Transcript: CSPS Virtual Café Series: Canada and the New US Administration - What Can We Expect?
Taki Sarantakis: Welcome. I'm Taki Sarantakis and this is the current instalment of the CSPS virtual cafe where we grab a real coffee and virtually we talk about interesting things that are relevant for public servants to know. We talk about ideas, not about policy. And we talk not about partisanship, but we talk about how to learn from current events. And today we are talking about probably the ultimate current event, which is today's Inauguration Day in the great... we're called the Great White North. So that's the Big South, the incoming administration of President Joseph Biden and the outgoing administration of Donald Trump.
The administration of Donald Trump has ended. So, what does that mean for Canada? We have with us today three distinguished guests. We have Sue Lagon, who is a constitutional expert at Georgetown University. We have Christopher Sands, who is a Canada-US expert at Johns Hopkins University. And we have our old friend, Scotty Greenwood, who is many, many things, Canada-US Business Council, Crestview, and a bunch of other stuff. But we like her because she's smart and because she speaks her mind and because we learn from people who are smart and speak their mind.
As we said, the administration of Donald Trump is over. Scotty, before we look forward, let's look back for a moment. What have the last 4 years of this administration meant to Canada-US relations?
Scotty Greenwood: Well, Taki, it's been the best of times, it's been the worst of times. We've had an incredible 4 years and on Inauguration Day, normally for the last 20-plus years, I would be on the roof of the Canadian embassy in Washington, DC. I would be, you know, it's like being in the owner's box at a venue because you get to have the canapés inside. You get to walk outside and see the event.
This year, of course, that's not happening for a lot of very serious reasons having to do with the security of the fundamental American ideal, which is peaceful transition of power. But best of times, worst of times. You know, Canada-US, it's... it would be too easy and axiomatic to say it's been all bad because Trump has been a disaster in foreign policy. Because the truth is, we did negotiate the most modern trade agreement for the largest economic relationship on Earth, and we did that. Canada, the United States and Mexico did that in spite of inflammatory rhetoric coming out of Washington and because of our shared values. And we did it, by the way, in Washington in a bipartisan way, maybe the only bipartisan, maybe two bipartisan accomplishments over the last 4 years. This was one of them, and so that's not insignificant.
It's even more important, Taki, because I don't see another trade agreement coming out of Washington in 2 years, maybe even for 4 years. So this is it. The new NAFTA is the model for the world. It is how this continent will do business in the world. And that is, I don't mean to say everything is commercial because there are big issues. I'm sure we'll talk about the fragility of our democracy. We talk about all of the, you know, the public health crisis, the social injustice crisis, the cybersecurity threats, the global issues. You know, all of those things are really big and Canada and the United States are involved in all of those things in different ways together. But we did accomplish something quite meaningful in terms of how we're literally going to do business together.
The other thing is we, as everyone I think knows, our border is closed to casual travel. We can't normalize that. We can't keep that going forever. And so that's on the to do list. And that's obviously directly related and because of the public health emergency we find ourselves in. So that's how... that's how I see things.
Taki: So you can tell how this is going to go because of our three panellists here. Scotty is the only non-doctor, so she's actually pretty smart even for the fact that she's not a doctor.
Scotty: So I'm just trying to keep up, you know, like just trying to keep up.
Taki: Exactly. So, Christopher, before we look forward, tell us what the last 4 years of the just-ended administration have meant for Canada-US relations?
Christopher Sands: Well, I agree with Scotty. It's been a remarkably productive period. And maybe I'd put some of the responsibility for that on the people who's... who... like the people watching this program. They may not be, have their name in the papers, but the professionals, the public servants of both sides have really worked a number of files. And obviously USMCA is one of those and Scotty mentioned a couple of them. But look, it was remarkable that the US and Canada were able to restrict the border so quickly, almost within a few days. And they've been renewing it every 30 days, some minor tweaks. That was a remarkable achievement. The United States closed the border with China and closed travel to Europe for a while. But with Canada, we had a partnership and that was built on trust going back and forth on the public health crisis, Covid obviously has put a damper on a lot of... of... of the economy, etc. But, you know, the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, which worked closely, closely with the Health Products and Food Branch in Canada, they've been looking at vaccines together, they've been comparing notes on how we manage this crisis, what's the best advice on masks and so on. So there's been a huge amount of data sharing that's going on. Then you go to something like the need to get our economy back. And Scotty's a great advocate of the rebound, and I know that's in the future. But even now, talking about how will we use infrastructure and is some of that infrastructure going to have to connect? How do we get the economy going again? Tremendous challenge. Neither of our economies are where we want them to be and as soon as we can get past Covid, we've got to work together to get those economies going, and a recovery in the US benefits Canada. So the level of cooperation is really fantastic, and if there's a degree... If there's anybody I would give credit to for the fact that we've gotten so much done, certainly not President Trump, who was a bit of a disruptor. It's definitely been the people who work, toil away below the decks, but have done us a great service and kept this relationship in good shape.
Taki: Thank you. Sue, I'm going to ask you a slightly modified version of the question, because in addition to being a constitutional scholar, you also have a bit of a historical bent that you like to kind of look back and give us what we call sometimes a longue durée. What do the last 4 years, from your perspective, look like in terms of the broader Canada-US relationship that in some ways has been going on since before 1776?
