John Manley isn’t mincing words about the ongoing trade dispute between Canada and the United States.
“Let’s not dress this up. This isn’t good,” said the former Liberal deputy prime minister, who now serves as president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.
In an interview on this weekend’s edition of The West Block, Manley advised the Trudeau government to “stay the course” after three weeks of unprecedented acrimony and uncertainty.
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Canada’s most important trading relationship has suffered repeated blows this spring, with U.S. President Donald Trump levying steep tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel, Canada responding with retaliatory duties, and personal insults being flung at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau via Twitter.
“[Trump] thinks he does better in chaos with anybody he is negotiating with, and so he is precipitating chaos,” Manley said. “We have to just stand back and let the smoke clear and hold to our course.”
The president is “a bit pathological in his desire to be the centre of attention,” he added, and as far-fetched as it seems, it may be time for the Canadian government to look for strategic help in unusual places.
“I think that maybe Prime Minister Trudeau should consult with, I don’t know, a psychologist or somebody to say, ‘How do I deal with an important counterpart who has this tendency to narcissistic personality disorder?’
“It’s very tough. This breaks all the rules of international engagement that any of us have learned in our lifetimes.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, one of the longest-serving politicians in Trudeau’s cabinet, echoed the need for a calm, consistent response to the American president.
WATCH: Retaliatory tariffs will cost American jobs: Goodale
“You know, I have been watching the political process and participating in it for a long time in this country and I cannot recall an occasion where Canadians have been as unified and as cohesive and so strong as they are on this issue,” Goodale told West Block host Eric Sorensen.
“More than anything else, we need to make sure that stays that way.”
The minister added that it’s unclear what Trump’s end-game would even be at this stage, but Canada is unwilling to budge on supply management in the dairy sector, something that the president has targeted repeatedly since before the G7 leaders’ meeting in Quebec.
WATCH: Why Canadian dairy is triggering trade turmoil
Retaliatory tariffs from Ottawa are also set to take effect on July 1.
“[Those] tariffs are intended to make the point to the United States, ‘There is a cost for you, and for every one job that you may think you are either saving or creating in steel, you’re probably losing 10 or 15 elsewhere in the U.S. economy.'”
Meanwhile, as the tension has ramped up, Manley said Canadian businesses could be forgiven for seeking to move their investments south, sheltering them within America’s much larger economy.
“But you know, Canadian CEOs, the people that I represent, are also by-and-large pretty loyal to this country and are Canadian promoters,” he told Sorensen.
“None of them has said to me, or called me, to complain about the government’s conduct, about the NAFTA negotiations to this point, the response to Mr. Trump’s outbursts, or the comments that Mr. Trudeau made at the G7. Everybody is supportive of it.”
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