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What has the Trump era meant for Canada? A guide to what’s happened so far


What has the Trump era meant for Canada? A guide to what's happened so far

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outside the West Wing of the White House on Feb. 13, 2017.

Check back below for the latest news, analysis and opinion on the impact that the Trump presidency has had so far on Canada, from protectionism and the economy to pluralism and immigration. (And Americans: If you've considered moving to Canada, we have some pointers on why that might be more complicated than you think.)

'America First' versus Canada Too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraces Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland after she delivered a speech on Canada’s foreign policy in the House of Commons on June 6, 2017.

Donald Trump's "America First" policies have upended its allies' expectations of U.S. global leadership, on issues ranging from climate change (Mr. Trump is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris accord) to trade (Mr. Trump wants to aggressively renegotiate NAFTA) to NATO (Mr. Trump has made warm overtures to Russia in the past, which is in a standoff with the military alliance over its geopolitical ambitions in Europe).

After a few months getting used to the new administration, and as rifts widened between the United States and other Western countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government outlined a new foreign-policy plan in June to uphold the global liberal order with or without U.S. help. On June 6, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada would be a "client state" if it relied solely on U.S. protection, adding that, while a "Canada first" approach would be wrong, the country has to chart a more independent course:

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Indeed, many of the voters in last year’s [U.S.] presidential election cast their ballots, animated in part by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership. To say this is not controversial: it is simply a fact.
The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course. For Canada that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order.

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Who's in charge?

President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President’s Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington.

The Trudeau government has been getting used to a U.S. leader dramatically unlike the one before him, and unlike the one that Ottawa's political class expected to win last year. The Prime Minister's cabinet, which underwent a major shuffle shortly before Mr. Trump's inauguration in January, have been in close contact with their counterparts in Washington, and the two leaders met face to face at a highly publicized official visit in February. Here are some of the important match-ups:

Foreign affairs

  • Canada: Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister
  • U.S.: Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State


  • Canada: David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador in Washington
  • U.S.: Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Trade policy

  • Canada: Ms. Freeland; François-Philippe Champagne, International Trade Minister
  • U.S.: Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative; Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary


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  • Canada: Bill Morneau, Finance Minister
  • U.S.: Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary


  • Canada: Catherine McKenna, Environment and Climate Change Minister
  • U.S.: Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency

In addition to the cabinet-level officials, several advisers have played important roles as go-betweens on the trade file and other issues:

  • Canada: Brian Mulroney, former prime minister advising the Liberal government on trade policy; Rona Ambrose, former interim Conservative Party leader advising the government on the NAFTA talks
  • U.S.: Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser; Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter

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Trade and the economy

Toronto’s financial district on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election.

Canada and the U.S. are as different as can be on trade right now. One is led by a liberal who champions global trade, the other by a nativist conservative who, in his inauguration speech, pledged an "America first" attitude to not only trade, but immigration, foreign policy and taxes.

Negotiations are under way between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to overhaul the North American free-trade agreement, which Mr. Trump alleges has been unfair to the United States. Any new deal would have dramatic implications for Canadian businesses and the flow of goods and workers between the countries. While Canadians wait to see how the new trade relationship develops, here are some resources about the politics behind it and how economic uncertainty over a Trump presidency might affect your personal finances.

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More reading on trade:

More reading on personal finance and business:

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Environment and energy

Mr. Trump – who once called climate change a Chinese hoax, in a tweet he later said was a joke – has completely reversed the Obama administration's promises to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Most dramatically, he pulled the United States out of the 195-country Paris climate-change agreement, saying it was a "bad deal for America." Mr. Trudeau said Canada was "deeply disappointed" with the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 deal, which was the impetus for the Liberal government's plan for a nationwide carbon-pricing program.

But meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau has supported Mr. Trump's decision to give TransCanada Corp. the needed permits to build its Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, which the Obama administration had blocked. Energy policy could also be a challenging part of the NAFTA renegotiations, with high stakes for oil-producing provinces and the Canadian economy.

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Military and foreign policy

A Canadian Armed Forces member looks on as a Polish soldier fires a C9 machine gun at a training area in Poland March 15, 2016.

Ottawa and Washington have been partners in some of the world's most important military alliances, from NATO abroad to NORAD at home. Mr. Trump's view of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have evolved a lot since he took office. In mid-January, he said the 28-nation alliance was obsolete. But then he began professing support for the military alliance, and chided member countries that he felt weren't paying their fair share.

