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La trumpetisation de Couillard

« Historiquement, les Québécois ont toujours été plus en synergie avec le Parti démocrate américain compte tenu des valeurs que ce parti véhicule », avait déclaré Philippe Couillard quelques heures avant l’élection de Donald Trump.

Trump et la NFL

En fin de semaine, j’étais à Washington D.C. pour assister au match entre les Redskins et les 49ers de San Francisco.

Donald Trump: «Obamacare est mort»

Le président américain Donald Trump a affirmé lundi que la grande loi sur la couverture maladie de Barack Obama, qu’il n’est pas parvenu à abroger, appartenait néanmoins au passé en raison de ses défaillances.

John Ivison: If Trudeau is ‘sucking up’ to alpha dog Trump, it’s for the greater good

Justin Trudeau would probably have preferred to drink gasoline straight from the nozzle rather than mug for the cameras outside the White House with a president who, according to fresh reports in Vanity Fair, is in the process of “unraveling.”

Diplomacy demanded he fake a rictus smile Wednesday while Donald Trump complained about the press’s “disgusting” tendency to “write whatever they want to write.”

Patriotic duty compelled him to grin and bear it, as Trump performed his alpha dog routine during the photo op.

The London Daily Express asked a body language expert, Judi James, to interpret the exchange.

“Trudeau looks deliriously happy to go into body language suck-up mode with Trump here, nestling close beside him and grinning as Trump performs the pointing and thumbs-up rituals that he used to do with fans outside the lift at Trump Towers.

“Trump’s thumbs-up gestures imply a fun, easy-going relationship with Trudeau, although it also seems to signal a low level of respect. The comedy point is a subtle way to put down Trudeau’s visible status,” she said.

The Prime Minister’s patience in tolerating behaviour usually associated with an egocentric school-yard bully was admirable, even if it fell short of the first commandment of Canadian foreign policy — to remain friendly with the United States while preserving self-respect.

But Trudeau has risked mortification in pursuit of a renewed NAFTA deal.

His “easy-going” relationship with Trump may end up being the difference between success and failure.

The latest edition of The Economist sets out what is at stake for the Liberal government. In an article that detailed the mistakes and mishaps afflicting Canada’s governing party, the paper argued that Trudeau’s popularity relies on a growing economy. “Most forecasters expect growth to slow in 2018 but to remain faster than in other G7 countries. Unless Mr. Trump starts a trade war,” it concluded.

But how do you strike a free trade deal with a protectionist?

Former prime minister Stephen Harper was also in Washington this week talking NAFTA. While he refrained from offering advice, he said what he had learned from trade negotiations with the European Union is that smaller players have to understand what a win would look like for the other side.

In the case of Canada-U.S. negotiations, it looks like Trump sees a win being a bilateral deal that jettisons Mexico.

That might be hard for him to engineer, unless Mexico walks away of its own volition.

Trade expert Larry Herman said the U.S. withdrawing from NAFTA would not be a simple matter and would require Congressional approval, which by many accounts would not be forthcoming.

But the situation would become considerably less complicated were the Mexicans to quit unilaterally — an eventuality the country’s foreign secretary mused about openly this week.

Canada’s prize is continued preferential access to the U.S., with whom we have a $752-billion-a-year trading relationship. By contrast, we trade just $27 billion in goods and services with Mexico every year.

Justin Trudeau was in “body language suck-up mode” with Donald Trump outside the White House on Wednesday. At least that’s what one British body language expert said.

Global Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland said earlier this year that Canada would not throw Mexico under the bus. Perhaps not. But were Tierra Azteca to slip beneath the wheels, Canada should not risk her own well-being.

Friends change but interests are enduring — and in many cases, those of Canada and the U.S. align more closely than those of Canada and Mexico.

On Thursday, General Motors announced it is ramping up production of its Chevrolet Equinox at two plants in Mexico, rather than at the GM CAMI plant at Ingersoll, Ont., where 3,000 autoworkers are on strike. This is language that Trump understands.

In Washington Thursday, the U.S. tabled its latest contentious demand — a sunset clause that would terminate a renewed NAFTA after five years. That comes on the heels of the introduction of far stricter Buy American procurement rules, and in advance of new rules for auto parts, which are expected to be announced as early as Friday.

Mexican senators have already laid out six so-called red lines which, if crossed, would lead them to reject a modified trade deal. They include the sunset clause, as well as U.S. content requirements for auto manufacturing and an end to the existing dispute-resolution settlement.

It is easy to conclude the Americans are trying to goad the Mexicans into reacting, and at some stage, the Mexicans may oblige.

But Canada has to be more clear-eyed.

