LILLEY: Joly says Canada is planning for Trump. What about Biden?

Regardless of who wins the next U.S. presidential election, Canada needs to be on guard

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Melanie Joly said that Canada is considering a “game plan” if the United States takes a “far-right, authoritarian shift” after the next election.

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“In general, there is our game plan, precisely to be able to manage what could be a rather difficult situation,” Joly said in a Montreal radio interview reported on by wire service Canadian Press.

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All the wise people in the foreign policy establishment contacted by CP for this puff piece of a story pulled on their beards, nodded and said it was a wise move.

Here’s a news flash for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention: Regardless of who wins the next U.S. presidential election, Canada needs to be on guard.

We long ago left an era where Ottawa was considered to have a special relationship with Washington, where free trade was considered settled policy, and when presidents could be called upon to deal with protectionist factions in their parties. While the Trudeau Liberals are trying to play up the spectre of Donald Trump now, the former U.S. president was no worse for Canada’s cross-border trade than the current occupant of the White House, Joe Biden.

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Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Canadian governments have been dealing with American administrations that are increasingly protectionist in their economic outlook.

Obama moved the needle in ways that George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan had not. In fact, Obama may have been the most protectionist president in generations when it came to his economic and trade policy.

Yet now, after Trump and Biden, his protectionism seems quaint, something we’d trade for in a heartbeat.

The American consensus of trade and globalization that once saw both parties embrace China and agree to the principles that embody NAFTA have now flipped. Both parties chafe at the idea of embracing China and each tries to outdo the other on protectionist measures for American workers, even when it comes to Canada.

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A Biden administration proposal to try to wedge the auto industry to move production, particularly of the growing electric vehicle segment, was only defeated because it would have hurt Democrat senators in West Virginia and Georgia. In 2009, shortly after Obama took office, he sent Biden as his v-p to lead efforts to shore up the auto industry in America.

Biden’s plan, had it gone ahead, would have seen Ontario’s auto jobs move to Michigan as part of his bailout plan. Since then he’s fought with Canada on softwood lumber, beef and pork exports, oil pipelines and more.

Don’t believe the malarky: Biden is no friend of Canada when it comes to trade. Neither was Trump — the only difference was that Trump would tell you what he wants in a deal and try to negotiate.

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Biden smiles at you, says, “Aw shucks,” and tries to make you think he’s your friend.

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Here’s the reality: Canada currently has few friends in Washington. It’s partly due to the shift in views on trade that happened in both parties but also because the Trudeau government has taken its eye off the ball in D.C.

It used to be that prime ministers, Liberal or Conservative, could call up the president, Republican or Democrat, and smooth over most trade irritants coming out of Congress. Too often now, the trade irritants don’t originate in the House or Senate but in the White House, and under Trudeau, we have less sway than we used to.

It’s been a gradual diminishment over years in the relationship between Washington and Ottawa, but it has accelerated under a government that talks big but delivers little on the international stage. As they might say in Texas, Canada is considered all hat and no cattle when we show up at global gatherings big or small.

So, while Joly might want to talk about her plans for reacting to an American government should Trump win, she should be making plans for all scenarios. She should be looking for ways to repair relationships and restore Canada’s stature in Washington, the most important capital for Canadians outside our own.

Don’t expect that to happen, though — it’s far easier to cast stones at the bogeyman and use that for your own electoral gain than it is to do the hard work that comes with governing.

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