The dust has settled north of the border and the Canadians have swept a new, liberal government into power under the leadership of Justin Trudeau. The first question which likely jumped up in the minds of many Americans was… so what? Canada is an ally and a strong trading partner, particularly when it comes to oil. They make some awesome maple syrup and have rather odd tastes in donuts, but aside from that we can pretty much leave them to their own devices, right? The liberals in charge may be far more fanatical about environmental issues and are more likely to criticize conservative values, but aside from that what’s really going to change? They’re unlikely to cut off their nose to spite their own face by shutting off our oil deals and there was never anything to be done about the donuts to begin with.
But it may be more complicated than that… at least a little. One of the first shots fired across the bow is highlighted by the Washington Post today. Canada will pull out of the fight against ISIS.
Justin Trudeau, the dashing son of political legend Pierre Trudeau, ushered in Canada’s first political dynasty with a stunning victory in national elections. But the incoming prime minister made clear Tuesday that he will chart his own path and introduce change after nine years of Conservative government.
A day after defeating Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Trudeau told President Obama by phone that he would make good on a campaign promise to withdraw Canada’s jets from the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Canada has committed a half-dozen fighter planes, a fraction of the American air power in the fight.
So we’re losing a commitment of… six planes. I don’t think our entire strategy would collapse based on that change even if we had an actual strategy in Syria. But symbolism still counts for something on the international stage and Canada is regarded as one of our staunchest allies. Having them snub the President on military matters is a bad sign which lends credence to the growing sense that America can no longer hold together a coalition against the dark forces of the world. I’d love to post an argument against that perception here but there’s a lot of truth to it.
Returning to the energy and trade question, in the same report it’s also noted that Trudeau claims to be a supporter of Keystone XL and that he disagrees with Barack Obama on that subject. But at the same time he wants a warm relationship, rather than one that “focuses on a single disagreement on a pipeline.”
Be that as it may, simply wanting Keystone approved isn’t the same as actively pushing to get it done. It also ties back to that whole international perception thing. As the Daily Caller pointed out last night, a meek Trudeau will undermine efforts to continue to build America’s reputation as an energy powerhouse.
Trudeau may be pro-Keystone, but he’s more concerned with having good relations with the U.S. than an oil pipeline. Trudeau believes good relations with the U.S. should not hinge on Keystone’s approval. It’s unlikely Trudeau will openly criticize Obama over Keystone like Harper was keen to do. In fact, Trudeau’s Liberal Party is rabidly anti-Keystone.
The Liberal Party’s campaign co-chair recently resigned after a memo he wrote was leaked to the press detailing how TransCanada, the company looking to build Keystone, could effectively lobby a Liberal Canadian government.
None of this amounts to a crisis situation for the United States and we have much bigger fish to fry elsewhere. But it’s still worth keeping this in mind and seeing how Canada fares under their new liberal leaders. In terms of their relationship with us it’s clearly not the beginning of any sort of back bacon driven cold war, but it’s one more relationship for the United States where the situation is deteriorating.
They can keep those Tim Horton donuts, though. Yeesh.