Trudeau’s acceptance of the beta dog subordinate role suggests he is prepared to do whatever is required to get a deal. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

That apparently includes playing second fiddle to a man who, if Vanity Fair is to be believed, is so unstable he is in danger of being removed from office by his own Cabinet.

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Kelly McParland: While Canada seeks trade deals abroad, provinces oppose trade at home

The Supreme Court of Canada never hesitated much about getting in the way of Stephen Harper’s attempts to run Canada. The former prime minister discovered he couldn’t reform the Senate, ban brothels, close drug injection sites or keep criminals in jail against the will of the justices, even though he appointed six of the nine now on the bench. He couldn’t even add another judge to the list after the court decided Federal Court of Appeal judge Marc Nadon wasn’t suitable to join its august ranks.

Harper was said to get pretty cranky at times about the court’s decisions. But when the justices gather in December to hear the case of Gerard Comeau and his 14 cases of cheap beer, odds are Harper will be cheering for them to ignore the pleas of politicians across the country and free Canada from decades of government-imposed regulatory bondage.

It will be up to the court, in a two-day hearing, to decide whether the authors of the Constitution Act meant what they said when they wrote that, “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.” Did the country’s founders see it as a place in which goods should be allowed to cross provincial borders unopposed by artificial barriers, or were they opposed to formal tariffs and duties, but OK with other restraints dreamed up by provincial legislatures to keep other provinces out of their back yards?

Comeau sparked the case when he drove to Quebec from his home in New Brunswick to stock up on beer at the neighbouring province’s sharply lower prices. Stopped by police on the way home, he was slapped with a stiff fine. A New Brunswick judge sided with his argument that such protectionist measures violate the Constitution Act of 1867. The appeals court refused to render judgement, leaving it to the Supremes, who agreed to hear the case, the impact of which has the potential to fundamentally unsettle the costly, inefficient, punitive way Canadian provinces have come to do business.

For decades, cheered on by a 1921 court ruling, the provinces have happily erected an elaborate system of impediments at the expense of Canadians. Though plainly a bad idea, they wagered — correctly — that no federal government would have the spine to block them and risk the consequences of their ire. That Canadians pay an enormous price for this tangle of restrictive legislation is unquestioned. Estimates of the cost to the economy range as high as $130 billion a year.

New Brunswick, and the crowd of other provinces that have sought a chance to address the court, maintain that the country’s founders didn’t intend truly open borders, and opening them now would be more than the poor old federation could bear. 

In a statement in advance of the hearings, they argue that “the historical context of the Canadian federation, the foundational principles of Canadian constitutionalism, and a proper textual understanding of the written Constitution, all lead to the inexorable conclusion that the decision of the trial judge is incorrect.” Steering straight for the apocalypse, they warn that letting Canadians trade freely with one another would mean “an end to Canadian federalism as it was originally conceived, has politically evolved and is judicially confirmed.”

It’s a senseless argument. It suggests Canadians should be able to trade freely with the U.S., Europe or Japan, but not with the province next door. 

Canada in 1867 was a vast, empty land that desperately needed to build a strong economy to hold it together, establish itself as a viable entity, and offer safety against the expansionist instincts of the U.S.  It was a sprawling place with the thinnest of populations and extreme commercial limitations caused by geography and rudimentary transportation means. It defies logic to suggest its creators would support additional difficulties to success by approving artificial deterrents that would handicap the very trade it needed so badly. What was the point of Confederation if it came with rules likely to work against the best chance of success?

Practically every province and territory has demanded its 10 minutes before the court to argue for the status quo. It’s no mystery why. They’ve invented so many ways to keep out goods, services and opportunities from other provinces that they wouldn’t know how to handle the alternative. Lord knows what would happen if you could easily buy British Columbia wine in Ontario, Saskatchewan craft beer in Alberta, or Quebec beer at something less than the punitively high prices demanded by New Brunswick. And if Canadians were allowed easy access to the ales and lagers of other provinces, they might start thinking it was logical that other goods should be similarly available, almost as if we were all part of the same country.

Taking down the barriers, opponents say, would be immensely disruptive. It would make for a different Canada. And that’s exactly why the court should insist that it happen. It’s an absurdity for Canada to eagerly seek free trade deals across the globe while demanding protectionism at home. 

What the provinces want for this country is what Donald Trump wants for America versus the rest of the world: the freedom to block competition by making efficiency too expensive. Ottawa, with the support of the provinces, is working overtime to prevent Trump from succeeding, knowing the cost would be needless and painful. So how can the same barriers between provinces be a good thing? How can it be a danger to prosperity to allow trade within the country on the same basis we demand outside it? 

It’s up to the court to show it’s brighter than Donald Trump. It shouldn’t be that hard. And it would be an enormous service to Canadians.

National Post

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