Opinion

Why Canadians had better wish Trump success: Ian Brodie

"Canadians, in particular, should hope he succeeds. After all, we have more riding on the fate of the U.S. than any anyone else on the planet." Ian Brodie, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on how — love him or hate him — hoping Donald Trump screws up as president is self defeating. And if he "blows it", we'll all pay a price.

It would be self-defeating, even for Canadians, to hope his presidency is a catastrophe, writes Ian Brodie

Some hardened Trump detractors say we should hope for the worst from the Trump administration. But be careful what you hope for, writes Ian Brodie: A U.S. president is still the most powerful leader in the world, and if he gets it wrong, we all pay for his errors. (CBC)

Earlier this week, I asked 80 students in one of my courses whether they would feel more nervous visiting the United States once Donald Trump became president. Reluctantly, almost sheepishly, more than a dozen students put up their hands.

No question about it, in some corners, the Trump presidency makes people nervous.

Conservative friends try to dismiss the worried ones as "snowflakes" — products of a millennial generation that is less resilient and more prone to take offence than earlier generations. But I don't dismiss these concerns.

Still, no matter how deep our concerns are, or how strongly we disagree with his views, it would be self-defeating, even for Canadians, to hope his presidency is a catastrophe.

Heavy hand

As a presidential candidate, Trump relished the role of the tough guy. He talked up plans to torture America's enemies, to force American Muslims to register their faith, and to ramp up deportations. Big government solutions applied with a heavy hand are always intimidating.

Some hardened Trump detractors say we should hope for the worst from the Trump administration — let Trump tank the economy, plunge the world into crisis and persecute his opponents. That the world would be better off with four years of disaster — to make Trumpism such a failure that no one ever dares to vote for a candidate like him ever again.

Be careful what you hope for. A U.S. president is still the most powerful leader in the world, with awesome powers under his control. If he gets it wrong, we all pay for his errors.

Hope for the best

Regardless of what you think of Trump as a man and political leader, we should all hope he does well.

Canadians, in particular, should hope he succeeds. After all, we have more riding on the fate of the U.S. than anyone else on the planet.

America is Canada's closest trading partner. 

Almost every factory in Canada "co-builds" products with American factories. Every car, truck and airplane produced in Canada relies on parts from the U.S. and most of those products get sold back into the U.S. market. The U.S. remains a major market for Canadian oil, gas, minerals and lumber. Canadians are heavily invested in U.S. firms, and thousands of Canadians work in the U.S.

As goes the U.S. economy, so goes the Canadian economy.

But there's a lot more at stake for Canada than this two-way trade.

Trump promises a new approach to China. If he blows it, a U.S.-China trade war would not only hurt both countries, it would disrupt the flow of consumer and industrial goods we import from China and our exports across the Pacific.

If the Trump administration hurts Mexico, destroys NATO or undermines the European Union, we will feel an economic pinch in Canada and we could be called on to increase our security commitments to allies.

North Korea is trying to build missiles that could drop nuclear bombs on North American cities, including Canadian ones. Dealing with that threat might need a tougher line from the U.S., but even a slight miscalculation could bring on severe consequences for Koreans and North Americans alike.

Everywhere you turn in the world, there is a problem that any new U.S. administration could make worse. Trump has very little experience with most of them.

Let's hope his advisors are up to their jobs. Because whether you love him or hate him, Trump isn't going anywhere.

The world order

Unless he is a palpable disaster, he's not going to be impeached. His fellow Republicans hold Congress, and their fates are now tied to his. And provoking an impeachment crisis would create a political vacuum around the world. One that would almost certainly be filled by bad actors.

The fact remains — American leadership makes the world work, and when America turns its back, chaos and suffering follow.

President Trump wants to get America out of its role as the world's policeman, responsible for maintaining the world order. That world order has been awfully good to Canada.

American leadership in the world gives Canada a chance to contribute. If the U.S. retreats from the world, Canada's not "back". When Canada makes a difference, it's because we can leverage our influence in Washington. A weaker U.S. role makes Canada a bit player in the world's capitals.

So, as Donald Trump moves into the White House, love him or hate him, here's to hoping for the best for the U.S. Worry if you want, but pray for his success.


This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie is a political scientist at the University of Calgary and was the chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper. His next book, At the Centre of Government, will be published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in May.

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