Sue Lagon: I'm glad you asked that question, because I certainly can't think of a time after 1812 when the relationship within the US is as significant, I think, as the relationship across that famous unprotected border. I think really it's a difference in tone that's going to be most pronounced and already is. And former President Trump visited Canada once and was rather disparaging of Prime Minister Trudeau, where, as President Biden and Vice President Harris have a personal connection, a genuine fondness for Canada, apart from all the understanding of its significance for security, trade and so forth. So I think we're really embarking on a new era and it's kind of a back to normalcy in many ways, treating allies as allies, rebuilding some of those alliances. Remember that President Trump came without any experience in government, indeed that was one of the things that he touted, whereas it's hard to find someone who has as much experience, particularly on the international stage, as President Biden does, you know. He served for years at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he also served on the NATO oversight board. This is someone who understands alliances and I think is eager to treat allies as allies. And then the policy differences, I think, are going to be significant. Sometimes the US system has been criticised as being in an incremental change. And I think after the Trump administration, the change will be pronounced in some areas, some of which I think Canada will no doubt welcome, but also a few that maybe will be problematic, particularly in some areas. So I'm looking forward to getting into that with you.
Taki: So I'm actually going to jump off one of your points, Sue. And I want to poke and prod Chris and Scotty a little bit on what you said to get their take on this. You said a variant of kind of the end of the Trump administration kind of brings us back a little bit to normalcy, it kind of, it returns us to a state. I think that's absolutely fundamentally true in terms of tone and tenor and things like that. But there are a lot of issues that are on the table. You know, steel, aluminium, vaccines, etc., etc., etc., infrastructure. So if I'm a policy analyst or a program officer or an inspector at Transport Canada or CRA or CBSA or our food inspection agency, is it 2015 again or like... I don't know. Is that true? Like have we seen kind of the end of say "America First" or have we, are we now past the era where Canadian steel and Canadian aluminium are security threats? So why don't we start with you, Scotty?
Scotty: Well, you know, I think it's a return to decorum in foreign policy, and I agree with Sue that the President and his team, their instincts are for global engagement and treating allies like allies, which seems like it should be obvious but it is a departure, obviously, from the last 4 years. However, the historic challenge that Canada had pre Trump was getting sufficient attention on bilateral issues and getting its sufficient attention in Washington DC, which is the capital of attention deficit, you know, on solving some of the bilateral issues, and I think that will be even more pronounced. The challenge of getting attention on issues.
You mentioned a few lumber, steel, etc. And the reason is that while there is a return to decorum and regular order, if you will, in our foreign engagement, domestically, as we saw it in that week in January with the violent insurrection, we have a real problem on our hands. And Joe Biden, the president now, you know, ran on a campaign of restoring the soul of America and repeatedly says that he wants to reach out to people that didn't vote for him. The challenge we have is the insurrectionists and their supporters, they're not all crazy extremists, many of them are our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans truly believe, truly believe that the election was actually stolen. And if you believe that and if you love the country and you believe in the Constitution and you don't believe what you're hearing from political leaders or from the media or anybody else, we've got a real disconnect and it's too easy to moralise or to dismiss them or whatever. And so I say this in the context of Canada-U.S because there is a big project in the United States to heal, to have a dialogue and to heal differences now, something that I think could bring us together. For example, Biden already cares about is infrastructure, so it doesn't matter if you think the election was stolen or not, it doesn't matter if you like or hate Joe Biden or Donald Trump. You really do feel like we need broadband everywhere. You really do feel like you don't want bridges and roads to crumble. You really do feel like we need basic infrastructure. So that's an area of common ground. And we need to recover the economy. So if we could move forward on infrastructure, blue collar jobs, red states, blue states, that would be the kind of thing that will help us advance the other discussion, I think, although not directly. And that's an opportunity and a challenge for Canada, because Canada has a lot of not only a lot of capital, but a lot of expertise to offer on public-private partnerships, infrastructure, etc. We have to get through the Buy American. We have to figure out how we navigate Buy American tendencies, which, by the way, are not new. They're not unique to Joe Biden. They're not unique to... they've been around forever. And Canada has been relatively good in the past, 2008 economic recovery being the best example recently of saying "OK, when you say Buy American, you really mean Buy North America." So there will be a lot of that underway. But that is, that is well down the road in terms of what people here are thinking about. People here are thinking about: How do we save our democracy? How do we talk to each other as human beings and fellow citizens? How do we trust each other and how do we move forward? And so, so the Canadian issue - things that dominate the front pages in Canada. You know, the softwood lumber dispute is always page one above the, above the fold every 5 or 6 years when it comes up again, you know, when whatever the most recent negotiated agreement expires, you know, there's sort of this flurry of attention and activity in Canada and nobody in the United States is paying the slightest bit of attention to it. And so that will be, you know, part of the challenge. So, yes, decorum. Yes, a president who wants to interact with allies but also has big foreign challenges, big domestic challenges, and because the Canada-US relationship is basically all right and doing well, it will be harder, I think, relatively. You'll have to... We will have to be smarter and more creative about engaging in a way that Canada, Canadian, Canada-US issues are dealt with. One other little thing I'll add at the end, I try to never disagree with Chris Sands because, you know, he will kick my butt in an intellectual debate every day, all day long.
