Over the course of the past months, Donald Trump has behaved like an animal with Canada.
He has imposed tariffs on our steel and aluminum.
He has threatened to “ruin” our economy.*
He has called our prime minister dishonest and weak.
One of his closest advisers has even said that there is a special place in hell for leaders like Justin Trudeau.
This was awful. Undignified for the president of the most powerful country in the world and his entourage.
Even if Canada coordinated with Washington on the renewal of the North American Free Trade Agreement last week, we can’t really say that we’ve erased everything and started from a clean slate. It doesn’t hold up.
First, the wounds are very much raw.
Second, that would be illogical … and humiliating.
The thought of extending the left cheek to those who strike us on the right in international relations is absurd.
Third, the greed of the American administration is still relevant. The steel and aluminum tariffs have not been canceled, and the threat of other tariffs has not been eliminated.
The harm that’s been done to us has left its mark. Last week, the Pew Research Center indicated that only 39 percent of Canadians have a positive opinion of the United States (56 percent have a negative one). This Washington-based research institute has conducted this type of public opinion poll since 2002. Never before has such an appalling result been reported.
It must be noted that this poll was conducted before the signing of the new version of NAFTA – that Trump, conceitedly insisted be renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. But it’s safe to say that the distrust of our neighbors won’t disappear anytime soon.
"Canadians won't forget Trump's disgraceful treatment of Canada. Our economic partnership has been reaffirmed, but trust can't be rebuilt with the stroke of a pen,” Roland Paris, former adviser to Trudeau, wisely explained to the Associated Press.
Certainly, the Trump era won’t last forever. He might be re-elected in 2020 for another four years (we’re crossing our fingers that it won’t happen), but he will eventually be forced to bow out.
But it’s not impossible that the president who will be elected after Trump will decide to imitate him, to promise “America First,” and to emphasize rivalry above collaboration with his traditional allies. To act as if Canada is not a friend that needs to be treated with respect, but rather a partner that’s subject to the survival of the fittest.
We all hope, obviously, that Trump’s handiwork does not continue. The relationship between our two countries is on the rocks, but it is nevertheless profound. We have observed that many times over the course of the previous decades.
It’s not impossible that the situation between the two countries will improve in the near future. That could be the case if a less bellicose, less protectionist and less crooked president replaces Trump. After all, once Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush, the improvement of relations between Canada and the United states was almost immediate. We must hope for a similar scenario.
But Trump has been so odious, and his legacy could be so toxic, that this time, the wounds might not be able to heal any time soon.
To bet your shirt on predicting that the harm that Trump has done won’t last would be to demonstrate naive optimism.
Canadians Who Have a Positive Opinion of the United States
2002: 72 percent
2003: 63 percent
2005: 59 percent
2007: 55 percent
2009: 68 percent
2013: 64 percent
2015: 68 percent
2016: 65 percent
2017: 43 percent
Source: Pew Research Center
* Editor’s note: Trump’s original quote is: “It’d be the ruination of the country.”