PARLIAMENT HILLâPrime Minister Justin Trudeau held a hastily arranged conference call with his national caucus on Nov. 9 to calm Grit nerves afterÂ Donald Trump’s unexpected U.S. presidential win and to adviseÂ MPs not to publicly criticize the controversial U.S. president-elect.
âAny time you have major events on the world stage that have implications for Canada, you want to make sure that the party understands what the leaderâs thinking and what next steps look like and how we proceed,â Liberal MP Adam Vaughan (Spadina-Fort York, Ont.), parliamentary secretary to Prime MinisterÂ Trudeau (Papineau, Que.), told The Hill Times. âItâs part of the relationship that the prime minister has with the caucus. Itâs a very strong and open relationship.â
Mr. Vaughan said the 15-minute caucus conference call was arranged because the House wasn’t sitting that week and MPs were in their ridings. Mr. Trudeau did not take any questions. Mr. Vaughan declined to share what Mr. Trudeau said in the call, citing caucus confidentiality.
Sources said Mr. Trudeau first made a congratulatory telephone call to Mr. Trump on Nov. 9, before making theÂ call to Liberal MPs that afternoon atÂ around 3 p.m. Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet ministers also discussed Mr. Trump’s win.
Liberal MP Wayne Easter (Malpeque, P.E.I.), co-chairman of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group and a seven-term MP, also declined to share anything from the conference call, but said it was aimed to reassure MPs that the top government officials are looking at all aspects of Mr. Trumpâs upset win over Democratic U.S.-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8 and were working hard to ensure that the bilateral relationship between the two countries remains strong under the new U.S. administration.
âIt was a call to reassure MPs that the executive branch of our government is on it, and letâs take this a step at a time,â Mr. Easter told The Hill Times.
Liberal sources, who did not want to be identified because of caucus confidentiality, told The Hill Times that the prime minister’sÂ conference call was not pre-scheduled and was madeÂ only after Mr. Trump won the election.
Multiple Liberal sourcesÂ said the prime minister told MPs not to make any derogatory comment about the president-elect that could negatively affect the relationship between Canada and the upcoming, new U.S. administration.
Liberal MPs were also told during the call that top government officials were already reaching out to Mr. Trumpâs transition team to develop an effective working relationship between the two countries andÂ to ensure that any trade irritants will be resolved amicably.
Mr. Trudeau and outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama enjoyed a close and friendly relationship. Mr. Obama hosted Mr. Trudeau and a Canadian delegation for a state dinner in March, the first time a U.S. president did that for a Canadian prime minister in almost 20 years.
Last week, Mr. Trump announced his pledge in a YouTube video to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal on the first day of his presidency. During the campaign, the president-elect described the North American Free Trade Agreement as a âdisasterâ and promised to either renegotiate or scrap it.
Among the things Mr. Trump said during an interview with The New York Times last week was that he would not prioritize efforts to prosecute Ms. Clinton over her use of a private email server for government communications, that he no longer favours using torture as a means of extracting information from suspected terrorists, that he is âopenâ to the Paris climate-change accord that he once promised to abandon, and he denounced white nationalists.
In interviews last week, Liberal MPs said they were nonetheless âconcernedâ aboutÂ Mr. Trumpâs shocking election win and, given his divisive and bombastic rhetoric during the election campaign, said itâs unclear what approach the new administration will adopt to deal with issues such as NAFTA, climate change and the environment, and softwood lumber.
Though Michiganâs results were not yet certified last week, it was close to certain Mr. Trump had won the state, giving him 306 electoral college votes to Ms. Clintonâs 232. However, results last week showed that Ms. Clinton had a lead of almost two million over Mr. Trump in terms of the popular vote.
âMy reaction is probably just like everybody elseâs: quite concerned. Hopefully, he will understand how important the relationship is between the U.S. and many of the other countries of the world,â said six-term Liberal MP Judy Sgro (Humber River-Black Creek, Ont.) in an interview last week. âWe [hope] heâll put away his confrontational style and now that heâs president and work with all of the other countries in the betterment of this world we live in.â
During the Republican Party primary and the general election campaign, Mr. Trump made sexist and racist comments against women, visible minorities, criticized some U.S. war heroes, appeared to back the Russian annexation of Ukraine, questioned the usefulness of NATO, and called for aÂ ban onÂ Muslims entering the United States. Mr. Trump also promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the inflow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. and claimed that Mexico will pay for the construction of this wall.
During the U.S. presidentialÂ campaign, aboutÂ 12 women came forward to publicly accuse Mr. Trump of sexual assaultÂ which he denied in all cases and claimed he was a âvictimâ of political smear tactics aimed at undermining his presidential campaign.
Mr. Trumpâs election has caused anxiety within the U.S. and internationally and no one seems to know what to expect from hisÂ presidency.
Van Jones, a high-profile CNN commentator and former White House political staffer, told reporters last week Tuesday in Toronto before speaking at a Broadbent Institute event that itâs hard to predict what Mr. Trump will do.
âWe donât know what Trump is going to do because Trump doesnât know what Trump is going to do,â Mr. Jones said.
Even after Mr. Trudeauâs reassurances, Liberal MPs said they were in a wait-and-see mode to see how things unfold after Mr. TrumpÂ officially takes over his responsibilities on Jan. 20, 2017.
âA lot of the issuesâwhether weâre talking trade, or the Canada-U.S. border, and weâve been really moving forward to try to make that as seamless as possibleâit’s hard to say what he’s thinking, but time will tell,” said Ms. Sgro.
Liberal MP Darrell Samson (Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook, N.S.) also echoed Ms. Sgroâs views.
âItâs going to be different until we know what will be the areas that he would try to change and to what extent the changes will take place,â said Mr. Samson who described his reaction as âshocked, surprised and concernedâ at Mr. Trumpâs election.
Mr. Easter said he believes that Mr. Trump will likely moderate his views once he officially becomes president, predicting that the governing responsibilities will make him soften his positions.
Moreover, he said the U.S. government is based on a system of checks and balances and any radical changes in the bilateral trade relationship will require approval from the Congress which is not automatic. He said that both countries have a trade relationship worth $2.4-billion each day and nine million Americans depend itÂ for their jobs. So, Mr. Easter said it would not be an easy step for Mr. Trump to make any sweeping change in the trade relationship between the two countries.
But he said the Canadian government should undertake an aggressive effort to make Canadian views known to the new U.S. administration on issues such as softwood lumber and NAFTA so that they understand Canadaâs position and the rationale behind them.
âNow the reality of government has to fall upon the shoulders of the president-elect and we have to monitor where it goes,â Mr. Easter said. âWe have to be extremely vigilant and weâll have to be extremely aggressive, in terms of getting our message across when everything settles now.â
Meanwhile, The New Yorker reported last week that the morning after Mr. Trump’s win, Mr. Obama called all White House staff to the Oval Office for a meeting to reassure them that, “this is not the apocalypse.” The New Yorker described White House staff as “sombre, hollowed out, some fighting tears, humiliated by the defeat, fearful of autocracy’s moving vans pulling up to the door.”
The Hill TimesÂ