Trump and the World

L. Ian MacDonald

Welcome to our issue marking Donald Trump’s first year in office as president of the United States. By any measure, from trade to diplomacy, from North Korea to Jerusalem, it has been a tumultuous year, unlike any other in the modern era.

Our writers are on the case. We begin with Colin Robertson’s survey piece on the Trump effect, and the Canadian response. “The global operating system is in a state of shock,” writes Robertson, a former minister at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and now vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa. “Management of the relationship with the U.S. has become much more difficult with Donald Trump, but manage Trump we must.”

John Delacourt, former communications director for the Liberal Research Bureau, walks us through how Team Trudeau has been managing Trump, starting with the relationship between the prime minister and president, as well as flooding the zone of Congressional, gubernatorial and stakeholders on the NAFTA renegotiations. “Trudeau, his Cabinet and his senior advisers have all resisted speaking ill of the president on social media,” Delacourt writes. “This is not a small thing with the president or his office and you can be assured it has been noted.”

For her part, former U.S. diplomat Sarah Goldfeder, who served two ambassadors in Ottawa, writes that “the president’s trade policies cannot be divorced from his politics. His base equates trade with job loss, and immigration with inequity. The belief that the United States is always at risk of being taken advantage of beats at the heart of the Trump doctrine.”

Massey College’s Public Policy Chair Tom Axworthy looks at China Rising in the Trumpian context of disengagement and observes that: “Future historians may well write that it was in January 2017 that the international community began to look to China for global leadership, rather than the U.S. For the Chinese, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Axworthy was in China during Justin Trudeau’s four-day visit in December, a trade mission in which the widely anticipated start of bilateral free trade talks failed to materialize. Robin Sears, himself an old Asia hand, also happened to be in Beijing and reminds us that the Chinese measure progress in centuries. “It will be the work of decades,” he writes, “with frequent missteps and many inevitable flare-ups.”

Columnist Don Newman concludes our cover package with a look at Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital as a case study of the president as a disruptor in which he “stood the world on its head by reversing 50 years of American foreign policy in the Middle East.”

In Canada and the World, we lead with a Verbatim from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a keynote address to the UN conference on the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion, widely regarded as the most successful environmental agreement ever.

Contributing writer Geoff Norquay looks at tax reform as a politically perilous file, as Finance Minister Bill Morneau discovered with the bungled roll-out of his small business tax reform. Norquay writes that Michael Wilson got it right in his 1987 White Paper on Tax Reform which “contained no surprises because of the government’s previous work on consensus-building.”

Veteran foreign policy hand Jeremy Kinsman offers an insightful backgrounder to the Catalonian separation crisis in Spain, in which Madrid’s response exacerbated the situation. Ninety per cent of those who voted in the October referendum supported independence, but the turnout was only 43 per cent. “Most informed observers who have dealt with separation issues … ” Kinsman concludes, “agree that only a substantial amendment to the Spanish constitution permitting federalism will provide a compromise solution.”

On the home parliamentary front we offer a guest column from Green Party Leader Elizabeth May on heckling in the House. Parliamentary procedure specialist Yaroslav Baran weighs in on time allocation, which could be a polite term for closure. Dalhousie University’s Lori Turnbull, a co-winner of the Donner Prize, joins our roster of contributing writers with a comparative piece on political conflicts of interest in Canada and the U.S.

University of Ottawa Vice Dean of Law Carissima Mathen also joins our masthead with a look back on 2017 as an eventful year at the Supreme Court, ending with the departure of Beverley McLachlin as its longest-serving chief.