Senator calls for N.B.-Maine summit to counter U.S. protectionism

New Brunswick Senator Percy Mockler is calling on Premier Brian Gallant to restore the Maine-New Brunswick leaders' summit to help counter U.S. protectionism, following the election of President Donald Trump and his pledge to put America first.

Maine governor a 'close ally' of new president and a friend to New Brunswick, Percy Mockler says

New Brunswick Senator Percy Mockler is calling on Premier Brian Gallant to restore the Maine-New Brunswick leaders' summit to help counter U.S. protectionism, following the election of President Donald Trump and his pledge to put America first.

Senator Percy Mockler (Parliament of Canada)
Mockler believes an annual gathering to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest would enhance the province's ties with its American neighbours and serve as an example for the rest of the country.

"I want to ensure … that we connect together in order to put on the table what unites us, and put on the table the successes that we've had with the State of Maine and New Brunswick," he said.

"I think with Premier Gallant and [Maine] Governor [Paul] LePage, we have an opportunity to showcase what we have done, and what we have in common, and bring [that] to the attention of President Trump and also to the attention of Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau."

Mockler's proposal is "being taken under consideration" by Gallant, spokeswoman for the premier's office, Julie Robichaud, told CBC News.

Sustaining trade and economic relations with the United States is a high priority.- Premier Brian Gallant's office

"The government of New Brunswick values its relationship with the State of Maine," she said. "Sustaining trade and economic relations with the United States is a high priority."

Robichaud noted Gallant is already actively promoting strong Canada-U.S. relations through other annual regional forums, such as the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers and the Southeastern United States–Canadian Provinces Alliance, and through his work in the Council of the Federation to reduce trade barriers and improve bilateral relationships.

Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, is a 'close ally' of President Donald Trump, says New Brunswick Senator Percy Mockler. (Sabrina Fabian)

"These forums … provide opportunities to promote greater regional collaboration, while serving as a conduit to exchange information and identify and promote models of success," she said.

No one from LePage's office could be reached for comment.

Mockler described LePage as "a close ally" of Trump and also "a friend" of New Brunswick, pointing to the governor's participation in the 2014 World Acadian Congress as an example.

"We have built trust, we have built respect on both sides of the Maine-New Brunswick border," he said.

Crucial for economic development

The governments share interests and opportunities in forestry, agriculture, fisheries and energy, including the proposed Energy East pipeline, said Mockler.

They also share common concerns and challenges, such as public security, aging populations and the exodus toward large urban centres, he said.

"We must maintain good relationships and friendship ties with Maine to ensure new opportunities and economic development for our province."

The United States is New Brunswick's largest trading partner and New England is New Brunswick's largest regional market, the provincial government spokeswoman said.

The trade partnership is good for businesses and is responsible for creating millions of jobs in the United States and in Canada, she said.

The Maine-N.B. leaders' summit started in 2000. Mockler wants to see it resume within 18 months.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton