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Ambassador says Canada is ‘ready and prepared’ for a second Trump presidency

Canada’s ambassador to the United States says Ottawa isn’t worried about the prospect of Donald Trump returning to the White House.

“The relationship between our two countries is not about one individual and another individual,” Kirsten Hillman said Tuesday in Philadelphia, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed a conference of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has members in both Canada and the U.S.

Hillman said the Canadian government is obviously aware of the upcoming U.S. presidential election contest between incumbent Joe Biden and former president Trump — who is vowing to champion a staunchly protectionist “America First” trade policy.

“A U.S. presidential election, given the depth of integration between our two countries, is always important,” Hilmman said.

“But what matters here is that we are ready and prepared and able, as we’ve demonstrated, to work with both of the candidates that are up for election in the fall.”

Hillman, along with Industry Minister Francois Philippe Champagne and International Trade Minister Mary Ng, has been spearheading the government’s Team Canada approach by preparing for whatever outcome the U.S. race produces.

Hillman, Champagne and Ng, along with other federal ministers, have been meeting with American business and political leaders at the national, state and local levels to strengthen the economic bonds between the two countries and prepare for potential sources of tension, such as a second Trump White House.

When he announced his Team Canada plans at a cabinet retreat in Montreal in January, Trudeau acknowledged Trump “represents a certain amount of unpredictability” but said Canada needs to able to deal “with whatever gets tossed at us and make sure we’re defending Canadian interests and opportunities in a strong relationship.”

Trudeau echoed that statement in Philadelphia. The prime minister avoided any direct mention of U.S. politics in his speech to SEIU delegates, focusing instead on what he sees as his government’s policy victories on child care and workers’ rights and on the strong ties between business and trade unions on both sides of the border.

“We must never take for granted the peace, the stability and the enduring friendship that characterizes the Canada-U.S. relationship,” Trudeau told delegates.

Later, at a news conference, Trudeau would not respond to a reporter’s question about whether Trump was being irresponsible by campaigning on a pledge to slap a ten per cent tariff on goods entering the U.S. He said Canada has seen that kind of policy before.

Canada will defend itself from unfair tariffs: Trudeau

“We don’t have to be hypothetical about it,” Trudeau said. “We can just cast our mind back to six, seven years ago, when President Trump brought in 232 tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, hurting Canadian steel workers, hurting Canadian aluminum workers.”

Trudeau said Canada fought against those tariffs and won. He said Canada will be there to defend itself from “unfair or punitive tariffs,” which he called a “lose-lose” prospect “on both sides of the border.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a speech at the Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Quadrennial North American Convention In Philadelphia on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a speech at the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Quadrennial North American Convention In Philadelphia on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who also addressed SEIU delegates Tuesday. Harris’ office says the two discussed U.S.-Canada cooperation on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including Haiti, the Arctic and Ukraine.

The SEIU has formally endorsed Biden and Harris for re-election in 2024. While Harris’ speech was punctuated by chants of ‘four more years” from the crowd, a vocal group of pro-Palestinian protesters at the back of the meeting hall made themselves heard throughout much of her speech. Some workers wearing blue union vests tried to prevent attendees from shooting video of the demonstration.

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