It’s also unlikely that the leaderless Conservatives will defeat Trudeau by revealing where he went on vacation. Or who his travelling companions were. Or how many free drinks they had. Or whether they went skinny-dipping. Some of us still remember former Harper cabinet minister John Baird’s New Year’s holiday freeloading with friends at various Canadian government venues. And Peter MacKay’s helicopter ride.
True, the Aga Khan provided the island in the sun for JT. True, the PMO was Harper-sneaky about letting out the plain facts of this trip. (When will these people learn not to die on the hill of a small lie?) But when Harper shuffled off to Las Vegas after his government’s defeat, I believe it was the Republican Jewish Coalition who bought the plane ticket and provided the hotel for his visit to U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson. And who paid for the ex-PM’s jaunt to Bohemian Grove, where all the Masters of the Universe go camping in Monte Rio, California?
Unless the CPC chooses the one excellent, untainted candidate they have — Michael Chong — the greatest threat to the current government will not come from inside Canada at all. South of the border, the inmates are now running the asylum. I have a feeling that respecting the border’s integrity will mean less to them than eating their salad with the wrong fork.
President-elect Donald Trump demonstrated that yesterday at his first press conference. The Donald held on to his business empire with both sweaty, tiny palms, slagged his own intelligence agencies while blowing kisses to Russia despite clear evidence of its hacking, and refused to take a question from CNN. Instead, he got into a shouting match with a CNN reporter, accusing the network of spreading “fake news.” It seems Trump has already amended the First Amendment: No questions in the new regime for “rude” reporters like Jim Acosta, one of the best in the business.
In other words, forget about Trudeau’s domestic adversaries — his most deadly political foe is a real estate mogul and part-time president of the United States. As Trudeau fares against Trump on a handful of key policy areas, so his government will rise or fall.
That’s not to say that there aren’t domestic issues that matter. There are, including the still-unlamented Bill C-51, broken promises on the environment, and a sophomoric attempt at electoral reform. But Trump will cast a far longer shadow over public affairs in this country than any of them.
So where are the landmines?
You can be certain that the Trump government will return to one of the preoccupations of U.S. policy: getting Canada to agree to a ballistic missile defence shield (BMD). The Americans have been trying to make this sale ever since Ronald Reagan saw Star Wars one too many times. In 2005, Paul Martin turned down the Americans on joining BDM, even though President Bush personally lobbied him on it.
Trump’s idea of lobbying is twisting the other fellow’s nose. Given that Trudeau is already conducting a review of Canada’s military policy this year, the pressure to cave in to American demands that we sign on will be enormous.
Trudeau should remember that BMD, however you candy-coat it, still amounts to weaponizing space, still offers no defence to a full-blown nuclear attack, is still an assault on Canadian sovereignty, is still the starting gun for a new arms race — and would be cosmically expensive. Besides, how could Trudeau justify blowing the national wad on a sci-fi project while deferring over $3 billion in conventional military spending in the last budget?
Trump already has started strong-arming U.S. companies to help him fulfil his campaign promises — or else. One of those companies is Lockheed Martin, the maker of the dubious F-35 stealth fighter that so bedazzled the Harper government that it was willing to buy 65 of these experimental aircraft — without levelling with Canadians on the true and truly scary costs, even though it knew them.
Trump himself has now declared that the F-35 costs too much and is light-years behind schedule. He has even mentioned that the U.S. government might look at a competitor to this scammy stealth fighter, Boeing’s Hornet. So look for Trump to drive down the price of the F-35 and then flog it to as many NATO allies as possible. Rest assured that those who don’t buy will be punished.
Trudeau (who has already wobbled on his promise) should keep his word, given during the election without qualification, that the F-35 will not be the replacement aircraft for Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s.
Remember, the F-35 is not only a financial boondoggle. It has only one engine — not exactly ideal for northern surveillance. It’s had problems with cold weather starts — a not-inconsequential feature, since many of them would be flying out of Cold Lake, Alberta. Its stealth capacity has been exaggerated. And besides, targets these days are softened up by cruise missiles, not fighter jets — as military men like Lew Mackenzie will tell you. The F-35 is a jet fighter designed by committee and a succession of presidents. A flying camel.
In the course of throwing other toys out of his policy pram on his way to the White House, Trump has promised to rip up NAFTA. He already has, in a way, because the Tweeter-in-Chief has threatened General Motors, Ford and Toyota with a “big border tax” for building cars in Mexico. That, of course, is illegal under NAFTA — which is why he wants to tear it up.
And if Trump is ready to violate trade treaties and walk away from NAFTA if he can’t get the changes he wants, imagine what he’ll be asking of Canada in these negotiations. You can bet he’ll be playing shamelessly to his own lumber lobby by placing restrictions on Canadian softwood lumber going into the United States.
Remember the history here. Despite the false American claim that Canadian softwood lumber was being subsidized, and despite the fact that the claim was struck down by every international tribunal that heard the case, the Americans imposed heavy penalties against Canada anyway. Trump will go further.
And while maximizing production in the U.S. and insisting on favourable trade balances with his trading partners, Trump will come after other major concessions from Canada. The Americans have always wanted market access to our agricultural sector, and it will come as no surprise when they demand in a new NAFTA an open door to dairy products.
And that’s to say nothing of Canada’s highly vulnerable auto industry, which will soon catch the eye of a man who would sooner see its jobs in Michigan under his ‘America First’ initiative.
One third of Canada’s GDP is on the line, and that’s a tricky proposition when the guy facing you across the table believes all the marbles belong to him. “We Trudeaus are tough,” the prime minister once said. With an orange-haired predator on the loose, Canadians will insist that he prove it.
If he doesn’t — if he crouches instead of standing up — it won’t matter whose helicopter he took to the “Hamptons of the Bahamas” to party in the sun with the Aga Khan.
Author: Michael Harris