Nebraska governor encourages Trump to not 'disrupt' relationship with Canada

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, the first member of the billionaire baseball family to publicly support Donald Trump's campaign for president, says he's telling the U.S. administration to not ruin the trading relationship many states like his have with Canada.

Pete Ricketts visited Toronto and Ottawa on trade mission this week

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was in Canada this week speaking to politicians and business representatives. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, the first member of the billionaire baseball family to publicly support Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency, says he's telling the U.S. administration to not ruin the trading relationship many states like his have with Canada.

With the start of NAFTA negotiations just days away, Ricketts said trade and his state's beef industry are top topics whenever he talks to the president.

"I've talked to the administration. I've encouraged them to make sure we don't disrupt that great relationship," Ricketts told Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio's The House.  

"You've got a lot of really smart people in that administration. We've communicated with them the importance of [the relationship] and I think they are going to do the right thing."

Ricketts was in Canada this week meeting with both government and business officials in Toronto and Ottawa.

Canada is Nebraska's largest export market, making Ricketts's visit similar to when a restaurant chef greets a star table.

"One of the reasons why I'm here in Canada is to thank our best customers here and let them know we appreciate the relationship and we're not taking it for granted," he said.

Still hoping for Keystone XL

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada wants emissions reduction measures and efforts to shift to a low-carbon economy written into the new NAFTA, but Ricketts said the issue wasn't raised during his trip to Canada.

"The devil is always in the details," he said.

Hearings in Nebraska held this week could decide the ultimate fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

The Nebraska governor is still hoping for confirmation of the Keystone XL expansion, which would connect Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., with 1,900 kilometres of pipeline.

"I'd much rather buy oil from our closest ally, from people who like us, rather than the Middle East where maybe that's not really the case," he said.

The pipeline was the subject of a public hearing in Ricketts's home state this past week. The Nebraska Public Service Commission must decide by Nov. 23 whether to approve or reject the project.

For his part, Ricketts dismisses former president Barack Obama's view that there was no evidence Keystone XL would be a big jobs generator.

"We appreciate any new jobs," he quipped.

Complicated family history with Trump

Ricketts's family, majority owners of Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs, have a complicated relationship with Trump.

Ricketts's father Joe, founder of TD Ameritrade, initially opposed Trump in the Republican primaries. At the time, Trump tweeted that the Ricketts family "better be careful, they have a lot to hide!"

"It means that I'll start spending on them. I'll start taking ads telling them all what a rotten job they're doing with the Chicago Cubs. I mean, they are spending [to buy ads] on me," Trump later clarified to the Washington Post in March, 2016 months before the team clinched the World Series.

The Wall Street Journal reported Ricketts decided to back Trump once he secured the Republican nomination. 

Donald Trump shakes hands with Todd Ricketts, right, at Trump's National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in New Jersey late last year, when Ricketts was offered the job of deputy commerce secretary. He later withdrew from consideration. (The Associated Press)

Ricketts's brother Todd was tapped to be Trump's deputy secretary of commerce, but later withdrew from consideration.

NAFTA negotiations get underway in Washington on Wednesday.