Why Trump is good for Canada

Andrea Charron

It has been a rough first month for the Trump Presidency.  Trump has managed to alienate more than heal, he has yet to fill key positions in his administration which is creating policy gridlock, and the erratic nature of his decisions means processing the implications for Canada is like drinking from a fire hose.

It is easy to criticize.  It is easy to point out all of the reasons why Trump is a “shambolic” President and certainly I am not innocent of this offence.   The instinct for Canada to resume the ‘stern daughter of the voice of God’ role we once held with the U.S. pointing out how morally superior Canada is despite not having the same geopolitical realities.  But we must resist this urge… as the Prime Minister has done. Trump is likely here for the next 4 years and potentially 8 and so it is time we look for why Trump is good for Canada.

I want to outline 3 reasons why Trump is good for Canada

First, Trump and his decisions, especially to do with immigration and refugees and trade protectionism, have raised Canada’s capital in the world. By that I mean that Canada, once a bridge between the US and especially European allies, is called for again.  This we see on a number of fronts.

  1. Immigration – while the US and Europe are calling for strict immigration controls, Canada has the potential reap enormous rewards by accepting them. And we should do this, not because it makes us look good but because it is in our national interest.  Demographics are not on Canada’s side.  The pleas of Roddick and others after WWII for Canadians to accept new peoples to our country to help rebuild the country are as apt today as they were 75 years ago
  2. Trade Deals – the world wants to know how Canada continues to duck the ire of the US. Trump has said NAFTA only needs “tweaking” with respect to Canada but scrapping with respect to Mexico.  Canada can be the Trump whisperer and become the hub for future trade deals and the world seeks to access the US market via Canada.

Second, Trump is like a big spot light forcing us to rethink what it means to be Canadian.

  1. We have fractured communities. The killings at the mosque in Quebec City are a painful reminder that Canada has deep racial and religious divides. On the surface, we talk the talk that all is well, but one only need scratch the surface and communities quickly turn on one another. We cannot ghettoize newcomers to Canada nor assume nefarious intent.
  2. We are growing apathetic. Voter turnout, while much higher in the last Canadian federal election has been on a downward trend.  More Canadians get their news from Facebook than any other medium and many feel disconnected from society.   Trump won because his supporters voted, the messaging was singular, superficial, orchestrated and unchallenged, he highlighted the disaffected in society.  Trump has shown us all what happens when we don’t get involved, seek different, uncomfortable opinions and stick to our “own kind” in terms of ideological bent
  3. The bright light is that students have never been more engaged in class and interested in what Trump will mean for Canada. The downside is that students regularly tell me that if they are a “conservative” or Trump supporter, they feel vilified by their professors and that is very troubling. If University and colleges are not the fora for debating all points of view, they cease to be “centres of higher learning”.

Third, Trump forces us to relook at the defence of Canada.

  1. Trump cares about the US being safe, the homeland being immune from attack. An attack on the US during Trump’s presidency might be the only event that shakes the indefatigable approval of his supporters.  But while Canada’s attention is fixated on NATO, or potentially missions to Mali (now on hold), very few think about Canada’s homeland. Canadians are fascinated by the away game, but clueless about the home game. Here in Canada, we take it for granted that US-Canadian defence relations are fine. The fraternity of the uniform is no longer enough – the amity of our 2 militaries – is not sufficient.  … It is a cliché to say that the US is our greatest military ally but it has been taken for granted for far too long and one of the most important defence alliances is at risk of being marginalized.  The storied binational agreement that is NORAD will celebrate 60 years on 12 May 2018 and few Canadians could outline exactly what NORAD does, what role Canada plays in the command structure, or even how many missions it has.  For example, did you know it used to engage in drug interdiction operations regularly?  Or that it tracked ships leaving Ebola-affected areas in West Africa to track their positioning?  That NORAD does not have the mandate to shoot down ballistic missiles?  That Boeing avenger surface to air missile systems and 60 members of the South Carolina Army National Guard missile defence command were in North Bay?  That NORAD could, in the future, unite all domains under one theatre commander?  If its motto is ‘we have the watch’, then the civilian politicians’ motto can’t be “ignorance is bliss”.

Trump is inept and incompetent on many fronts.  Canada, therefore, has an opportunity to take full advantage of the US’s lack of coherent policy direction vis-à-vis Canada. If it does its homework and has plans ready to present to the US that benefit Canada, the US is very likely to say yes.  At the same time, there are changes that need to be made in Canada highlighted above, and for that we do have Trump to thank.