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Should Justin Trudeau Weigh In On Donald Trump? The Prime Minister is, some believe, sending mixed messages about the hottest election race on the planet right now and Donald Trump's bid to become the Republican Presidential candidate.  Should Trudeau come out clearly with a position about the controversial Mr. Trump, given his extreme views? Or is it in Canada's interest to stay neutral? Richard Mahoney, John Capobianco and Tom Parkin debate.


John Capobianco:

Our relationship with our neighbours to the south has always been a key issue for our political leaders — not just with the PM, but even with our Premiers. So many factors come into play when the discussion turns to relations between our two countries, particularly relations between the respective leaders.

This is why, dating back to when the media began to cover such things, every federal election one leader would accuse the other of having too cozy of a relationship (Mulroney/Reagan, Chretien/Clinton) or a chilly relationship, as the relationship between Mr. Harper and President Obama was alleged to be.

Getting involved in the election or leadership contests in other jurisdictions is considered taboo when you are a sitting leader, especially when your neighbour to the south is going through a rather heated leadership battle themselves.

 So when our PM’s interview on 60 Minutes was aired this past weekend and he was asked to opine about Canada/US relations and was subsequently interviewed about the Republican race, it was very politic of the PM to not comment about the leadership race, or anything that any of the contestants can use, for or against Canada, to further their own political fortunes.

This PM should not come out with a position about Mr. Trump or any other presidential contestant; nor should any future PM ever get involved with internal leadership races for the same reason — that we wouldn’t want others to meddle in our contests.


Tom Parkin:

Very clearly, state leaders should not take a partisan role in another state's elections. Imagine our response if the shoe was on the other foot vis-a-vis Washington.

But what is more important — and more discouraging — is that the media narrative has been once again pulled down into a discussion of the latest American TV Reality Show — Who Wants to Be The President? — rather than focusing on the substantial issues.

I was very disappointed to read in a U.S. blog this morning — and not on a Canadian front page — that the path for passage of the TPP will be discussed between our PM and the U.S. President.

Between Trump and pandas, our current PM is not receiving the scrutiny owed to the position.

As well, with this week celebrating International Women's Day, there seems to be little concern from the government side for keeping election promises made concerning childcare within the established time frame.

TPP, childcare, tax rates, our economy — these are the substantial issues of our time and we need to be asking tougher questions and insisting on actual answers.


Richard Mahoney:

I agree with Tom and John.  There is an important principle here, which is that the leaders of government of one country ought not to interfere in the campaigns of another. In this instance, Prime Minister Trudeau has to be quite careful not to directly interfere in the Republican primary, no matter how incendiary the Trumpeters get.

The only exception to that rule would be if the actions of Canada or the Trudeau government itself were issues in the campaign and a substantive response was required, and that has not happened, at least not yet.

That said,, we are entering into fairly uncharted waters here. First of all, Donald Trump breaks all the rules of engagement, pretty well all the time. If Trump is nominated, and subsequently elected, it is hard to imagine a US government that would be further afield from the values of most Canadians, and certainly those of Justin Trudeau and his government.

Secondly, as I write this column, I find myself south of the Mason-Dixon line, too. The state visit of Mr .Trudeau and the welcome mat being thrown for Canada has caused quite a stir. It has been a very long time since a Canadian Prime Minister has received the attention that Justin Trudeau is getting. Political Washington’s digital news organization of record put it this way

While the risks of Trumpism are high, Canada has an opportunity to get some attention paid to issues that matter to Canadians like never before. And the Prime Minister appears set to take advantage of that.


John Capobianco:

I take Tom's point about dealing with substantive issues such as the TPP and the economy. No question these are key, but they are also tied very closely to the US and our relationship with them. That relationship is almost always judged based on economic issues, specifically the significant trade we engage with the US and the cultural influences which often flood into our TV’s, radios and news outlets.

When you are next to a significantly larger neighbour, a certain level of respect is required, but that respect has to also be mutual for it to work well.

The significance of having a positive relationship with the U.S. can’t be understated, given they are our largest trading partner with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching $870 billion in 2014 and more than $2.4 billion in goods and services crossing the border both ways daily. The US remains the top export destination for every Canadian province and the Yukon.

There is no doubt the PM Trudeau and President Obama have started off on very chummy terms and that the upcoming state dinner will produce great pictures and good relations. But the President is months away from leaving office, which leaves Canada vulnerable to whoever the next President is, especially if he is a Republican.

It will be very important to take note of the words spoke by our PM when he said, "I look forward to working with whoever gets elected president." Any bets on who that might be?

We all understand the importance of meetings with the U.S. President. But I wish the Canadian media would help us find out more about what will actually be discussed. Apparently the TPP, and I would assume the Liberals “expansion” of the mission in Iraq will be discussed. But after that, I would only be guessing about what my Prime Minister will be talking about with the U.S. President.


Tom Parkin:

We are living in an era of celebrity politics. Yes celebrities can be right, left or centre, but they have fans, not supporters, and appearances, not policies.

People can see the terrible side of this nonsense in the U.S. as Mr. Trump's illogical adoring fans take him to the Republican nomination.

But here in Canada we can be smug. It's easy to be better than Trump﹘or Stephen Harper.

If the Canadian media falls down into the well of celebrity politics — and some would say we already have — we’re not going to have the real debates and action Canada needs to revive ourselves﹘economically or socially.


Richard Mahoney:

It is pretty hard to take up John’s bet, other than this prediction: It will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Those are two very different worlds, for the U.S., for Canada and for the rest of the world.

The Trudeau Government has taken on some pretty big challenges and is trying to get progress on many of them simultaneously. Our slow growth economy, the challenges facing the middle class and how to grow it, our troubled history with Aboriginal Canadians and the global challenge of climate change, to name just a few.

The actions and policies of the current and next U.S. governments will be important to our economic challenges, to progress on climate change, and to Canada’s place in the world. We need a good relationship with the U.S., but, as Justin’s father observed, being so close to them is like sleeping with an elephant. Even a friendly nuzzle can do great harm.

There will always be challenges to face in that relationship. If Donald Trump wins, they will be many, and will apparently be unpredictable. But dealing from a position of strength in Washington and the country as a whole can be a great help. Trudeau is off to as good a start as any Prime Minister in that regard.











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