Canadians who care about such things tend to be miffed if a new U.S. president doesn’t choose this country for their first foreign visit. Next year that visit could be crucial. Canada’s future prosperity and security hinge on welcoming President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.
The alternative – a second term for President Donald Trump – would be calamitous.
In his first term, Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel, forced the renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement as the blackmail price for having them lifted, and last week reimposed tariffs on aluminum anyway.
He withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership – Canada and 10 other states went ahead with the trade agreement, but without the U.S., the TPP is a shadow of what it might have been – and scuttled trade talks with the European Union.
This Republican President has undermined NATO, flattered the Russians, damaged international institutions on which Canada depends, such as the World Trade and World Health organizations, reneged on the Paris Agreement on global warming and been wildly inconsistent on China. Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, languish in Chinese prisons as Beijing’s revenge for Canada detaining Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou after the U.S. government requested her extradition.
The Canadian economy suffers because of the closed Canada-U.S. border, but we have no choice: The Trump administration’s horrific mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it impossible to allow Americans into this country, except on essential business.
At best, four more years of Donald Trump would leave global trade relations and the Western alliance in a heap, the U.S. border shut up by tariffs and immigration controls, the United States and China in a cold war, and Canada adrift in a world growing more hostile by the day. The worst-case scenarios are unspeakable.
A Biden victory would not immediately restore the status quo. Democrats are historically unenthusiastic about free trade; there is something approaching bipartisan consensus that China has become an aggressive power that must be contained; the damage to American power and prestige inflicted by Mr. Trump can’t simply be waved away with a sunny inaugural address.
The United States remains divided against itself, threatening its future and ours.
Nonetheless, a Biden-Harris administration would be the best news Canada has had in years. Mr. Biden is deeply knowledgeable in foreign affairs and can be expected to work hard to restore as much as possible of his country’s former place in the world.
He hopes to renegotiate and sign the TPP. Though Mr. Biden’s vow to kill the Keystone XL pipeline would be bad news for the oil sector, Canada would welcome a renewed American commitment to combat climate change.
And as you’ve no doubt heard, Senator Harris, his vice-presidential pick, spent five years in Montreal, graduating in 1981 from Westmount High School.
Once border restrictions are lifted, perhaps President Biden (the Lord willing) could visit Montreal. After Ms. Harris has taken him on a tour of the city, the President and the Prime Minister could commit the United States and Canada to a renewed economic and security partnership.
It’s no secret that Mr. Biden, who is 77, may only serve one term. If so, Kamala Harris would be a strong, almost presumptive, candidate for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination. Canadians would welcome her as president over any Republican nominee you can think of.
In the past, Republican administrations have gotten on well with their Canadian counterparts. As president and prime minister, Dwight Eisenhower and Louis St. Laurent launched joint construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway; Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney signed the original Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement.
But the Republican Party has become something very dark. This week, Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican primary runoff in Georgia; she will almost certainly be elected to Congress. Ms. Greene embraces QAnon, a conspiracy theory that claims Mr. Trump is fighting a Satan-worshipping ring of pedophiles within the “deep state,” including the Democratic Party. Mr. Trump tweeted congratulations: “Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”
Canada’s national interest would best be served by Democratic administrations for many years to come. This presidential election of Nov. 3 will be more important to Canada’s future than any vote that happens here.