LOUIS COOPER. Trump and Trudeau – the troubles at the 49th parallel deepen

Jul 4, 2017

Given the problems with the Trump White House, Trudeau gives every appearance of being a strong, smart leader on the Canadian and world stage.

As Canada approaches its 150th anniversary as nation – Saturday July 1 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s desk is covered with concerns.

Some relate to promises made at the last election and still unfilled.

Some relate to Canada’s past treatment of its indigenous and aboriginal people and problems-around-the-edges of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings.

Some relate the country’s feelings about LGBTQ community – Trudeau took part in one of the major Pride Parades in Toronto this past weekend.

But the largest concern on the prime minister’s desk, seemingly eclipsing all others at the moment, is US President Donald Trump.

Trudeau, like many world leaders, is wondering how to “work” with the US president.

The vaunted Pew Research Centre in the US this week released a survey of how world leaders rate President Trump compared to a bunch of other world leaders.

Trump’s at the bottom with 22%.

When President Obama left office, his worldwide leader approval was 64%.

Canada and the US have some major issues ahead.

The softwood lumber dispute is top of the list… at least for this week.

The industry, particularly on Canada’s west coast, is a major one, employing some 60,000 workers.

Canada exports almost 70% of its softwood lumber to the US where it is primarily used in home building.

The US has just upped the tariff – or tax – on the lumber coming into the US from Canada, with a small exception.

The core of the problem is much of the softwood lumber in Canada comes from state-owned forest which the US claims means the lumber is government subsidized.

The latest tax hike does not apply to three provinces: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, simply because the lumber comes from trees grown by private owners.

Possibly the hardest problem Prime Minister Trudeau has to face is how to “deal” or work with President Trump.

For the moment, there is a lot of below-the-public-water-line activity.

Federal ministers are talking to and visiting state legislators – many of whom are facing mid-term elections in 2018 – as well as members of Congress in Washington.

There is a sense that Canada’s Liberal government wants to keep some distance from Trump and his Tweets.

But when the occasion – or need – arises, Prime Minister Trudeau is prepared to raise the issue of Trump’s fast and loose behaviour with the truth.

An example, from April 26 this year, was over a phone conversation between the two leaders dealing with the planned “tweaking” [Trump’s Tweet words| with the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA].

The White House released what it said was a transcript of that call: four sentences.

Then the Prime Minister’s Office released its version of the same phone call: it was four longish paragraphs.

Both versions hit social media with hundreds of comments in their wake.

So where does Prime Minister Trudeau go from here?

Accepting that not all his election promises have been filled, he and his majority government are nibbling away at everything on their agenda.

Clearly, some are handled faster than others.

But Trudeau is making all the right, public moves.

Appearing in gay parades, for example.

He’ll be on Parliament Hill for Canada’s 150th birthday this weekend.

He gives every appearance of enjoying what he does, or at least having fun when he’s in public.

He has a majority government behind him and the majority of the country as well.

Given the problems with the Trump White House, Trudeau gives every appearance of being a strong, smart leader on the Canadian and world stage.

Australian- born Louis Cooper is a veteran senior television news executive who lives in Canada.

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