Trump Doesn’t Stand A Chance Against Trudeau’s ‘Team Canada’

The feeling of Canadian national unity and shared purpose is palpable in the face of U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to our economic security.

Trump has said he hopes that our country’s retaliatory actions to his tariffs cost us, as a people, “a lot of money.” He wants to punish us for punishing him for punishing us.

Canadians are understandably irate and exasperated about this situation.

Time to huddle up

At times, the Council of the Federation can be fractious on domestic issues — from pipelines to equalization. But when the leaders meet in New Brunswicknext month, Canadians will be looking for results.

The current breakdown of the council includes NDP premiers in Alberta and B.C., three conservative premiers from the Saskatchewan over to Ontario, and five Liberal premiers from Quebec across the Atlantic provinces.

The three conservative premiers have vowed to fight the federal carbon pricing system in court. The Quebec government may end up fighting the feds over home-grown cannabis. The federal government is also intervening in the Trans Mountain Pipeline dispute between western NDP governments.

The friction and partisanship all goes away when it comes to international issues.

Premiers Brian Pallister and Scott Moe have taken after former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall‘s approach of strategically popping up to score political points by coming out against the latest federal initiatives, notably carbon pricingand cannabis.

Arguably, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not have the cooperative coalition of premiers he hoped for when he walked into government three years ago.

It could be even more challenging with a possible incoming conservative ally in the form of Jason Kenney hovering in victory territory in the Alberta polls.

This could add one more province into the fray over carbon pricing.

Despite differences, a ray of hope for the federal-provincial relationship: a common cause.

The friction and partisanship all goes away when it comes to international issues.

In it together, win it together

Canada-U.S. relations have assembled those across the political spectrum to channel efforts on trade negotiations into a Team Canada model.

Premiers are standing together on this:

Led by its captain, Prime Minister Trudeau, the group of premiers of the provinces and territories coalesce around collective, national goals — in this case, combating U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and continuing to work toward a renegotiated NAFTA that is good for Canada.

New Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who previously praised Donald Trump, came in early on to say he would support the federal position against the U.S. threats entirely. He understands the political power of the Team Canada approach. For those who doubted his discipline and worried he would begin insult battles with Justin Trudeau, he made the smart call to support the federal efforts. He’s tag-teaming this effort with federal ministers already.

This seismic shift in the Canada-U.S. relationship has not been easy to navigate, and it has taken selfless, long hours to improve our chances of succeeding.

Parliament last week passed a motion unanimously condemning U.S. threats to Canada’s economy. After a moment of political expediency where he criticized the government’s approach, even Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is fully on board now.

Seeing provincial leaders working as one has been a refreshing change in the face of the feud between the NDP premier of B.C. and the NDP premier of Alberta. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Alberta United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney and B.C. Premier John Horgan have spoken up in support of the Trudeau government’s approach.

We have seen Premiers across the country aggressively meeting with governorscongresssenators and even Trump’s cabinet.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said it best about this lockstep approach on Canada-U.S. relations: “Canada is playing as a totally united team… that is absolutely essential.”

Tacked onto their usual workload, they have been active in supporting the federal fight for continued trade with a country that most of them physically border.

Action we can all get behind

For quarterbacking this effort, Justin Trudeau gained a 12-point bump in the polls supporting his approach to leadership. And deservedly so.

This collective focus on protecting Canadian jobs and economic security has buoyed faith in our institutions where everyone can rally, when required.

I think we can all say: Thank you, Team Canada.

We appreciate you doing double duty on your jobs as premiers. This is what the best of our teamwork looks like.

We cannot forget the vital role played by our own subnational leaders that have taken up national roles.

Beyond the Council of Premiers, sincere shout-outs are needed for: Chrystia FreelandAndrew Lesliethe entire CabinetAmbassador MacNaughtonthe PMO’s Canada-U.S. unitparliamentary committeesthe Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Groupthe NAFTA negotiating teamformer parliamentariansdiplomatsorganized labour and industry partners.

At this critical juncture, Canada continues to see vocal support from congresspeople, senators and governors in light of our strategic “doughnut”dialogue with the White House about why Canada is a positive partner. We cannot forget the vital role played by our own subnational leaders that have taken up national roles.

Trying to figure out how not to perturb the elephant sleeping next door has been challenging. It takes all hands on deck to even have a chance. The challenge remains.

Ultimately, Team Canada is a good look for the Council of the Federation — and it is especially a good look for its team captain, Justin Trudeau. This will work well for him going into the 2019 election, considering that this unwelcome test is one that history will remember as one that took the efforts of all of our leaders, together.

It’s no wonder you see those who usually fall on the opposite side of partisan issues lining up to applaud Prime Minister Trudeau now. They are hoping to share in the glow of looking statesmanly.

Beyond defending their local economies, they also wouldn’t mind double-digit polling bumps of their own.

Whatever the motivation — truly teaming up is good to see, and far too rare.

Shane Mackenzie Ensight consultant and Liberal strategist.

(Published in HuffPost on Friday, June 22, 2018)