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Politics Premiers consider taking on Fox News commentators in a battle to win American hearts and minds on free trade

Look out Tucker Carlson. Here come the premiers.

Frustrated by their inability to stem the rise of new U.S. tariffs on Canadian goods, Canada’s premiers say they want to speak directly to Americans by appearing on the television shows they watch. They want to challenge the influential commentators on popular news shows such as those on Fox News, to deliver a message that protectionism will hurt both countries.

Rather than focusing their lobbying efforts on politicians in Washington and state capitals – as they’ve done since Donald Trump’s election as President – they will shift their efforts toward winning over “grassroots” Americans who are free-trade skeptics.

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“Given the results of where we are, we’ve got to think differently," said New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, who is hosting a summer gathering of provincial and territorial premiers this week. "And this approach where we take on some of the commentators on Fox News – or others that may be spewing out things that just aren’t accurate or that aren’t portraying exactly why the U.S. needs to have free trade with Canada – is going to be important.”

Related: Canada vows to fire back if U.S. imposes auto tariffs

Read more: Auto tariffs would backfire for U.S. car prices, jobs and GDP, study finds

Opinion; As America retreats, Canada can lead in forging an Atlantic-Pacific trade agreement

Premiers met on Thursday with David MacNaughton, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, and trade concerns were high on the official agenda. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the same day that a first ministers meeting will take place this fall and will focus on trade.

While few Canadians watch Fox News, it is consistently the most popular cable-news outlet in the United States, and it is regularly promoted by Mr. Trump as his preferred alternative to what he calls “fake news” produced by competing media organizations. In a politically polarized television news landscape, Fox News hosts regularly defend the President and ridicule his critics, whereas the opposite is often the case on MSNBC and CNN.

Cable-news ratings for the second quarter of this year showed Sean Hannity’s Fox News program was the highest-rated cable-news show with 3.37 million nightly viewers, followed by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC with 2.75 million total viewers. Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was third with 2.7-million viewers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

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Appearing on Fox News programs will come with significant political risk for Canada’s typically cautious premiers, who are accustomed to highly controlled public events.

Former Liberal Party president Stephen LeDrew was fired from his TV hosting job with Toronto’s CP24 last year after he appeared on Mr. Carlson’s show to discuss a tongue-in-cheek training poster from the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario for an ‘LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP’ inclusiveness training session.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he supports the “Fox News” approach, but added that it will be much broader than just appearing on conservative talk shows. He said it is also about visiting parts of the United States that are away from the big cities.

“The status quo is not working,” he said. “We need to talk directly to people.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Rachel Maddow was with CNBC. This updated version has been corrected.


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