Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 12, 2016
What a week it has been south of the border.
Pollsters and politicians alike are in for years of reflection and study dissecting Donald Trump’s unlikely path to victory Tuesday night.
I have made a concerted effort throughout the campaign to avoid commenting on the U.S. election in my column. I chose to take this route for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, my colleague in the columnist camp at The Brandon Sun, Kerry Auriat, did a masterful job dissecting the American billionaire’s path to victory over the last few months. The collection exposed Trump as ultimately electable when stacked up against the boatload of problems facing Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The second reason was I do not care for most of things the now president-elect said about women and immigration, among a multitude of others. His decorum as a candidate was frankly quite deplorable, and I chose not to focus on his attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator currently boiling under the surface in the United States. His vitriolic message seemed to be swept aside though in the face of a nation clamouring to rid themselves of the so-called “elite nature” of Washington, D.C.
As a bit of an aside, I was astounded at the number of Trump supporters we had locally. A poll done by the CBC found that Manitoba had the highest number of Donald Trump followers in the nation. The Mainstreet/Postmedia poll showed a whopping 28 per cent of respondents would vote for Trump. In fact, he and his message played well across the Prairies. Clinton still scored far higher nationwide, but it is worth noting that the former reality star has a bit of a base here in friendly old Manitoba.
When the dust settles, Canadians will have to move forward and begin to work on building a relationship with the most powerful man in the free world. For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, this won’t be easy, but some savvy political work during the American campaign by Trudeau, may end up helping our nations form some semblance of a relationship moving forward.
Trudeau did not comment on the candidates during the run up to Tuesday, rather taking the opportunity to state he would work with either leader moving forward. However small the gesture, it is positive that the prime minister chose to remain silent while others spoke out on the circus taking place just over the border.
Admittedly, the prime minister has to be a bit nervous though about the Republican win, as Trump has been far from shy in his dislike for the state of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada is a major exporter to the United States, and in a competitive market, it may become increasingly difficult to find a home for our goods. If the American government further ups the ante by closing the supposed “loopholes” to trade that cause jobs to be sourced elsewhere, then Canadians do have reason to worry. Trade is immensely important to our economy and is a driver for so many sectors of the workforce, as we prep goods and raw material for consumption in the United States.
Another stark difference will come regarding refugee claims to North America. The prime minister made headlines for welcoming refugees at the airport, while Trump and his associates have been elected on a mandate to close borders to refugees from countries like Syria. The two governments have worked for some time jointly to screen refugees coming over. But now, it would appear that president-elect Trump is prepared to go it alone.
If you humour me for a moment, though, there could stand to be some similarities here. Both Trump and Trudeau are children of the wealthy elite. They led their parties to victory on a platform working for the grassroots membership. And both have been given a strong mandate in their respective countries for the foreseeable future. If they both can, at the very least, find some common ground, then we as Canadians may make the best of what was an ugly situation.
I went into this election feeling I was “with her” in showing my support from abroad for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. I still am. I think Clinton represented the greatest possibility for the United States, but it would appear even that was not enough.
As Canadians, we are now forced to hear out the Trump movement — even if we don’t completely understand, agree with or ultimately accept it.