U.S.-Canada relationship 'critical,' ambassadors Heyman and MacNaughton tell Calgary summit

A good relationship between the U.S. president and Canadian prime minister is important no matter how their political philosophies or approaches to government differ, the country's top diplomats say in a keynote address at a Calgary economic summit.

Comes amid speculation of what possible Trump presidency would mean

David MacNaughton (right) gave the keynote address, along with his American counterpart Bruce Heyman, at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region's annual summit in Calgary on Monday. (James K Hill/Consul General of Canada in Seattle)

The U.S. ambassador to Canada says the relationship between the two countries is better than it has been for a very long time — and should stay that way regardless of who comes to power.

"Governments change and we're going to work very hard and continue to build foundations to make sure that those foundations last well beyond any one presidency or any one prime ministership," Bruce Heyman said at an economic summit in Calgary on Monday.

As the U.S. works its way through a controversial election campaign, there is a lot of speculation in Canada about what kind of relationship the two countries will have if Donald Trump wins.

So far, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded diplomatically, telling CBC News recently: "I respect the American electoral process. I have faith in what [former U.S. President Abraham] Lincoln referred to as 'the better angels of American nature' and I am looking forward to who I am going to work with after Nov. 4." 

For his part, David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the U.S. said a good relationship between Washington and Ottawa could help smooth out any trade disputes between the two countries — on anything from infrastructure to lumber or milk.

"When you have over $2 billion a day in trade between Canada and the United States, there are going to be disputes," MacNaughton told the 500 delegates gathered at a downtown Calgary hotel for the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region's annual summit.

"Where the relationship matters is where we hit rough patches," he told the gathering of government officials, business leaders and academics.

"I think it's really important that no matter what their political philosophies or what their approach to government is, that the two leaders do have a relationship," said MacNaughton as he delivered the keynote address along with his American counterpart.

"They can then make sure that the disputes that we're inevitably going to have, don't begin to overwhelm the relationship. I think that's going to be critical in the next several years because we are going to have times where we're not going to agree on everything."

The annual summit ends on Thursday.

With files from the CBC's Jennifer Lee.