Taki: He's a doctor.
Scotty: That's right. But the one slight semantic difference I would have is if we were to replay the transcript of this excellent interview. He talked about our economies. What I... my one edit to that is, it is really one economy like it is actually one economy. And if we could get more Americans thinking about it as one economy, we would do better. The challenge there is, I'd like to say it's one North American economy and we should treat North America exactly the same but there are big challenges in Mexico and they are getting bigger. And so, you know, whereas in the negotiations of the USMCA, I was thinking, we need to be trilateral. Everything is trilateral. I now really think that the Mexico issues are quite different and Canada-United States are going to have to surge ahead with our one economy. Different politics, obviously, but we're going to have to do... we're going to have to do that, so.
Taki: That's, as always Scotty, very prescient because continentalism is something that we'll get into a little bit later. Chris, is it 2015? Is it, are we at the beginning of year 9 of the Obama administration, the Canada-US relations, or is it something new?
Christopher: It is something new and I'm going to pick up on... on Scotty's points a little bit. So to unpack a little bit what we're dealing with, it's important to kind of take the focus away. I know this is ironic, but take the focus away from just the President and absolutely the President, the Prime Minister are like a fire department for the relationship; they're there when we have a real crisis. But, everything else matters in this relationship. If you look at the Cabinet, many of the key portfolios for Canada are what we would normally consider as domestic portfolios, even though they have an international role, Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Interior, Department of Energy. And so those all need cabinet secretaries, have to be confirmed. I think when you have a Congress, this tight confirmation is not necessarily going to be a cakewalk. So you have to see how long it takes to get people in place. We used to talk about the first 100 days for an administration being sort of that crucial test of momentum, and we were recently talking about first 18 months because it does take so long to get started and 2022, our next election, you know, we have them all the time, is coming. And so I think there's always the risk of over estimating what you can get done because Washington makes it so hard to get things done. I mentioned Congress. Interesting thing about Congress, which we did not have at the end of the Obama administration, are these very tight margins in the House and in the Senate. Yes, Democratic control, but what happens when it's that tight is every vote matters. And when every vote matters, some Democrats who support the President and like Canada will say, "Well, I'm going to hold out because I want to get something for my district or I want to get something for my state." And so the log rolling, the back and forth with Congress is just that much more, takes that much more of the President's time. It'll take a lot of Kamala Harris' time. Vice President Harris presides in the Senate. Now in better times with a big majority, she might be able to be away a bit more, but she's going to be tied to the Senate a little bit and that will affect the role that she can play. So that's the Congress. Now, the judiciary, as you've noticed from our last couple of Supreme Court nominations, and there were two problems. One is our judiciary has become viewed just as people worry about the integrity election. A lot of people worry that our justice system, our judges are maybe a little political and we started to politicise their role rather than see them as sort of neutral arbiters or referees as, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts likes to try to position the court. And we've also developed the political culture in the US, very different from Canada's, I might say, of litigating policy differences. So something passes, something is going to sue and somebody is going to sue to try to get an injunction to start having this discussion all over again. Bruce Hayman, the former US ambassador, going back to the 9th year of the Obama administration. You know, he likes to say that the true national sport of Canada is not hockey, but negotiation. And the true national sport of the US is litigation. We love this stuff, but it doesn't always help us get things done. And you saw that during the Trump administration, he would make a decision and it would immediately be challenged in multiple courts and hold things up, maybe for good reasons. But that is now part of the culture. I think that's going to make things a bit harder too. So I'm going to now pivot a little bit and try to give you some good news. Hard as it is to do all of those things, I think Scotty is exactly right to point out that with things like infrastructure, the States matter and the States matter for two reasons. One, they're the implementers of a lot of the infrastructure build, etc. But also they're important regulators for certification of credentials and standards, they play an important role. But so far in the history of our North American cooperation, the governors, the premiers, they made their efforts and they have their friends across the border, but they haven't played a major role. I think we're going to see in this 4 years, as Washington ties itself in some knots, real opportunities at that state/provincial level. And because our federalism isn't the same, sometimes Ottawa will be the appropriate partner for Sacramento in California. We can't just assume it's not, it's not always the same. So real opportunity there, and also, here's the other twist for me. This was an election and our parties, the Republicans, Democrats, we love them. They are big tent parties and their bases are shifting and their bases are shifting because the biggest block in the electorate for most of my lifetime were the baby boomers and we had fairly stable personalities of what we expected from Democrats and Republicans. Whereas the millennials have become the most important generation, there's some churn and we're seeing some maybe different look in a different approach that each party is taking. As a result, even though we just had an election of two people over 70 at the top and, and some, some definite baby boomers in the number two slot, we're going to start seeing generation X, millennial and younger baby boomers really coming to the fore. And they're often in the States, they're governors, maybe they're senators, they're House members. This is a tremendous opportunity for Canada to make some new friends with the rising generation of leadership. You've already gone with Justin Trudeau, a younger generation. We haven't, but this is an opportunity for Canada. And that sort of concluding with this, I think that what we've talked about in the economy is having a k-shaped recovery where some go up and some go down. I think we're going have a k-shaped relationship where certain issues, if you prioritise, can be brought up to that presidential level and we can get big things done. But a lot of issues have to be put on the off-ramp and continue to have them below decks, continue to engage the bureaucratic level. If it's not political, don't make it political, because it'd be so hard to get things done. You'll have to be very selective about what goes on top, but that doesn't mean everything else can't proceed. You just have to move it to the level where there's going to be some traction, and I think that's the States and it's inside the various government departments that we have.
