OTTAWA — Canada’s House of Commons stood Monday in defiance of Donald Trump, denouncing his name-calling tirade against Justin Trudeau and endorsing the prime minister’s firm response to protectionist U.S. tariffs and tweeted presidential threats against dairy producers and automakers.
MPs of all political stripes unanimously adopted a motion to that effect proposed by New Democrat MP Tracey Ramsey even as Trump continued to rail against what he described as unfair trade policies of Canada and other traditional U.S. allies.
“At this moment in our history with our U.S. neighbours, Canadians need to know that all sides of this House stand united as one,” Ramsey said before introducing her motion.
The motion calls on the House to recognize the importance of Canada’s “long-standing, mutually beneficial trading relationship” with the U.S., “strongly oppose” the “illegitimate tariffs” imposed on steel and aluminum, stand “in solidarity” with the Trudeau government’s decision to impose retaliatory tariffs and remain united in support of the supply management system of regulating Canada’s dairy and poultry industry.
And it concludes with a direct shot at Trump, calling on the House to “reject disparaging and ad hominem statements by U.S. officials which do a disservice to bilateral relations and work against efforts to resolve this trade dispute.”
But the House of Commons wasn’t the only place Trudeau found support. A former U.S. ambassador to Canada called on Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro to apologize for saying “there’s a special place in hell” for Trudeau, whom he accused of practising “bad-faith diplomacy” at the weekend G7 summit in Quebec.
“As the former U.S. ambassador to Canada I am calling on Peter Navarro to formally and publicly apologize to @JustinTrudeau and more importantly the Canadian people for his insulting and inappropriate remarks,” tweeted Bruce Heyman, who was ambassador under former president Barack Obama.
Average Americans weighed in as well on Twitter, using a “#ThanksCanada” hashtag to recount all the reasons they appreciate Canada.
Trudeau himself was nowhere to be seen Monday, taking a break after hosting the tense, three-day summit, to which Trump arrived late, left early and then upended with a Twitter tirade from Air Force One. But Trudeau’s absence was also likely part of a deliberate strategy to not add fuel to the Trump fire.
Former Conservative cabinet minister James Moore, a member of the government’s advisory group on NAFTA, hailed Trudeau’s approach, refusing to react to “the noise, the bluster, the Twitter, the emotional outbursts.”
He said there’s still hope that stalled negotiations for a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement can be revived, provided Canada stays calm and measured in response to Trump’s rants. “Don’t take the bait, don’t dance this dance of countervailing insults and emotional outbursts. It’s not the right approach,” Moore said.
“Stay calm, keep moving forward, be the adult and come back with meaningful and substantive policies at the table that makes sense to arrive at an appropriate NAFTA outcome.”
Similarly, former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, also a member of the NAFTA advisory group, said Trudeau is doing the right thing.
“The approach of just keeping a cool head and continuing to be constructive and productive and staying at the table and offering innovative, creative ideas to get to a resolution in the renegotiation of NAFTA is the best way, I think — the most effective way to save the current NAFTA accord.”
Ambrose said the government needs to consider what more it’s willing to put on the NAFTA table, keeping in mind that “what’s at stake is just so much bigger than our pride. This is about our economy and millions and millions of jobs.”
As well, she said the government should accelerate work on its Plan B in the event that Trump blows up NAFTA or follows through on threats to impose tariffs on autos and auto parts — a move Ambrose said would be devastating to Canada’s economy. Among other things, she said the government should be preparing to keep pace with corporate tax cuts and tax breaks south of the border.
“There are things we can’t control, and Mr. Trump is one of them, but we can control tax policy, for instance; regulatory policy, for instance; and we are now less competitive.”
After Trump left the G7 gathering, he lashed out at Trudeau via Twitter, calling him “very dishonest and weak,” among other things. The president also repeated claims that Canada overtaxes American dairy products under its supply management system and complained about Canadian automobiles flooding the U.S. market.
Navarro and Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, took to the television talk show circuit Sunday to reinforce Trump’s message. They accused Trudeau of betraying Trump and stabbing him in the back.
Trump continued with his tweets overnight, railing against countries that he said have trade surpluses with the United States, even as he was preparing for a crucial one-on-one summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
“Why should I, as President of the United States, allow countries to continue to make Massive Trade Surpluses, as they have for decades, while our Farmers, Workers & Taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay?” he wrote. “Not fair to the PEOPLE of America!”
Liberal MP and former dairy farmer Wayne Easter said there was a real sense of panic building in his P.E.I. riding over the implications of Trump’s pronouncements following his departure from the G7 gathering.
“There’s a lot of concern being expressed about where this might go,” Easter said as he entered the House of Commons.
“On the steel tariffs I have a couple of fairly substantial operations in my own riding that are very worried (about the U.S. penalties). They’re also worried about the retaliatory measures that we will take.”
At the same time, Easter said, business owners were expressing support for the Trudeau government in trying to de-escalate what has become a trade war. And he urged Canada’s industrial leaders to remain calm in the face of ongoing threats from the U.S president.
Trump’s attacks have Canadian businesses that use aluminum and steel very worried, said Ontario Conservative MP John Brassard, who added that there is real concern that there will be serious job implications in very short order.
“I know my colleagues are hearing from numerous businesses and manufacturers across the country very similar stories, that this trade dispute is probably two weeks away from affecting Canadians in a very real way,” he said.
Joan Bryden and Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press