Canadian diplomats have held talks with advisers and congressional allies of former US President Donald Trump to lay the groundwork for a strong relationship if Trump returns to the White House next year, Canada’s ambassador to the US says.
Ambassador Kirsten Hillman notes that those talks were positive and were not influenced by either Trump’s sometimes frosty relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he was president, or by Trudeau and the Liberals recently invoking Trump’s right-wing populism when referring to the Conservatives at home .
“No one has commented on that to me,” Hillman said when Eric Sorensen asked him about Trudeau’s comments in an interview that aired Sunday. Western Bloc.
“We tend to focus on results. Are we really focusing on what (are) the policy issues that matter to Americans and Canadians?”
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Those results include the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement during Trump’s first term, which Hillman says is seen by both US and Canadian officials as a “really significant success”. She said that politics also does not interfere in discussions about other common priorities.
“My experience is that those local issues — economic security, environmental security, national security, food security — are not side issues,” she said. “Both Democrats and Republicans want to provide that to their constituents and to their constituents.
“What we do is talk about problems. We’re talking about how those goals of theirs are reinforced by making sure their partnership with Canada is as strong as possible.”
Trudeau last month tasked Trade Minister Mary Ng and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to work with industry groups, civil society organizations and other levels of government to work on cross-border relations – part of a “Team Canada” approach to ensure relations remain on good terms way after the November elections. Hillman and her team in Washington are another key part of the strategy.
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While Hillman has made it clear that talks are underway with Republicans and Democrats to prepare for any outcome, the possibility of a second Trump term has become more pressing in recent weeks.
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A Reuters-Ipsos poll last month showed Trump leading US President Joe Biden 40 percent to 34 percent in a hypothetical matchup. Trump maintained a six-point lead over Biden in the poll when third-party candidates were included as options. Trump currently dominates the Republican presidential race and is expected to win the nomination as early as March.
The poll also found that three-quarters of voters believe Biden, 81, is too old to remain in government, compared with half who said the same of Trump, 77. Concerns about Biden’s age were heightened last week when a special counsel’s report into the investigation into his handling of classified documents repeatedly cited Biden’s “poor” and “fuzzy” memory and “diminished abilities” as reasons why criminal charges should not be filed.
Meanwhile, the likelihood that Trump will be convicted in any of the four criminal cases against him before the election has diminished due to a series of court delays.
“We’re certainly talking to the Republicans who are advising former President Trump and the strategists who are advising him, and of course his allies in Congress and at the state level,” Hillman said when asked about the talks.
Although Trudeau has said Trump “represents a certain amount of unpredictability” in Canada-US relations and has compared his policies negatively to Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, Hillman says she’s not focused on that — and neither are the people she’s talking to.
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“People who support President Trump are not upset about being singled out as supporters of President Trump,” she said. “They are proud to support President Trump.”
Those supporters are also proud of Trump’s policies, she adds, saying some of them “work well for Canada-US relations” and “some don’t.” She did not specify which policies are which.
“The same goes for President Biden. There are some policies that he has that have been difficult for us,” she continued, also mincing no words.
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Canada has previously publicly opposed Biden’s electric vehicle tax breaks that boosted U.S. manufacturers — which were eventually amended to include Canadian companies — as well as the administration’s “Buy American” manufacturing strategy and further tariffs on softwood lumber.
Hillman emphasizes that despite the focus on who will occupy the White House in January, her diplomatic team places equal importance on building and maintaining relationships with both parties in Congress, which will also be affected by the November election. Eleven state gubernatorial races will also be decided, including in the key border states of Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and New Hampshire.
He also points to the recently formed bipartisan US-Canadian Economic and Security Caucus in the US Congress, which focuses on strengthening Canada-US relations. The members’ caucus consists of more than five dozen senators and representatives from all over the United States, including Texas, Nevada, Maine and North Dakota.
“We couldn’t be more optimistic about this relationship,” said Hillman, who met with the group at the Canadian embassy last fall. “And I don’t think that should come as a surprise to Canadians, because at the end of the day, Americans, regardless of the lines, are deeply concerned about ensuring resilience in their country.”
Strengthening Canada-US relations is particularly important given the current geopolitical climate, he adds.
“The world is really complicated right now,” she said.
“Given that the United States is our closest ally, our most important trading partner, our most important security partner, one job is to make sure that relationship is as strong as possible.”
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