Scotty: Well, Taki, if I could just jump in just on that one point. You also can't make everything political with the firefighters, as Chris said, aptly says because, because at some point this spring, Canada is likely to have an election, right? So there's going to be a period of time, which is crucial at the beginning of the Biden administration, where you're off running your own election up there. And so there won't be this opportunity to engage politically because everybody's going to be running for office. So and mercifully, that's a short period in Canada because in the United States, we're always in an election and whatever. But so there's this window that's right now and then it's put on ice where to Chris' point about the business of the relationship and the officials back and forth and the premiers and governors, and premiers and feds in the case of the US, will have to continue because you'll have, you'll just have this blip, really, but it's a blip at a crucial early moment in the Biden administration where maybe you figure out who's going to lead for a while and if there's a crucial Canada-US thing, you know, it keeps going at the working level and the US can worry about some other things for a couple of months.
Taki: You know, and that's an important point. That's a point that Scotty makes to our students over the activities that we bring her to. That if you're a policy or a program officer in the Government of Canada working on Canada-US files, the last thing you want is that file to become kind of a public issue. The last thing you want is for a lot of attention on that; be it media or otherwise. You want to solve those problems at as low a level as you can and make them as transactional as possible, as opposed to making them about sovereignty or making them about identity or making them about, you know, here's the line in the sand. Sue, Chris mentioned something that's really, really important. That as Canadians, even as informed Canadians, we often forget about our US cousins, which is that other things happened on November 3rd. It wasn't just the election of a president. And could you unpack a little bit what else happened on November 3rd? Chris mentioned a few of them. He talked about the House. He talked about the Senate. But could you give us a little bit more detail on that? Because for us Canadians watching the news, it seems like Senate Majority Leader McConnell has been Senate majority leader for 150 years in Senate. House Leader Pelosi has been the House leader for 150 years and these things are written in the Constitution. What else happened on November 3rd that will impact on Canada-US relations?
Sue: Well, it's worth pointing out that a lot of these folks have been around for a long time. I mean, the top three leaders for the Democrats in the House who were recently re-elected are in their 80s now. What is different, I think, is the emphasis on the millennial vote having some impact on issues, and I think this is where you're going to see a real shift and some of them will align very well with Canada. I suspect the Biden administration's attitudes toward climate change will be vigorous. And indeed, that's a sort of a two-edged sword. But issues that a lot of the younger voters care about have come to the fore. Frankly, all of us expected this would be a better year for Democrats than it was. And they lost and they lost big in the House, again, confounding most of the people like me who were often asked, so what's going to happen? I think a lot of emphasis that you're going to see on some issues relevant to Canada are a direct result of the electoral situation. Biden won those Rust Belt states that are so critically important to Democrats. And I think a lot of things about infrastructure will play there. You know, the Clean Energy is a sort of a two-edged sword, I would think, for Canada, especially because the incoming interior secretary, Deb Holland, is our first Native American Cabinet Secretary. She was at Standing Rock in solidarity. She says climate change is the issue of our lifetime. Biden has already proposed two trillion dollars in spending for environmental programs. So to some extent, a lot of these things are good news, bad news. Immigration is another area certainly that a lot of the voters we used to think would be fairly energised about. But the bottom line, I think, is this election was about Covid-19 for most voters who were polled, even more than the economy. And of course, those issues are intimately linked as a result because the impact of Covid, I think, we will go on for some years, in that k-shaped recovery can't come soon enough, I think, for a lot of us. But what happened was it was a good night for Republicans, which may seem ironic in that they lost the White House, but Chris is absolutely right. Another unexplored dimension often is why we're here, and that's the hardworking civil servants whose morale really needs to be boosted in this new administration. It is difficult to overstate how beleaguered some of those folks who are working at the programmatic level have felt. It's been a lot of acting leadership at the top with people who aren't Senate confirmed. It's been a tremendous transition in our cabinet secretaries and the omnipresent threat of being fired, which, of course, any president can do. But, you know, the last one made his living telling people they were fired. So good night for the Republicans despite presidential level. The point on the courts, I think, is essential. This is an area where when President Trump came into office, he had a laser-like focus on getting judges appointed to vacancies on the appellate courts, knowing that because we are so litigious, that's often the last stop for many legal cases. And that was a very successful effort in that we now have lots and lots of Trump-appointed judges at the district court level and the appellate level and of course, at the Supreme Court. So ultimately, things are going to wind up at the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see if President Biden has an opportunity to shape the lower courts and possibly even the Supreme Court down the road. But if we've learnt anything, I think from this past election, it's that humans are volatile creatures and I think the fact that we had the highest turnout we have ever seen in the midst of what could arguably be called one of the most divisive periods in our history is a sort of a paradox. People turn out when it matters and it mattered this time.
Taki: So, Sue, the... I think the House is now Democratic, correct? Right.
Scotty: And that's going to change in the next cycle.
