Donald Trump's election win fuels export anxiety in New Brunswick

New Brunswick politicians are as stunned as anyone else by Donald Trump’s win in the U.S. presidential election and worry about what it means for province's exports.

Premier Brian Gallant urges Ottawa to press free trade case with the United States

New Brunswick politicians were as stunned as anyone else by Donald Trump's win in the U.S. presidential election. 1:16

New Brunswick politicians were as stunned as anyone else by Donald Trump's win in the U.S. presidential election.

But the Republican victory was particularly bracing in a province where 92 per cent of exports go to the United States, thanks to Trump's campaign condemnation of free trade.

"In my case, I didn't sleep very well," Premier Brian Gallant told reporters on Wednesday morning, the day after Trump defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Gallant said he was alarmed by a lot of Trump's rhetoric, but said he was most concerned by the president-elect's commitment to demand changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

An export-dependent province

New Brunswick is Canada's most export-dependent province, Gallant said. Opportunities New Brunswick says 92 per cent of the province's $12 billion in exports go to the United States.

The premier said Canada needs to lobby the new administration to demonstrate that free trade benefits both countries. He said nine million U.S. jobs rely on trade with Canada.

"I think it's incumbent on all of us to make sure that we communicate that to the Americans as much as possible," Gallant said.

"We're hopeful that president-elect Trump, now that he will have to govern, will start to look at these facts and say, 'I have to make sure that I create economic growth in the U.S., I have to make sure I create jobs.'"

Fears for forest industry

"Making sure we have a solid free trade agreement, and a free flow of products and services between our two nations, is one way to do that."

A more protectionist U.S. administration could also spell trouble for the forestry industry, Gallant said.

Canada's been trying for more than a year to negotiate a new softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. The previous version of the deal exempted Maritime lumber from any American trade penalties.

But the Canadian government has so far not been able to reach a deal with the Obama administration, with Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland attributing that in part to rising anti-trade sentiment in the U.S.

Higgs hopeful it was just hype

Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said he is also worried about the softwood lumber issue and trade in general.

"I'd like to think a lot of conversations held during that whole campaign of a year and a half or more was a lot of rhetoric and a lot of hype, and when it gets right down to it, it won't be so negative for a country like ours that's a major trading partner," he said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs shares the premier's concerns about trade, but says choosing between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton would have been 'challenging.'
Higgs, who grew up on the St. Croix River, just a few hundred feet from the U.S. border, said the election result showed an appetite for political change, citing Trump's attacks on immigrants and Muslims.

"He couldn't have said much more, in terms of some of the language and how certain groups were discussed, and yet people still supported that," Higgs said. "The outcome certainly demonstrated that people supported change and seemed to vote for it regardless of anything else."

A challenging choice for Tory

Higgs even said it would be "a challenge" for him to choose between Clinton and Trump if he were an American voter, because it would be difficult "to separate the rhetoric from what's real."

David Coon, the Green Party leader, was the only politician to raise Trump's win on the floor of the legislature.

David Coon, leader of the Green Party, says Trump's determination to withdraw from the Paris accord on climate change will hurt. (CBC)
"Canada is strongly anchored in values that stand in opposition to sexism, racism, xenophobia and climate denial exhibited by Donald Trump," Coon said.

He told reporters Trump's promise to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement will hurt the accord, but he said he believes Canada should and will go ahead with implementing the deal regardless.

'Mean' Trump confuses daughter

Conservative MLA Jody Carr told CBC News that his 10-year-old asked him how someone like Trump "could be so mean during the day and sleep at night in such a nice house, like The White House."

Saint John Mayor Don Darling hopes more U.S. citizens will consider moving to his city. (Connell Smith/CBC)
Meanwhile, Saint John Mayor Don Darling used Twitter to suggest that Americans distraught over the Trump victory could move to his city.

Darling said in an interview the tweet wasn't meant to be tongue-in-cheek and he would be looking at ways to let U.S. citizens know that they'd be welcomed in the city, which was founded by Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution.

"I'm a mayor that ran on a mandate of growth," he said. "I'd like to make sure Saint John, New Brunswick, is on their radar." 

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.


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