In Canada, Trump’s bluster on trade meets with public, political backlash


This post was written and reported by contributor Bryant Telfer through our new Daily Kos freelance program.

President Trump evoked backlash in Canada last week after first calling the new U.S. trade deal with Mexico a substitute for NAFTA, and then privately bragging in leaked conversations that any deal would be “totally on our [Trump’s] terms.”

Those comments have helped to resolidify public opinion around Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. After guarded optimism that a new deal with the U.S. might be reached, Trump’s off-the-record comments confirm the already largely negative way that a majority of Canadians view him.

Greg Lyle, the managing director of Innovative Research Group, said recent polling shows that most Canadians already fault Trump for the difficulties of the negotiations, particularly because he has ordered his team to refuse any compromises. According to Lyle, as long as the public views Trump as a “crazy man” who has no interest in treating Canada well, the challenge for the Conservatives is to explain why any failure to negotiate a new NAFTA is the fault of the Liberal government.

“It’s actually a little bit of a lifesaver for the Liberals that they’re talking about it, because it puts them back into the discussion of middle class, pocketbook issues, which they’ve been neglecting,” Lyle said.

NAFTA has always been a controversial topic in Canada. Voter-rich regions in Southwest and Central Ontario were the hardest hit in job and investment losses during the long realignment period, which was a major factor in the loss of the Progressive Conservative-majority government that negotiated it. And even though the trade agreement has been largely internalized as an overall positive development for Canada, there are pockets of bitter resentment that linger decades later.