Taki: The Senate is now 50/50 with Vice President Harris casting the deciding vote. Well, so that's something important for Canadian policymakers to think about, because it's not just the President on November 3rd or January 21st. And it's a whole different dynamic to deal with. And regardless of who's kind of in the majority or the minority, it is so close, as I think Christopher said, that a lot of people are going to be holding chits and saying, you want this on softwood lumber, I want this on...fill in the blank. Scotty, the President, President Biden has started naming his cabinet. You're familiar with some of those people? Some of them are your friends. Give us a little bit of insight on where some particular people maybe land on Canada-US relations. How do they see Canada? We know the Vice President actually spent time in Canada. She was at McGill for a while. But tell us maybe if, if you're aware of maybe some Canadian connections or some attitudes towards Canada or some prospective intel for our viewers.
Scotty: Sure thing. So whatever history people bring to the table with these very talented leaders, it's all subordinate to the Biden agenda. So it's important. That having been said, I don't think the President will micromanage his cabinet. So, you know, where you come from might be relevant, and there are some quirky little things that now we can't presuppose that everybody's been confirmed, right? Because I think it's true that there will be, you know, there's a vetting process, there's a confirmation process. And, inevitably, even though the Senate is now Democratic, barely, and there may be, there may be, there's always somebody unexpected that, that goes down in flames for, you know, whatever historic reasons or whatever politics. So can't presuppose everybody's going to be confirmed. But look at the Commerce Secretary designee, Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, very pragmatic, talented governor of a tiny state. She has strong views about some maritime issues, you know, that have an interest in Canada-US twice. Now, I'm not saying she's going to bring those to the Commerce Department, but she has this point of view of the Governor of Rhode Island, you know, the New England states as close as they are culturally to the Canadian Maritimes when it comes to things like fishing rights and lobster fishing and overfishing and countermeasures by the Chinese and whatever, it starts to get serious, right. And they compete against each other, whether it's the snow crab fisheries or the lobster fisheries or whatever. So you can see somebody like Gina Raimondo from Rhode Island, the Ocean State, having just, you know, from her own personality, sort of a point of view about Canadian fisheries that you might not have expected otherwise. And so she will be susceptible to pressure from Congress to be tough on Canada if there is a contest between Canadian fishery policy in the US, which we've seen over the years. You could also see something like that on ports, to the extent our ports compete with each other for global business, right. Canadian ports serve the Canadian market, but also they do a lot of business and I do some work with the Canadian ports. They do a lot of business that is destined... You know, something that comes in from Prince Rupert is ultimately destined for Chicago sometimes and then off through the rest of the US. So anyway, so that'll be interesting to see the point of view that that some of these cabinet secretaries bring. I think Pete Buttigieg is a very interesting choice as Transportation Secretary. He's going to be, excuse me, one of these generational leaders, new generation of leaders that I think will relate to the... relate to Canada in a way that's different. Then it's not the historic NATO alliance or we fought together side by side in Korea, it's what can we do together on green infrastructure? So you would see somebody like Pete Buttigieg, I think, relating really well to somebody like Catherine McKenna or Seamus O'Regan. So I think there's going to be some natural camaraderie there. Jennifer Granholm, the incoming... she was governor of Michigan, born in Canada, and incoming Secretary of Energy, again assuming confirmation. Well, she was Governor when there were real challenges with the Enbridge spill, right? And so now you see Canada, United States quite worried about what's known as Line 5, which is essentially a pipeline that runs through, you know, it's from Canada to Canada, but it runs through several states, including Michigan and others. And there is a real issue that's current where you've got the secretary designee, the Secretary of Energy, who has experience with a very challenging oil spill from a Canadian company, and we've got to work through these things. But... so each of these cabinet secretaries has their own history and story with Canada, some of it quite positive and some of it competitive or negative. And so, so we'll have to work through those things.
Taki: Chris, I'll ask you if you have any insight to add on cabinet secretaries vis-à-vis the Canada-US angle, but if you don't, maybe you can talk to us about a senator or congressman that we might not know about that has particular ideas on Canada-US or a particular agenda that we should be aware of.
Scotty: You got to let me back in on that one after Chris talks.
Christopher: Well, you know, I think, I think one of the things that Scotty said that's interesting in that regard is what she's talking about. New England. One of the things we find with people from border states is familiarity with Canada can actually sometimes cut both ways. Sometimes it means that you love the Canadians and other times it means you're dealing with local issues. I remember in Michigan for a while after we had Canada's free trade, we had all these cross-border shoppers and because of the de minimis rules for what you could bring back to Canada, you couldn't go to a shopping mall or in those days at Kmart and not find Canadians' kids' shoes dropped in the parking lot because they just got new shoes for school, but they didn't want to pay duty on them, so they wore them home. Like, those little things, I remember Bill Cohen when he became Secretary of Defence some time ago. His biggest historical focus on Canada was potatoes, and there was a potato blight between New Brunswick, Maine and some PEI and it was a huge dispute. So that's my first comment, which is just that sometimes, yes, they know you, but sometimes that comes with history and that's not always positive. The second thing I would say is that it's interesting when you talk about senators, senators tend to get re-elected, so we've seen some of these faces before and they're back, but we have a few of the new senators that are going to come in and we have to figure out, you know, how their personality is going to be. I would actually focus attention on sort of the new faces just because they may not have as long a history on Canada-US issues as a long time senator would. But on those names I'm going to defer to Scotty because she knows people better than I do, I think.
Scotty: I don't know people better than you do. But if you, if you want a name, a name that Canadians might not be focussed on, except for the true political junkies like you, Taki, Congressman Jim Clyburn, South Carolina, the majority whip, he is, if you had to choose one person that got Joe Biden... saved Joe Biden's campaign in the primary and brought it forward, it would be Jim Clyburn. He is the guy and he continues to save this presidency and you know he's someone who... so he's extremely high ranking, very influential. Don't know if Canadians, if Jim Clyburn is a name that Canadians are familiar with. He's also been to the oil sands. He is very pro-business and open minded on issues like Keystone XL. He is not dogmatic. And so that's somebody who is incredibly important to Joe Biden, he's important to Speaker Pelosi, he's important to our country, and he's very important. You think about the Senate being 50-50. So Chuck Schumer of New York is the majority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York. And Chuck Schumer, by the way, is up for re-election, Chris mentioned the 2020 elections, by the way, well underway. If you're exhausted and have election fatigue, sorry, because we're fully in, there are the 2022 Senate race. So every senator is focussed on do we get... do the Democrats retain control or do the Republicans take it back? And that's important to everybody because it means whether you're the majority, you get to be chair of the committee and set the rules or you're the ranking member. So the 2022 Senate control is hot. Chuck Schumer himself is up in 2022. He has to worry about his left flank. He has to worry about AOC. So he has that. He's also got a very challenging job of navigating a huge policy agenda that the country is dependent on, public health, economic recovery, foreign policy, etc. So there's a lot to be done. How does he feel about Canada? Man, I took a group in to see him a couple of years ago. Business leaders, Canadian CEOs, or we took a group, I should say it wasn't just me. And they wanted to have a broad conversation about a lot of Canada-US issues, and this is, this is before the renegotiation of the NAFTA. The only thing Schumer wanted to talk, the only reason he took the meeting, as it turns out in retrospect, and the only thing he wanted to say, he you know, he comes late. We've got big-shot CEOs sitting around a room in the capital waiting for the minority leader to, you know, appear. And he comes late, he walks in, he basically yells at them. He's very aggressive. He's a New Yorker, about how outraged he is about Canadian dairy policy and then he leaves. He's like and tell that to your Prime Minister. And there weren't any farmers in that room. There weren't any, you know what I mean? And they were put off like they felt it was rude, they thought they're going to have a dialogue or whatever. But to me, it was a great illustration of the only reason he took the meeting was so that he could say, you know, every chance I get, I beat up on Canada because the upstate New York dairy farmers are disadvantaged by Canadian dairy policy. And it got a little better through USMCA, but it ain't fixed.
Taki: Because it's a... it dovetails back to what Chris said, which is sometimes the familiarity isn't, doesn't necessarily lead to what we think it leads to. Sometimes you're better off kind of not knowing each other because you don't know about the dairy or the lumber or the steel or...
Scotty: People are much more attractive in the abstract.
Taki: So, now I want to get back to something that Scotty talked about earlier, because this is a big issue for Canadians, not just for people in the government, but even more so for people in the real world, in the economy, so to speak. We have... do we have a Canada-US economy? When I was kind of in grad school, we were talking about the continental economy, one of the last things that President Bush did, sorry President Trump did in his time as President was he visited The Wall in Mexico. And it's really hard to have a continental economy if one third of one of the three countries is being physically walled off. We don't have a wall on the Canada-US border. We don't even have a fence. We do have about one hundred and fifty gates, which is always kind of interesting because if you have gates without a fence, that's always kind of something that's fascinated me; but that's a whole other story. So let's look forward a little bit. What is the future of the Canada-US border? Like, if I'm an automaker, I don't know what the statistics are, but I've read somewhere that a typical car part goes back and forth 7 times or 15 times before the car is manufactured. The border, Scotty, as you mentioned, is closed. Nobody wants to normalise that. But how is that going to impact on investment decisions going forward, when the border is closed from time to time or has closed empirically for what now, months? Talk to us a little bit, Scotty, about maybe looking forward at the border, the Canada-US border and what that means.
Scotty: Yeah, I'm going to say a few things. Chris is actually working on a very important initiative that, that I think would be really good to hear from him on. But, you know, if you're an automaker, you're fine. Like stuff is moving, things are moving back and forth across the border. And that was a very big deal when the border was closed, to try to ensure that commerce continued. But people are not moving, services are not moving. And even the executives involved and the workers, the people, the guy or the gal with the wrench. It is very difficult for people to get back and forth. That will have a drag and knock-on effect on our economics...
Taki: I'm going to add. It's not just the people with the wrench, it's the people with the engineer. You know, the software engineers. Everybody. It's AI the specialist.
Scotty: It's absolutely, it's CEOs. It's CEOs that I talked to. It's people that own property on either side of the border. You know, one of the things is we have some people, you know, along the border in summer. People are like in Newport, Vermont, where my in-laws are from. You know, that's on Lake Memphremagog, and Canadians come down from Sherbrooke and Magog in the Eastern Townships and they go to Newport, Vermont, and vice-versa. In Buffalo, Fort Erie, you've got Crystal Beach, which is on the Canadian side. And Congressman, former Congressman John LaFalce has a place on the Canadian side that when he retired from Congress, he promised his wife she could have and they haven't been there this past year? And will they get to go to this summer? So you've got sort of the border ecosystem, but then you've also got all these other people.
