What can Canada expect from Trump
By Marg Land
In late January, I walked into the first afternoon of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Industry Conference with a swagger in my step. I was going to learn something that many in my sphere of influence were still struggling with: What to expect from a Trump presidency.
Unfortunately, two hours later, I was just as confused as I was before entering the Bristol Ballroom. According to Jim Dickmeyer, the North American Competitiveness Fellow with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. “That’s the reality of it,” he admitted.
Dickmeyer has 33 years of experience in the U.S. diplomatic service within North and South America. He also served as U.S. Consul General in Toronto from 2012 to 2015. And even he isn’t too sure what to expect from President Donald J. Trump.
“With the Trump administration at this point, I can guarantee you one certainty – everything is uncertain,” he told the packed ballroom. “We don’t know exactly how this will shake out because this is a new model of president. We’ve not had someone who has come directly out of the private sector, who has had virtually no experience in government.”
But Dickmeyer did have some advice on what to keep an eye on.
“We have to watch the evolution within the cabinet, within the advisors,” he said. “President Trump inherits an office that is extremely focused, extremely powerful within our system.”
This is power that, over time, has been ceded to the president by Congress. And it’s power that Congress hopes to wrestle back.
“What will be his first major difference with Congress?” Dickmeyer asked. “When will be that clash with a Republican president, with a Republican Congress? They’ll try to avoid it as much as possible because they have agendas they’ve been waiting to move forward for eight years.”
He also suggested keeping a close watch on President Trump’s “inner circle” of influence.
“Who’s going to be the first member of cabinet or inner circle to either resign or be fired? It will happen and I believe it will happen soon. You already hear about the tensions that are going on. How long does the chief of staff last? Where are the powers bouncing and coalescing?”
For Canadians specifically, Dickmeyer suggested monitoring what happens with infrastructure proposals Trump has released.
“A key issue would be how much of that happens on the border,” he said. “We have a whole list of border infrastructure needs with Canada. How well can those who want that … get themselves to the head of the list?”
Closely related to that will be any Buy America stipulations applied to the projects.
“As President Trump said in his inaugural speech, it’s going to be America first. How will Canada deal with that?”
Dickmeyer’s talk wasn’t all doom and gloom.
“I continue to have huge faith in the relationship between the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “It is the ability to sit down with each other and have conversations to understand you don’t get the whole loaf. The broader benefit requires that kind of conversation and, sometimes, concession. We’ve had that strongly with Canada. I believe it will continue.”
And hopefully with benefits for both parties and equal division of the loaf.