Justin Trudeau: The best prime minister the United States has ever had
Suppose we had intercepted a confidential briefing memo to the President of the United States from a State Department operative based in Ottawa on preparing for Justin Trudeau’s Washington visit. It might have read something like this:
Once you meet Justin Trudeau personally, I’m sure you will agree with our assessment that this is the best Canadian prime minister the United States has ever had.
In many respects he epitomizes the “it’s all about me” generation and its self-expression and promotion via social media. So let’s like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter – and while we’re at it, why not a selfie? By catering for a day or two to Mr. Trudeau’s desire for personal attention and aggrandizement, we can safely ignore conceding anything of substance on Canada-U.S. issues and more easily and cheaply advance our own interests in those areas.
As we suggested, give Mr. Trudeau and his groupies a state dinner with all the trimmings and they’ll forget all about seriously lobbying for that pipeline his predecessor kept insisting we approve.
However, we do need to be careful how we deal with the Trudeau administration on the climate change issue. It’s in Canada’s interests to tie energy development and environmental protection together. They should be telling us that they will co-operate with us on more positive action to reduce GHG emissions only if we will increase our energy imports from Canadian sources. But it’s in our interests to keep these issues separate. So let’s continue to cater to Trudeau’s desire to be seen as a good green fellow by focusing his attention on a continental environmental policy and keep dragging our feet on any continental energy agreement.
Note that Mr. Dion, Mr. Trudeau’s Foreign Affairs Minister, is a green Liberal from Quebec who once ran an ill-fated election campaign promoting a national carbon tax. I assume our Washington people will make sure he is picked up at the airport by an electric car, that he won’t see all those gas-guzzling limousines bringing guests to the state dinner, that there will be French wine on the menu and that he will be seated at a table with Celine Dion.
The refugee issue is also tricky, so let’s make sure the Trudeau troop doesn’t see any of those State Department memos putting the Canadian plan to bring in 25,000-plus Syrian refugees into perspective. As you know, those memos point out that there are now almost 15 million persons displaced by the troubles in the Middle East, that there are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees alone and that Canada’s token effort is but a tiny, tiny drop in a very large bucket.
Be that as it may, Mr. Trudeau has made the reception of 25,000-plus Syrian refugees a huge symbol of Canadian compassion and international leadership. So far this spin is being swallowed hook, line and sinker by the Canadian media and public. Thus, to change the analogy, we should be careful not to prick that balloon, at least not yet.
Mr. Trudeau is telling Canadians that he is going to Washington to advance Canadian positions on trade, security, border problems, the environment and world peace. But all we need to do is fill his itinerary with the Vogue photo op, feel-good sessions with friendly media and close encounters with our Hollywood allies and he’ll have little time to do anything more than issue press releases on those subjects.
As we say at the State Department, it is always easier and cheaper to appear to be addressing issues than it is to actually grapple with and resolve them. This approach appears to be completely compatible with the modus operandi of the Trudeau crowd.
Preston Manning is the founder of the Manning Centre
This column was published by the Globe and Mail on March 14, 2016