Taki: Sorry to cut you Scotty because it's like, yeah, it's a pandemic we, like we kind of get it, we're not going to go back and forth. But what does it mean post pandemic? Is somebody going to go "I don't know. I don't want to put that plant in Canada. I don't know. I don't want to put that plant in Michigan yet."
Scotty: Yeah they might. I mean, and that's the public policy climate and rules will depend on a lot of that if there is a lot more Buy American and all of that. Those policies, what's so scary to Canadian businesses is they work, right? Bombardier has a facility in Plattsburgh, New York, because the City of New York, when you wanted to bid on the building subway car contracts, that he had to have a certain amount of them built in, in New York. And so what did Bombardier do? They, you know, they opened a facility in Plattsburgh, New York. So, yes, those policies work, and to the extent... and by the way, the US isn't the only one with protectionist policies, by the way. We need to remember that Canada can't be completely holier than thou on the subject of subnational procurement because Ontario has preferences, Quebec... It's a natural thing that governments do. But yeah Taki I think that's a worry and I think it's something we have to work through. We don't immediately, just as soon as that everybody's vaccinated and the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror, we don't snap back. We have to think about, you know, how we, where we invest. And businesses are just going to invest where it makes the most sense. They actually are sort of agnostic about which side of the border or which country or whatever. If it makes sense to have a facility in the Philippines or in Kanata or in Detroit, you know, they'll just, they'll just make that decision.
Taki: Chris, tell us about the work you're doing.
Christopher: Sure. Thanks, Scotty, for plugging it a bit, you know, one of my other hats is running the Canada Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Centre and we wanted to try to make a contribution to the restricted border because we'd heard from so many people who are saying, you know, "We understand the value and we like the policy, but, but we have a desire to know how will we go back to normal, what it was, what's the Phase-Out going to be? What's the data that you would look at?" Every other jurisdiction, it seems like in North America, whether it's a state or a city, has a phasing plan. They talk about data and they try to communicate to the public what to expect. And that's not been the case with the federal governments in Canada-US border, and we wanted to spark that discussion. That wasn't happening publicly enough for so many people who want to know what's going on. So we put together a task force with two former US governors and Anne MacLellan in Canada, Canada's first Minister of Public Safety, and also Jean Charest from Quebec, to take a look at the technical issues of how we face those restrictions out and the political dimension of why, you know, the individual stories of people who cross the border and any of your viewers who are interested, just email me. We're collecting stories from a range of people. There's a nice grassroots group that's popped up called Let US Reunite. You may have seen them on Twitter and Facebook trying to pull the stories together. It's a fascinating look into what the Canada-US relationship looks at the ground level. And, we've been moving on a path to integration for so long that there are a lot of ties. And Scotty mentioned several of them. But it goes to something else and I think this underpins the discussion of not only the border, but about the future, and that is expectations. And I think that we've been expecting one thing from the economy and the way things go for a while, but Covid, it has upset a lot of that and we saw even just going into 2020, businesses weren't sure in Canada where things were going. Foreign direct investment had fallen a bit. We had less inward investment by companies investing their operations because they were wondering, well, what's going to happen with USMCA? Will we still have access to the US market? What's going to happen on taxes? And that uncertainty continues in a way that I think is important for us to get ahead of, and that has to do with border adjustment. Now, some of, some of your viewers will know as well but when it comes to environmental policies and pricing carbon, one of the issues everyone worries about is leakage. The USMCA does permit border adjustment fees, surcharges on goods that come across the border that did not pay a comparable carbon price. If you don't have that, then by putting a carbon price in your economy, you've disadvantaged all your domestic producers because of the imports. I think the Biden administration is going to be much more aligned with the Trudeau government in terms of bringing in carbon prices. But as I mentioned before, I don't think it's going to be easy or quick. And so as we start looking at that, go back to our automotive case, if you bring in an auto part into Canada and it didn't pay a carbon price or the manufacturer didn't pay a carbon price and you hit it with a surcharge, is it going to be like the GST? So that when that part gets bolted on to another part, it goes back to the US, you get a rebate of the border adjustment tax, like, how are we going to manage? That's devilishly difficult to work out but it can be done, but those are the kinds of in-the-weeds issues that would make a big difference, I think, to people. And maybe another thing just to throw out there, I am not expecting, and to get back to expectations, that the advent of the Biden administration means everything will be hunky-dory with China. I think there is going to be changes and nuance in the way that we didn't see under Trump that the Biden administration will bring into that. But where Trump was looking to have balanced trade, you know, imports and exports lined up that kind of thing, certainly a lot of Democrats are skeptical of China and they're worried about what's going on with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, what's happening with Hong Kong and the rights of Hong Kongers? Or what will happen in Tibet, particularly because the Dalai Lama is getting quite elderly and we're worried about his health. If there's a transition and China imposes their own Dalai Lama, what does that mean? So there's so many issues that could go wrong and I don't think the Biden administration is going to do a 180, but Canada's involved in that. You know, Canada gets affected by that, not just the two Michaels, but in a lot of other ways. And so there was a debate that started and a lot of good people started this discussion during the Trump administration about nearshoring, bringing supply chains back and putting them in a closer context. I think that debate's going to continue, but it's not a given that the answer for many companies is going to be "Oh, we'll use Canada." They may say, "Well, let's just stick with the US" It's in a way what Mulroney predicted could be the outcome, the US as a hub in Canada and Mexico in the role of spokes; and you don't want to just be the best spoke you want to be part of the hub, and I think that's going to be an issue. Scotty mentioned companies that invest in Canada, one of the biggest groups are tech companies. Why do they invest in Canada? Because Canadians are clever and smart and good programmers, but also because the US has a restrictive H-1B visa policy that makes it hard for big companies to bring people over from overseas and instead they bring them to Canada. And Canada's been welcoming of that, you have a skill-based immigration policy. To date, that has not been a flash point for bilateral relations. But could it be? Yes, absolutely. And Congress, whether it was Democratic or Republican controlled, has been asked many times by all of these big tech companies to please expand that quota, only to find that Congress has said no. So I think that's another tricky issue, and maybe kind of rolling on this theme of expectations and some of the challenges. I feel also that there's going to be a little bit of interest in... to the extent to which when we start spending money on infrastructure, when we start spending money on our cities, the extent to which we're reciprocal about it and there are restrictions on labour and other things that Canada has, there are restrictions and investments and so on. Will we actually be fair to each other? And that fairness argument, America First may or may not have the same edge, but the fairness and reciprocity, I think, is making a comeback in discourse and it will be an issue for both of us looking across the border going forward.
