Canada’s policymakers, academics react to Trump win

Donald Trump’s surprise win this week has many wondering what the impact will be on trade, regional politics and even political science as we know it. OpenCanada rounds up some of this week's best reactions.

By: , /
November 11, 2016
Trump win
People walk by an electronic billboard in New York U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Tuesday night, as votes were tallied down south, making it increasingly clear that Republican candidate Donald Trump was going to be the next president of the United States, many of Canada’s most prominent policymakers remained silent.

Late in the evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted about the importance of Canada’s coastlines, while Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion was a world away in Kenya.

But by Wednesday morning, Canada’s political and academic community had taken to social media to publicly express their surprise, concerns or even willingness to work with the future president. The range of public comments made in the past few days highlights some of the main questions Canadians have about a Trump presidency: whether he will see Canada as an ally; what the impact on regional trade will be; and which areas the two countries can collaborate on.

Canada has no closer friend, partner, and ally than the United States. We look forward to working very closely with President-elect Trump, his administration, and with the United States Congress in the years ahead, including on issues such as trade, investment, and international peace and security,” Trudeau said in a statement released Wednesday.

He later called the president-elect and the two exchanged invitations for country visits. 

A similarly positive statement was issued by David MacNaughton, Canada’s Ambassador to the Unites States – perhaps not so surprising, given the close economic and political ties Canada has to the U.S.

None came as close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s explicit call for cooperation on the basis of values of equality and “respect for the law;” however, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne did tell The Toronto Star she was “shocked” by the win and her “biggest fear… is the trade relationship.”

Canada’s academic community reacted even more candidly. Surprise at Tuesday’s results was palpable on social media – not just at Trump’s victory, but at the fact that most polls and commentators had failed so spectacularly to predict it. Steve Saideman of Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs admitted on Twitter: “So, I was wildly overconfident last night at an election watching party with heaps of Ottawa/Canadian media. So much for my pundit career.”

David Welch, Centre for International Governance Innovation senior fellow and chair of global security at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, tweeted on Wednesday: “Pollsters and political scientists have a lot of soul-searching to do today,” while University of Toronto professor Lynette Ong‏ came right out and asked, “Folks, should we just bury political science as a discipline?”

In a Twitter essay, Raul Pacheco-Vega, an affiliate faculty at the University of British Columbia based in Mexico, called on all academics, not only those in political science, to consider how to better engage their communities.

“If you think this is only about political science and polls, you are WRONG. Race, class, gender, stereotypes, hatred, are all elements,” he wrote. “We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to the future generations, to those marginalized and disenfranchised to speak out and ENGAGE. I want my fellow political scientists, my fellow human geographers, my fellow academics, teachers, to share and mobilize their knowledge. But not share from the comfort of your iPhone. Share in real life. Within communities. Also with friends, loved ones. Mobilize knowledge. Time to slow down with the think pieces and journal articles and do more on-the-ground, with-the-average-citizen knowledge mobilization.”

On the U.S.-Canada relationship, questions surround the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). During the campaign, Trump repeatedly expressed a desire to renegotiate NAFTA and obfuscated when asked if he would provide unconditional U.S. military aid to NATO allies. 

Roland Paris, former senior foreign policy advisor to Justin Trudeau, tweeted: “Uncertainty about Trump's trade & security policies will be source of instability. But clarification of those policies may be even worse.” 

In the lead up to the election, Trump also said he would withdraw the U.S. from the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. Given the strong anti-trade sentiment prevalent among American voters, author and filmmaker Naomi Klein wrote: “Most destructive thing @BarackObama could do now is ram through #TPP - would permanently reinforce idea that Dems don't care about workers.”

Among other writers and commentators, the worry was that Canadians would revel in sanctimonious views, egged on by a trend on social media that had people declaring why they felt #proudtobecanadian.

PhD candidate and Montreal Gazette columnist Celine Cooper warned: “A massive global realignment, seen now across Europe and the US. Canada's immigration site crashed but we're not immune so don't be smug.”

Perhaps accordingly, condemnation was swift as news spread that Conservative party leader hopeful Kellie Leitch had referred to Trump’s win as an “exciting message” that “we need delivered in Canada as well.”

“Canadian Conservatives, here's someone you need to stop if you have a shred of integrity,” wrote University of Waterloo professor Emmett Macfarlane on Twitter. 

Amy Prouty, a PhD student at Concordia University, wrote: “What I am most concerned about is that this election is demonstrating for future politicians that bigotry and bold-faced lying is viable.” 

Beyond Canada, many looked ahead to upcoming elections in Western Europe, where far-right parties have been gaining ground. In the early hours of Nov. 9, an official from France’s far-right Front National tweeted a photo of leader Marine Le Pen with the caption, “Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built.”

The University of Toronto’s Randall Hansen responded to such an idea: “After this disaster, the EU is more important than ever. #Merkel & Germany, the world is looking to you. & for God's sake France elect [current front runner and member of centre-right party Les Républicains] Juppe.”