Canadians need to calm down and focus on making Canada-U.S. relations work during a Donald Trump presidency, a pair of former ambassadors say.
Gary Doer, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, and Gordon Giffin, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada appointed by Bill Clinton, urged Canadians to accept the election results during a joint presentation to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Friday.
The former diplomats were predictably diplomatic about how to go forward with a president-elect who has talked about restricting Muslim immigration to the United States, building a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border, tearing up free-trade deals such as NAFTA and who has faced questions about his views on women.
Mr. Giffin, speaking with Mr. Doer to a full house of about 400 people at a downtown hotel, quipped that he has been telling Canadians that "this election was not about you." Rather, he said, U.S. voters were in the mood for "disruption" and embracing the "outsider" candidate. He said Canadians need to move on.
"My advice is to take a deep breath, change the channel, watch some hockey," said Mr. Giffin, who told The Globe and Mail ahead of the election that he was bullish about a win by Hillary Clinton.
"This will be just fine," he said of the Canada-U.S. relationship. "People of good will intend to make this work."
He added that he was not pessimistic about Canada and the U.S. doing business together. "Will the rules change? Probably, but not necessarily to anyone's detriment."
Pressed on the issue of how Canadians can get around Mr. Trump's more controversial remarks and policies, Mr. Doer, a former Manitoba premier appointed ambassador by Stephen Harper, said U.S. voters have made it necessary to get on with things.
"In a democracy, the people vote and people decide. The American public has decided," he told reporters after the presentation. "Canada, a year ago, decided. Both elections were about change. One was more dramatic and emotional than the other. In the United States, it was 'Drain the swamp,' and Canada was 'Time for a change.'"
Mr. Giffin said the fine details of U.S. policy will emerge, at least initially, based on whom Mr. Trump appoints as his key advisers, because the president-elect does not seem to have much commitment to Republican policy. "I think he will start anew and [policy] will depend on who he depends on to advise him on policy."
Mr. Doer, who spent six years as an ambassador, suggested that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have to emphasize possible points of co-operation with Mr. Trump on border issues and global-security matters. "I would suggest to [Mr. Trudeau] that you don't ask for things when you are first meeting with the president. You offer to co-operate together."
He added, "There are going to be issues that are going to be irritants, that people raise with our Prime Minister, that people raise with president-elect Trump, but the first conversation is how do we work together to keep the world safer and how do we work together to keep the border safe."
On softwood lumber, Mr. Giffin said he was "stunned" that it was still an issue, adding he wouldn't be entirely surprised if a deal was struck before Mr. Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20. "It's not an issue the Trump administration, I think, would desperately want to have postponed until they take government."
That said, a leaked memo obtained by CNN suggests Mr. Trump's transition team will target Canada's softwood lumber when he follows through on his campaign pledge to reopen the North American free-trade agreement.
At issue are U.S. concerns that lumber producers in Canada, particularly in British Columbia, are unfairly subsidized. A 2006 agreement has expired, though earlier this year President Barack Obama and Mr. Trudeau announced a push for a new deal within 100 days.
Mr. Giffin said Canadians, particularly in B.C., need to seek common ground with U.S. allies on the file, echoing a suggestion by B.C. Premier Christy Clark this week that Canadian softwood lumber could fuel a job-creating construction boom in the United States.