President Trump: Canadian Agriculture Hasn’t Seen Anything Yet

Everybody knows the story this week.  Last week I wrote a piece about the upcoming American presidential election.  Simply put, when you have the most powerful country on earth changing its leader it’s big news.  However, nobody really expected the result, including your loyal scribe.  I’m still getting used to the idea of President-elect Donald Trump.

If you’ve read this column over the last 30 years, you will know that I’m a big believer in polling.  In fact, back in the Stone Age when I finished my Master’s degree, my emphasis was market research, so I did polling, or at least the science behind it.  Polling done scientifically and properly with statistical significance was virtually never wrong.  So with virtually every legitimate polling firm calling for Hillary Clinton to be President, I was sucked in.  The only thing that might change that is some late surge in Trump support.  That may have been part of what happened.  However, I think most of us were just fooled because of poor polling.

So here we are, the nightmare many Canadians could never imagine.  We have a President that is against the Paris climate agreement, NAFTA and the TPP with his “America first” mantra.  With Canada being the US greatest trading partner, this is serious business.  While some people in Canadian agriculture have pegged their many hopes on trade, especially Western Canada, like I said last week, it’s time to get real.  I do expect President Elect Trump to proceed with everything that he has ever talked about.  Like I said last week, Canadians will just have to adjust.

The problem is, whoa, what an adjustment.  Many of you might be thinking that we were just going to cruise along with Hillary Clinton and everything would be fine.  However, with big radical change coming, this thing is not going to be easy.  Mr. Trump has the political capital to do whatever he wants, especially with both Houses of Congress being Republican.

Prime Minister Trudeau has responded appropriately post-election, just like he did pre-election.  The standard response for any Canadian Prime Minister is to adjust to the Americans and tell the press that we will work with whoever the Americans elect.  Mr. Trudeau said this before the election and now he has invited President-elect Trump to come to Canada at his earliest convenience.  With Mr. Trump talking about a very aggressive agenda post January 20th; I hope he fits that in.  Canada has much to preserve with US trade.  A winter meeting between Trump and Trudeau can’t hurt.

Keep in mind that I understand or at least I try to understand the reason for the Trump presidency.  First of all, he got the most electoral votes to win, which is always how it’s done.  However, he also got almost half the popular vote, which means he represents a large constituency within the United States that has real concerns.  Some Canadians, and some Americans for that matter might find some of the views that he expressed publicly repugnant; it’s difficult to be judgmental.  In Canada, we have our problems too and we have just as many issues with racism and misogyny as other countries.  As Mr. Obama said today on meeting Mr. Trump, he’s hoping to help him be successful during the transition.  As a Canadian, I’ll take that.

On election night the markets were extremely frenetic.  The Dow Jones futures plummeted, the same with grain markets, but they have even themselves out since then.  Hopefully, that will mean that everybody will be able to chill out or settle down regarding the new Presidency.  However, it’s always big news when the American President changes and with a former reality TV star and billionaire now transitioning, there is simply a lot more drama.

I’m also very aware the much of the political support for the Trump Presidency came from rural America and much of it from farmers themselves.  I would wager that this support would be the same with a different Republican.  I’m sure that the new President Trump can see this and he will likely be taking care of the American farmer very well.

The challenge for Canadian agriculture is to defend our interests over the obvious trade confrontation in front of us, but also have to remain competitive.  We are facing carbon taxes in this country, when our greatest trading partner looks to eliminate their participation in the Paris climate agreement.  That will certainly upset the competitive balance.  However, keep in mind that as we look ahead in the Trump Presidency, there’s going to be a lot of confrontation against conventional wisdom.  We might be the American’s best friend and ally, but how many times during the election campaign did you hear the word “Canada”?

I’ve written this column for the last 30 years.  In that time, I’ve seen a lot of Prime Minister and Presidents.  However, I could never imagine a President Trump.  Canadian agriculture hasn’t seen anything yet.