As any American who has spent time in Canada knows, our Neighbors to the North are for the most part very nice and civil people, sort of like a nation of Iowans. But beneath the surface, there is a perpetual simmering resentment of cultural, economic, and political domination by the Colossus to the South, the not-so-civil United States. The U.S. is often perceived in times of cross-border tension as an arrogant and ignorant bully. So when the U.S. is actually led by a proudly arrogant and ignorant bully who is treating Canada contemptuously, the reaction from Prince Edward Island to the Yukon is going to be intense.
Even before Trump blew up the G7 summit Canada hosted and tweeted nastygrams at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products caused an immediate backlash, as this June 7 summary of public opinion reported:
The decision by US President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum has caught public attention in Canada in a way that few trade issues ever have – and Canadians are mad.
58% strongly oppose Mr. Trump’s action against Canada and another 21% oppose the US tariffs. What’s more, Mr. Trump has managed to unite Canadians to an extent that few issues do: opposition to the US tariffs is roughly 80% in every part of the country. Conservative voters are 82% against Mr. Trump on this issue, NDP voters 80% and Liberals 87%.
Reaction to the counter-measures announced by the Canadian government has garnered a lot of support across the country. 41% strongly support the steps taken by the Prime Minister and another 30% support those actions. Only 19% are opposed.
Support for the retaliatory measures is 69% in Alberta and higher everywhere else. Among Conservative voters, 65% support the retaliation and 27% oppose it. Among NDP and Liberal voters support is 79% and 84%.
But Trump’s very Trumpian post-G7 attack on Trudeau as “dishonest and weak,” compounded by even wilder media attacks on the prime minister from Trump aides, absolutely enraged Canadians, who defended Trudeau even as he (shrewdly) kept a low profile, as Reuters reports:
Canada’s House of Commons on Monday unanimously condemned the personal attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by U.S. President Donald Trump and his surrogates as the famously polite nation simmered over the weekend broadsides by its U.S. ally….
The prime minister’s silence on Monday came in sharp contrast to a roar of disapproval among Canadian politicians, who banded together across party lines to denounce Trump’s attack and praise the bilateral and trading relationship between the two neighbors.
While the agreement of legislators who are normally opposed on most fronts was remarkable, the anger also spread to pundits, officials, celebrities and ordinary citizens as Canadians vowed consumer boycotts of American goods and brainstormed insults of Trump on social media.
Indeed, there’s even a sense that Trump has carelessly triggered a watershed moment in Canadian political history, as National Post columnist John Ivison suggested:
More immediately, Trump has done a lot to strengthen the “weak” Justin Trudeau. As another columnist, the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente, explained, the whole country is for the moment in his corner:
Not everyone in Canada is a fan of Justin Trudeau. But he’s our guy. And when the biggest bully on the block tries to push our guy around, we know whose side we’re on. Even people who normally revile everything that Mr. Trudeau stands for have rallied to his side.
“Canada’s Conservatives continue to support the Prime Minister’s efforts to make the case for free trade,” tweeted Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
“We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Prime Minister and the people of Canada,” tweeted Doug Ford, the liberal-loathing premier-designate of Ontario.
It’s unclear how long this solidarity will last. Canada’s next regularly scheduled national election is in October of 2019 (it could, under their system, be called earlier). Trudeau’s Liberals won a majority of seats in the House of Commons in 2015, but have been more or less running neck and neck with the Conservatives in recent polling. The perceived need to display a united front against the U.S. in the apparently. oncoming trade war will obviously help Trudeau, while its near-unanimity may limit the partisan advantage he derives from it. Ultimately Canadians understand their economic destiny is tied to the U.S. in ways that make their country the likely loser in any protracted conflict. But let’s just say that if Trump’s party receives a spanking in the 2018 midterms, some of the loudest cheers will come from north, as well as south, of the border.