Now that Joe Biden has won the American election, what does this mean for Canada and for relations between the two nations?
I read The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump back in 2004. Believe it or not, at the time I wanted to be a mogul just like him and I wanted to start my empire by opening up a chain of video stores, eventually moving onto real estate … all the while working on writing the next epic Canadian novel that was.
Well, there are no more video stores and I tired of real estate over the years and Donald Trump did a bit of changing over the years as well. This might not be so popular to say, but I did have a lot of respect for the man, especially after I read his book, so despite how his presidency turned out, I won’t be bashing him here.
My purpose with this piece is to historically show how relations between Canada and the US have been better when a democratic president was in power to the south and a liberal was in power here in the North … a simple comparison if you will, to what we’ve seen over the last four years, and in the decades before.
Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton
Both Jean Chrétien and President Bill Clinton loved golf. In April of 1997, President Clinton stated: “I don’t know if any two world leaders have played golf together more than we have, but we meant to break a record”. Their governments did have a few small trade quarrels over the years: softwood lumber, etc., but overall they were essentially quite friendly. Both leaders had run on abolishing NAFTA and the Clinton administration lent rhetorical support to Canadian unity during the 1995 referendum in Quebec on separation from Canada.
Harper and Bush
Things weren’t all that peachy during this administration either. Stephen Harper and George W. Bush were known to have good personal relations and also close ties between their administrations. Bush was so unpopular among liberals in Canada (particularly in the media); this was underplayed by the Harper government, according to Wikipedia.
Shortly after being congratulated by Bush for his victory in February 2006, Harper admonished U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins for criticizing his plans to assert Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean waters with military force.
Interestingly enough, things were better when a democrat got into power in the states … relations between Canada and the US were in fact A-OK when Harper and Obama were running both countries respectively, despite Harper being a conservative leader himself.
Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama
Both of these leaders expressed eagerness for cooperation and coordination between the two countries during the course of Trudeau’s government with Trudeau promising an “enhanced Canada–U.S. partnership”.
According to Wikipedia, On November 6, 2015, Obama announced the U.S. State Department‘s rejection of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau expressed disappointment but said that the rejection would not damage Canada–U.S. relations and would instead provide a “fresh start” to strengthening ties through cooperation. “The Canada–U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project,” Trudeau said at that time. Obama, for his part praised, and on many occasions, Trudeau’s efforts and work towards the reduction of climate change. Despite withdrawing Canada’s McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet jets assisting in the American-led intervention against ISIL, Trudeau said then that Canada would still “do more than its part” in combating terrorism.
Trudeau visited the White House for an official visit and state dinner on March 10, 2016. Trudeau and Obama were reported to have shared warm personal relations during the visit, discussing who had better beer and who played a better hockey game.
Of course all of the above administrations had their critics, but the obvious facts do remain.
The last four years
Things have been extremely strained during the last four years and that has been evident, and both in the media and in reality. At times it seemed like the two countries were inches away from serious altercation and that was extremely sad to see, the threat of issues erupting among the two nations causing an overall trepidation in many people both north and south of the border. For me, a proud Canadian and admirer of the United States, I was saddened more than anything else. Here I was a child of the nineties era, when relations between the countries that had given me so many books to read, so much music and television to watch were seemingly at each other’s throats.
So in the end, a democratic win is hopeful (if I can say that without leaning too much towards one side)—especially after looking to the past, which is the best place to learn from. Best of luck to our neighbors to the south.