With the election of Donald Trump this week, Canadians have reacted with comments falling into predictable camps. Like all people in society, Trudeau and Trump both have strengths and weaknesses and our view of their characteristics can follow party lines.
Liberals brag that Canada has a “decent,” compassionate leader that believes in climate change, equality, immigration, and trade. Conservatives admire Trump’s lack of political correctness, political independence, and focus on the economy.
Several Canadian farmers sent me direct messages or texts suggesting that Trudeau will be Trump’s (and I’m quoting here) “bitch” in any renegotiation of NAFTA or any other deal they discuss. This would suggest that leaders actually work on deals in the first place. It’s much more realistic that bureaucrats on both sides do the actual heavy lifting, while the leaders show up for a photo op, whether they are Conservative or Liberal (Trudeau isn’t the only political selfie taker).
I suggest that, so far, Prime Minister Trudeau’s government has dealt positively with China (i.e. the canola dockage issue) and got the deal done with the European Union on CETA. Trump will be a challenge, but Canada is not just going to roll over.
In terms of global image, Trump has some repairs to make. Americans might be able to move past his election stump rhetoric quickly but the rest of the world is wondering how this happened. On the other hand, Canada has a global political superstar that has been judged more on his celebrity hair than any substance that exists.
So here it is: Donald Trump needs Justin Trudeau more than the reverse.
Domestically, Donald Trump will be judged in the next two years before the mid-term election on the economy, immigration reform, and how the Mexican wall is progressing in construction. Globally, Donald Trump must repair his and America’s image. Showcasing a relationship with Justin Trudeau helps significantly.
With Trudeau committing to move ahead with a carbon tax (I still don’t understand how carbon tax is good for Canada’s economy) and a commitment to global trade, Canada looks very progressive to our global peers. No politician knows more about branding than Donald Trump (Trump is a brand). Trump will be very strategic in how his relationship with Trudeau looks globally. He will know that Trudeau will be very important to him on the world stage with other leaders in China and the European Union especially.
Trudeau also benefits in the sense that a Trump presidency essentially ensures the construction of the Keystone pipeline and allows him to build his brand as a negotiator. If Trudeau can improve the Canadian economy by renegotiating NAFTA with the Donald (he did host the Apprentice for 11 seasons, you’ll remember) that will be great for his economic- and business-skill critics.
The first Trump/Trudeau selfie will be our first indication that the Donald/Justin relationship is very strategically beneficial for both leaders and their respective countries.