NATO requires countries to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence; Canada pays less than half of that, and less than almost any NATO member. In June, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan outlined a $62-billion military-spending package that would raise that to 1.4 per cent of economic output by 2024-25, but most of the new spending begins after the next federal election.

In the meantime, the differing Canadian and American approaches to Russia will be closely watched. During and after the election, Mr. Trump – whose campaign team and staff are facing multiple investigations by the FBI, Justice Department and Congress for their connections to Moscow – made warm overtures to Russia, which has been in a tense standoff with NATO in Eastern Europe since Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Mr. Trudeau has said Canada – which is training Ukrainian troops to counter Russian aggression and is sending troops to Latvia to help NATO's mission there – will continue to support the alliance.

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Refugees, race and immigration

Demonstrators protest agaist Mr. Trump’s executive immigration ban at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Jan. 28, 2017.

Mr. Trump ran for office promising far-reaching measures to close off America's borders, such as building a wall along the Mexican border and barring Muslims from entering the country. In his first weeks in office, Mr. Trump acted on those promises with alarming speed, sowing worldwide confusion over whether and how foreigners and dual citizens, including Canadians, could visit the country. Mr. Trump also attracted support from white nationalist groups like the ones behind the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Mr. Trump tried twice to issue executive orders barring citizens from a list of predominantly Muslim countries from applying for visas for 90 days, and suspending U.S. refugee admissions for 120 days. U.S. courts blocked those orders for months until June, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a limited form of the second order to go into effect. The order allows Canadians with dual citizenship from the banned countries to travel as usual, but several Canadians have reported problems crossing the border in recent months. The prospect of a U.S. immigration crackdown also prompted hundreds of asylum seekers to cross the Canada-U.S. border in the wilderness to make claims here instead.

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Gender equality

Demonstrators protest on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for the Women’s march on January 21, 2017.

Mr. Trudeau – a self-professed feminist whose gender-balanced 2015 cabinet made headlines around the world – makes an unusual ally with Mr. Trump, who was under fire in the 2016 election for calling Ms. Clinton a "nasty woman" and faced allegations of sexual assault from more than a dozen women. The day after his inauguration, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in the U.S. capital for the Women's March on Washington, with sister demonstrations in Canadian cities and around the world.

The leaders' feminist credentials come into sharp contrast on foreign aid and reproductive health. The Trump administration, barring any foreign-aid spending on projects mentioning abortion, effectively cut $600-million (U.S.) from family-planning programs in the developing world, leaving other countries scrambling to make up the difference. This summer, Ottawa unveiled what it branded "Canada's first feminist international-assistance policy," and then committed $241.5-million to reproductive health and contraception programs.

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The opposition parties

Andrew Scheer speaks after winning the leadership at the Conservative Party convention in Toronto on May 27, 2017.

The 2016 U.S. election, which happened in the midst of the Conservative Party's leadership contest, led to fears of politicians bringing Trumpism Lite to Canada. Those fears dissipated somewhat when, in May, the party selected Andrew Scheer as leader. Mr. Scheer, a social conservative compromise candidate seen as a more genial version of Stephen Harper, narrowly beat Maxime Bernier, a libertarian who supported Mr. Trump's criticisms of Canadian dairy supply management. The New Democrats, meanwhile, choose a new leader in September.

Both opposition parties have been closely watching the Trudeau government's handling of the NAFTA file and Canada-U.S. relations generally. Sometimes that's erupted into unusual partisan conflicts, such as the Liberals accusing Tory MPs of jeopardizing the NAFTA talks with a U.S. media blitz against the $10.5-million settlement with Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate. (The Conservatives rejected that assertion, then said Mr. Trudeau was himself jeopardizing the talks by being portrayed in Rolling Stone magazine as a progressive foil to Mr. Trump.)

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So you're American and you want to move to Canada

A woman takes a photograph at a citizenship ceremony in Vancouver on July 1, 2009.

The night of Mr. Trump's election win saw a huge spike in interest in Americans moving north, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's website suffered outages due to heavy traffic.

Not so fast, Americans: Immigration lawyers say the path to Canadian citizenship isn't an easy one, and unless Americans move here for a job with exemptions under NAFTA (the trade deal Mr. Trump wants to renegotiate), employers will need to prove the need to hire an American before securing a work visa. Here's a primer from Michelle Zilio on the issues involved in American citizens coming to Canada.

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With reports from Reuters, Associated Press and Globe staff


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