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Despite assurances by a CEO who advises Donald Trump, seen speaking at the White House on Friday, that the President loves Canada, uncertainty surrounding trade has left investment in Canadian businesses vulnerable.

Evan Vucci/AP

It was U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt who coined the phrase "the bully pulpit."

And for more than a century it's been a key feature of U.S. presidential power. Presidents have used their podium to sway public opinion and counter the constitutional checks and balances that otherwise limit their ability to get things done.

Donald Trump is putting the bully back in the bully pulpit by shaming and threatening companies to join his "America first" campaign.

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And it appears to be working. Ford has scrapped plans to put a factory in Mexico. Amazon is hiring 100,000 new employees. Foxconn, the Taiwanese maker of iPhones, is talking about building a massive U.S. plant employing 50,000 people. SoftBank of Japan is pledging $50-billion (U.S.) in new investments.

These corporate decisions are a bad omen for Canada. By default, this country becomes a less attractive place to invest when the United States is loudly demanding a bigger piece of the pie.

"Regardless of what eventually transpires, a cloud of uncertainty will hang over manufacturing investment in Canada given the sizable list of unknowns," Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Brian DePratto pointed out in a research note this week. "Until there is more clarity, Canadian business investment is likely to suffer."

More uncertainty is the last thing Canada needs right now. Business investment has fallen for eight consecutive quarters, stretching to 2014.

And that's before the Trump administration does anything overtly protectionist on the trade front. Uncertainty is having the same effect.

The range of potential investment killers is large, although exactly what the United States will do – and when – is unknown.

Renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement is a virtual certainty, with the Trump team expected to push for stricter domestic-content rules for products allowed into the United States duty free. Mr. Trump has also talked about using a "massive" targeted border tax to protect U.S. jobs. Meanwhile, Republicans in the U.S. Congress are pushing a "border-adjusted" corporate-tax overhaul that would lower the overall tax rate, penalize imports and subsidize exports.

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Any of these measures would disrupt supply chains, created to take advantage of the region's free-trade zone. Mexican plants owned by Canadian auto-parts makers might no longer make economic sense in a NAFTA 2.0 world.

"Canadian companies, particularly in automotive, would have to make a choice of shutting down in Mexico and moving back to Canada, or relocating to the U.S.," argued Toronto lawyer Mark Warner, who led the Ontario government's legal team in the 2008 bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler.

"I suspect they would go to the U.S."

Even less intrusive protectionist measures risk making Canada a less attractive place to invest. Any impairment of trade, particularly to the United States, will weigh on economic growth.

The cratering in investment in the oil sands appears to have bottomed out.

But investment in much of the rest of the economy remains anemic, and vulnerable. In a report released this week, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said recent declines in business spending are broad-based across the economy, affecting spending on intellectual property, software and research-and-development.

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Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz has also become increasingly preoccupied with the rise of uncertainty since the U.S. election. The central bank acknowledged in its latest Monetary Policy Report that "uncertainty" has become a greater impediment to business investment than it previously thought, in part because demand is weak, but also because of the Trump effect. "Future U.S. policies could also incite firms to invest in the United States rather than in Canada," the bank warned.

Maybe we're all fretting too much. Canada, after all, is not Mr. Trump's main target. Blackstone Group chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, who heads a group of CEOs providing advice to Mr. Trump, told the federal cabinet in Calgary this week that Mr. Trump loves Canada and that we should not be "enormously worried."

Unfortunately, somewhere between staying chill and freaking out is a whole lot of uncertainty for Canadian companies.

And that's toxic for investment.

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