The fallout from last weekend’s rollercoaster G7 summit in Charlevoix, Que., continued on Monday, with representatives from all major parties on Parliament Hill voicing their support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he tries to calm fears of an escalating Canada-U.S. trade war.
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The House of Commons passed a unanimous motion, introduced by the NDP, to “stand in solidarity with the government of Canada” on its decision to impose retaliatory tariffs, and reject any personal attacks from the White House.
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The rare show of political unity come just one day after President Donald Trump upended a weekend of what — at least initially — appeared to be some progress on the trade file. Within hours of leaving Quebec, Trump pulled his support for a joint communique issued by the world leaders, and attacked Trudeau personally.
NDP House Leader Ruth Ellen Brosseau called the U.S. tariffs imposed earlier this month on Canadian aluminum and steel “illegal” (echoing the government’s own language) and said her party will support a “unified response” to the crisis.
“While Canadians stand together, President Trump stands alone,” Brosseau said.
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On the Conservative side of the House, House Leader Candice Bergen reiterated her party’s support for the government’s reaction so far, although she argued that eliminating trade barriers between provinces, cancelling Ottawa’s carbon-pricing plan and immediately ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement “would all have positive effects” to counter the pain caused by U.S. tariffs.
“We are all Canadians first, and we will stand with Canadian workers and the families impacted by this escalating trade war,” Bergen said.
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But at least one Conservative senator, Leo Housakos, broke rank and repeatedly criticized the prime minister’s “incompetent” strategy via Twitter over the weekend, calling Trudeau a “drama queen” and “no (Brian) Mulroney.”
Trudeau himself, meanwhile, carried out a series of bilateral meetings on Sunday following the two-day G7 summit, and took Monday off. He did not issue any new public statements on Monday regarding the trade situation.
On his way into the House, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said he had no comment about potentially imposing fresh duties on Canadian oil-and-gas products being shipped to the United States if Trump follows through on a threat to target the Canadian auto sector.
Both actions would represent an additional escalation of the trade tensions between Ottawa and Washington. Canada has already announced billions in retaliatory tariffs that will go into effect on July 1.
“I don’t think this is the time to respond to ‘what if, what might be’ hypothetical questions,” said Carr. “We’re 100 per cent behind the prime minister, and we’ll see what happens.”
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Trump has threatened to impose duties of 25 per cent on auto imports, a move that could wreak havoc on the Canadian economy and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.
“I don’t think he knows what he’s doing,” said Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and chief foreign policy advisor to former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
“I think (Trump is) manifestly unprepared for leadership. He has offended practically everybody in the United States, except his base which he assiduously caters to.”
Heinbecker predicted that it will be up to the Americans to end the conflict.
“Once it becomes evident that they’re suffering and that everybody is suffering, they will have to start to shift their policy. The problem is, that’s going to take time and it’s going to cost a lot of people their jobs.”
Amid the chaos, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected back in Washington on Wednesday, but no formal meetings have yet been confirmed.
Canadian industry officials, among them Flavio Volpe of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association, will also be heading to the American capital this week for meetings that will include a sit-down with White House officials.
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Volpe told Global News on Monday that the Canadians will be emphasizing how much pain any fresh auto tariffs will inflict on the U.S. consumer.
On the agricultural side, yet another Canada-U.S. meeting is set to take place on Friday in Prince Edward Island, this time between American Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.
The stated focus there is “shared importance in agricultural,” but Trump’s recent attacks on Canada’s system of supply management in the dairy sector will be difficult to ignore.
— With files from David Akin, Erica Alini and Eric Sorensen
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