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​How the Hell Is Justin Trudeau Going to Work with President Donald J. Trump?

Sunny ways meets the Apocalypse.

by Justin Ling
Nov 9 2016, 1:52pm

Photos via Facebook/AP

"I will work with whomever gets elected."

Seven words that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned to repeat, amid an incessant question: How will you deal with a Trump presidency?

Although that talking point was largely meant to dispel any notion that the Canadian prime minister would get involved in the political bloodsport down south, Trudeau is going to have to live by it in the four years to come.

It's hard to imagine a campaign, a candidate, and a victory more diametrically opposite that of Trudeau's, who won on a promise of multiculturalism, environmentalism, globalism, and feminism, capped with a promise to significantly increase Canada's intake of Syrian refugees.

Donald Trump promised a complete overhaul of the North American order. A ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. A border wall with Mexico, and the mass deportations of scores of Mexican migrants to America. The end of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Though many of Trump's policies—on trade, on immigration, on social policy—will still need to make it through the House and the Senate, big wins in both those chambers may provide the president-elect with some political capital to pass the Trump agenda. But the mere effect of his candidacy, and his victory, have upset, and perhaps poisoned, the American political order for good. The rise of Trump has been shadowed by a rise in xenophobia, a spike in hate crimes, and a multiplication of Islamophobic, misogynistic, and antisemitic sentiment nation-wide and online.

Regardless of their prospective differences, Trump and Trudeau could be just another pairing in a long list of presidents and prime ministers who personally and politically reviled each other. So, in that sense, things will be status quo on the continent. Nevertheless, Trump will likely follow the tradition set by many of his predecessors, and make his first foreign visit to Canada. So Ottawa will need to start figuring out what his victory means, and quickly.

Defence

Trump committed to shred the status quo at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), of which Canada is a member, forcing member states to "pull their own weight" in the defence of the Western hemisphere. He's repeatedly called the organization "obsolete" and has remained open to getting rid of it altogether.

Dovetailing his support for withholding funding for NATO, Trump presided over a massive shift in Republican policy since his ascension to the top ranks of the party that has given Russian President Vladimir Putin a massive win. He's publicly said that Russia, despite all observable evidence, was not "going into Ukraine," and watered down his party policy to end calls for armed support to the Ukrainian army.

That throws all of NATO (and Canadian) policy in the region into turmoil. In recent months, Trudeau has deployed 450 Canadian Forces soldiers to Latvia under a NATO missioned aimed at blunting Russian expansion in the region. The fact of those sorts of missions now feel entirely uncertain. That's on top of existing NATO and Canadian training and support missions in Ukraine, aimed at helping Kyiv beat back an insurgency of Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk and Donbass.

Trump, too, has swore up and down that he would intensify the war against the Islamic State, through yet untold ways. He's committed to nothing less than a trade war with China, unless the Communist regime stops manipulating their currency—a practise that Beijing has, at least according to most experts, already ended.

Pipelines

Though Trudeau has been dubbed "the anti-Trump," the two opposites will find common ground on one thing: Keystone XL.

Trump has said he would give the pipeline, which crosses the Canada-US border, a green light. "I would absolutely approve it, 100 percent, but I would want a better deal," Trump said during a stop in North Dakota. "I want it built, but I want a piece of the profits. That's how we're going to make our country rich again."

Trudeau had previously expressed disappointment when US President Barack Obama refused to sign off on the project.

Environment

But the two will butt heads on climate change—an issue on which Trudeau has positioned himself as a progressive, and that Trump has repeatedly shrugged off as a Chinese hoax.

Environmentalists warned Monday that Trump's election would result in "planetary disaster" due to his promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement—a threat that's possible for him to carry out. A US withdrawal would allow other countries to back out of the deal too, which would pose a huge setback as the world attempts to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.

Trudeau on the other hand has championed the climate deal, saying Canada will demonstrate its commitment to the fight by making science-based decisions, collaborating with the provinces and territories on the issue and supporting developing countries.

Trade

Arguably the hallmark of Trump's campaign was NAFTA.

Trump spent much of the campaign telling voters that NAFTA was "the worst trade deal ever signed," vowing to rewrite the entire agreement to make it more "fair" to America. He's never elaborated on those comments.

Wisconsin and Michigan, two Democratic strongholds and rustbelt states hit hard by the flight of blue collar jobs, appear to have bought the Trump line that NAFTA and globalization were to blame for the hollowing out of middle America.

The Trans Pacific Partnership, of which Trudeau is a tacit supporter and Clinton was a tentative enemy, is a favourite punching bag of Trump's. A trade deal with Europe, modelled on a Canadian agreement that was just inked by Brussels and Ottawa (CETA), also appears futile in Trump's new anti-globalist world.

Read More: The World Responds to Trump Win

Governing Style

Clinton's plan to bring in 65,000 Syrian refugees, working in conjunction with Ottawa and a host of other G20 countries to reduce the migrant crisis plaguing the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe, is dead in the water. In the last days of the campaign, Trump even took aim at Minnesota's Somali population, insisting that the state's Muslim residents had been "joining ISIS."

Last December, before the first Republican primary, before Trump was considered a serious candidate, a newly-elected Trudeau, asked about Trump in a town hall hosted by Maclean's Magazine, reiterated his mantra: it is important "to be able to have a positive relationship with whoever Americans choose as their president."

Trudeau threw caution to the wind after that, with a well-placed "however."

"I don't think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric," Trudeau told the audience.

"If we allow politicians to succeed by scaring people, we don't actually end up any safer. Fear doesn't make us safer. It makes us weaker."

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