the effect of Trump’s Trade War. As former Prime Minister Paul Martin recently said, it will hurt in the short run, but even with the United States the current issues will improve with time. Trump’s isolationist policies, his trade wars, and his disrespect for America’s allies will eventually hit the pocketbooks and economic well-being of Americans and they will act accordingly.
In the meantime, Canada must not be held hostage by a coward and a bully who cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction, whose word cannot be trusted, and who shows blatant disrespect to this country. Trump can play with his friends in Russia and North Korea while Canada plays with their friends in the rest of the world.
Justin Trudeau may be David to Trump’s Goliath but he is standing up for Canada. I am with him there.
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