Donald Trump's win 'changes everything' for Canada: Rona Ambrose

If his father is right and living next to the United States is like sleeping with an elephant, then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has restless nights ahead of him, predicts Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose.

Interim Conservative leader warns of 'brain drain' if Canada raises taxes next to Trump's America

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke by phone with president-elect Donald Trump the day after the U.S. election, with Trudeau's office saying that the prime minister invited Trump to visit Canada. (Carlo Allegri, Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

If his father is right and living next to the United States is like sleeping with an elephant, then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has some restless nights ahead of him, predicts interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose.

"This next year will be a big test for him," Ambrose told host Chris Hall in a year-end interview with CBC Radio's The House.

"[Donald Trump's] election changes everything for us. That is why I say the fun is over and hard work has to begin."

The Liberal government needs to adjust its policies in preparation of Trump's inauguration in January, Ambrose said.

"If [Trump] does what he says he's going to do, which is to lower taxes substantively, whether it's income taxes or business taxes, and we're raising taxes on this side of the border, we could see a brain drain," she said.

"This could mean a loss of jobs to the United States. This is a huge issue."

Trump's presidency 'hasn't sunk in'

Ambrose said she believes the Liberal government was caught off guard by Trump's win and now has to deal with the anti-globalization and closed-border movement that helped carry him to the White House.

Trump's "Make America Great Again" message played especially well in what's known as the rust belt — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where fears over the loss of manufacturing jobs have been bubbling for years.

While the campaign largely focused on job losses to Mexico, the Great Lakes border states do millions of dollars' worth of trade with Canada each year.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose says she believes the Liberal government wasn't prepared for Trump's win and it still 'hasn't sunk in.' (Todd Korol/Reuters)

"What does that mean for the one-in-five jobs that rely on free trade? Mr. Trump has already said he is going to target our softwood lumber industry and our beef industry. Those are two important job-creating sectors," Ambrose said.

The interim head of the Official Opposition also said she's urged Trudeau to call Trump to start the process of bringing back the TransCanada Keystone XL project from the dead.

"I am worried that it hasn't sunk in. This train is coming down the tracks and it's going to be a big impact on our jobs and on this country and I don't feel like we're prepared for it," Ambrose said.

Trudeau recently told a Calgary business audience that he discussed Keystone with Trump during their first conversation after the U.S. election.

Rejecting globalization 'not the answer'

The anti-globalization wave that pushed Trump into the White House and the U.K. out of the European Union during the Brexit vote is "not an answer for Canada," argues International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is 'most clearly bucking the trend' toward protectionism and closed borders. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

"We are a trading nation and our prosperity is fundamentally linked with our connection with the global economy. There are only 35 million Canadians and if we just trade with each other, we're not going to be able to generate enough wealth to have those middle-class [wages]," she told The House. 

I think there's real economic anxiety- International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland

"A lot of people are feeling — and I think they are right to feel — that the 21st century global economy isn't working for them. And they're right: middle-class wages have been stagnating across the Western industrialized world, jobs are more precarious. … So I think there's real economic anxiety."

While there's a lot of uncertainty hanging over Trump's first 100 days in office, he has said he will look at the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Despite Trump's promise to rip up NAFTA, Freeland said U.S. trade with Canada — and the jobs it brings — is important to the incoming administration.

"Canada is an integral part of the U.S. supply chain — that is something that is really, really important for Americans to understand and I think they do," she said.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland discusses her busy 2016 and what her priorities are heading into 2017. 14:32

About the Author

Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked at CBC in Nova Scotia. She can be reached at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca or @cattunneyCBC.