2024 will be a Trump year. At our house too…

Who will dominate political news in the country in 2024? Easy ! It will be Donald Trump. Because Canada is going to spend the year wondering what it should do, especially if Trump were re-elected.

The American election in November will undoubtedly be the only political poster child in 2024. It would be surprising if Canadians or Quebecers were called to the polls before 2025. And Donald Trump’s ability to make headlines remains unmatched.

The result of the American election is far from assured, we will return to this a little later. But the preparation of Canada and the provinces – especially if Mr. Trump were to win – has already begun.

There is no question, this time, of being surprised by an obligation to renegotiate the Canada-United States-Mexico Free Trade Agreement, which mobilized all federal and provincial administrations for 18 months. But any trade negotiation, even if not of this magnitude, will consume a lot of energy.

Whatever happens, managing Canada’s relations with its gigantic neighbor will always be an essential issue for the federal government. As former Prime Minister Paul Martin once said, “the first responsibility of the Prime Minister of Canada is to ensure that the border with the United States remains open.”

The good news is that it would be surprising if Mr. Trump repudiated a free trade treaty that he himself signed. And for its part, Canada would be much better prepared if that were to happen.

But this does not mean that everything will be in good shape in terms of trade relations between the two countries.

Mr. Trump likes to describe himself as “the tariff man” and there could be limited trade conflicts, such as over the dairy trade, an old irritant between the two countries.

One of the major issues that risks dividing the two countries is the question of the environment. Donald Trump took the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Joe Biden brought it back in, and it is almost certain that a re-elected President Trump would leave the agreement again.

For Canada, which is a strong supporter of this agreement – ​​at least under the current administration – this would be a major problem in both bilateral and international relations. (As an aside, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has indicated that he is not proposing to repudiate the Paris Agreement.)

Another subject of Canada-United States friction: the place of NATO and national defense. Mr. Trump has often denounced NATO member countries for not spending enough on their national defense and relying too much on the United States to shoulder an outsized share of the bill.

Canada may be a loyal member of NATO, but the fact remains that it is far from meeting its defense objectives. In 2023, Canada will have spent 1.29% of its GDP there, well below the 2% target. Achieving this target would mean spending that the Trudeau government refuses to incur, as it has explained to its partners.

For the United States, regardless of which party is in power, it is always an irritant in the bilateral relationship. But it is to be expected that Mr. Trump will be tempted to make this an important issue.

That said, as much as Canada prepares for any eventuality, the final decision will rest with American voters. And the game is far from over. Polls are of little help at this point. Averaged, they indicate Mr. Trump’s lead over President Biden is about two points, which is within the margin of error.

In any case, what matters is the Electoral College, where the situation is even less certain than in the polls.

Furthermore, the American economy is doing better. Inflation is falling, and December 2023 employment figures far exceeded forecasts for an unemployment rate of 3.7% (compared to 5.8% in Canada). Except that polls also indicate that the majority of Americans believe that their country is in recession.

Another important factor is that every election in the United States since the Supreme Court’s abortion decision has shown Democrats performing better than polls indicated. Clearly, this is a question that draws out the Democratic vote, traditionally more inclined to abstention.

Another unpredictable element is the possible conviction of Trump on one of the 91 criminal charges against him. Some of the trials will take place before the November elections, forcing the candidate from campaign rallies to the dock.

Finally, Mr. Biden is 81, but Mr. Trump will be 78 on Presidential Election Day. But age is not the reason why many Americans – and Canadians – would have preferred something other than a Biden-Trump rematch. We are much more afraid of the two candidates putting forward solutions that come straight from the last century.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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