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Coffee House US Election

Would Donald Trump build a wall along the Canadian border?

8 November 2016

8:30 AM

8 November 2016

8:30 AM

We’ve heard a lot about what a Trump victory tomorrow night means for Mexico, little of which seems good. He’s accused Mexicans of bringing ‘drugs, crime and rapists’ to the US, and the less said about his famous wall, the better. Yet for all the fighting talk aimed at Mexico, it’s not so clear what President Trump would do about America’s neighbours to the north.

With Trump and Clinton now almost neck-and-neck in the polls, many Canadians are waking up to the thought of a Trump win. And people in Canada are starting to think – and panic – about how the Donald’s presidency would shape relations. It’s fair to say one thing seems assured: it won’t be business as usual.

Canada’s economy is hardly on top form at the moment – and there are fears things could get worse if Trump does triumph tomorrow. Trump has said NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes Canada, is the worst trade deal the United States has ever signed. It’s a pity, then, that it’s actually such a helpful agreement for Canadian businesses, who have used the deal to gain lucrative access to the American market.

Trump’s rhetoric also seems to be rubbing off on his rival. Hillary Clinton – perhaps frightened by the narrow margin of her lead in the polls – has been ramping up her protectionist chatter lately. As well as using this to fend off Trump, Clinton is also trying to ingratiate herself with Bernie Sanders’ fans. Protectionist policies appear to have done wonders for Trump’s popularity in key swing states like Ohio or Michigan. Hillary’s copycat stance on trade protection issues are a worrying sign that whoever wins, Canadian business is likely to lose out in a new era of American protectionism.

But it’s not all bad news.  On the positive side, there are no doubts that Trump is much more committed to completing the international Keystone XL pipeline. This project – which will allow lucrative Albertan oil to be more easily shipped to American markets – will be a huge boon to the Canadian economy. Obama vetoed it and Clinton is also opposed. Yet the Donald’s policy on giving the green light would win him plenty of fans north of the border.

It’s also the case that Trump hasn’t (yet) threatened Canada with a wall. In fact, while he has been outspoken on so many topics, by comparison he’s barely had a bad word to say about Canada. And when it comes to the border between the two countries, Trump is dovish compared to the likes of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who suggested bricking up the border between Canada and the US.

Whoever does win, it’s important to remember that Canada remains broadly popular with the American electorate. Rightly or wrongly, Mexico is a source of resentment for many Americans; the same isn’t true for Canada. A recent poll revealed that about three quarters of Americans ‘like’ Canada; one in four Americans are even so fond of Canadians, they’d happily merge the two countries together. And with a romance that strong, perhaps even a President Trump (or a President Clinton) would tone down the protectionist rhetoric a bit when it comes to a stable northern ally that America needs. Maybe we Canadians shouldn’t be so worried after all.


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