Talking to Americans

As NAFTA negotiations begin, Canadian politicians must find a way to debate publicly without calling each other traitors

THE CANADIAN PRESS / Sean Kilpatrick

Let us begin with the stakes: About three-quarters of Canada’s exports go to the United States, four hundred thousand people cross the border every day, and somewhere in the vicinity of 2.5 million Canadian jobs depend, in one way or another, on trade with the United States. NAFTA is for us, as the cliché has it, an existential issue—the cliché being completely correct in this case. And now the terrible day we have dreaded since the election of Trump has arrived, and negotiations are set to begin on August 16. This state of crisis has provoked a particularly Canadian series of questions on the nature of political manners. Who has the right to talk about our business, how, and in what venues?

Until recently, to the credit of both parties, politicians in both the Liberals and the Conservatives have shown an extraordinary level of cooperation when it comes to the potential catastrophe of a Trump presidency. It’s not just Brian Mulroney using his connections in Florida and offering his advice, as exceptional and laudable as that was. In February, the interim Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, wrote a letter to Chrystia Freeland in turn praised the Conservatives for joining forces across the aisle and refusing to play politics with

It was McKenna, also, who connected the discussion of the Khadr settlement with trade. The idea seems to be that any discussion of Canadian matters on American media is inappropriate, an “airing of dirty laundry” that will harm our national interests.