Taki: Our time is almost up. And we didn't even get to kind of security and immigration and kind of new economy stuff. Maybe we'll have to have you back in a little while but...
Sue: Can I just add something Taki?
Taki: Go ahead Sue.
Sue: I just wanted to say the time horizon issue I think is a really important one. Presidents tend to look at time very differently from congresses, and it's typical that in a midterm election 2 years from now, the President's party generally loses seats. We haven't seen such a narrow margin in the House since the 1800s. You know, leadership has very little wiggle room here. And I always kind of shudder when people talk about control of the Senate because control of the Senate is tough, even when you have a healthy majority. We have a 50-50 Senate. It's a very different thing. Something we saw just after the insurrection is another area that might be promising, and that is that CEOs now have decided they're going to be much more outspoken, certainly with those who've decided not to contribute to political campaigns and that sort of thing. So the immigration issue, again, will the US become a real competitor to Canada in terms of recruiting talent? That remains to be seen. But one thing I didn't want to finish this discussion without mentioning is I heard a Democratic senator on the Foreign Relations Committee at a meeting the other night saying that his objective is to try to get Democrats to guard against reflexively opposing trade arrangements. And I thought that was an interesting sort of a take. There might be a bit of a shift in approach in that regard, and we just don't know. So I think there's some things that, that align and some things that really don't necessarily align. Certainly the emphasis on human rights and having a diverse cabinet and that sort of thing seems very Canadian in some ways. But you're absolutely right that the bottom line is how does this affect me and does this affect my district? How many jobs are going to be lost? That is and remains the case.
Taki: So we're down to our last two minutes. What I'm going to do is for two of you, I'm going to quote a great American philosopher and the great American, and then I'm going to give the last word to Scotty, but I'm going to give the last word to Scotty in a particular way in the form of, I guess, Alex Trebek in the form of a question. So the great American philosopher is Yogi Berra. And Yogi Berra said that making predictions is really, really difficult, especially if you're making predictions about the future. So, Christopher, make a prediction about the future. Canada vis-à-vis, Canada-US relations, the near future. Tell us about Canada-US relations over the next 2 or 3 years. Sue, do the same after Chris is done, and then, Scotty, get ready for a close up with my excellent question that's coming up.
Christopher: I'm almost more excited about Scotty's question more than this one, but I will say this. So presidents have the most latitude on foreign policy and we often focus on these bilateral issues. But it's worth noting, Canada is in almost all the same clubs we are. And so I wouldn't...my prediction for the, for the future would be look for some of the summits. Could we see a return to North American Three Amigos summits? We've got Glasgow, which was the postponed COP 26 coming up in next November. Big splash for the Biden administration, talking about addressing climate change and bringing us back first into Paris, but then seeing if we can advance the ball. Obviously, Trudeau government could be side by side with that. Issues like Russia, China, Middle East peace. When we come out of Covid, you look at the numbers, we're worried, but boy, you look at Latin America, Africa, some parts of Southeast Asia, they are even flatter than we are. And there's going to be huge demand for development assistance, more money for the IMF, more money for the World Bank to try to help those countries to recover. The demand will exceed supply and all of the wealthy countries, Canada and the US included, will be ponying up. And where we fail, China will be offering checks to those countries and it will be part of that competition between the US and China. So in a big way, I think foreign policy, maybe not what we have been talking about in the big way here. I think that's the file to watch. It's going to be very interesting to see.
Taki: Sue, what's your near-term prediction?
Sue: I would agree, and the Trump administration has left a few parting gifts like recognising official relations with Taiwan, they recently did. So it's not going to be smooth sailing there either. But I would agree, I think that's an area where the ally relationship is a really important one. And, you know, Biden famously said that it's not just allies with Canada it really is like family, and I suspect there're going to be plenty of family squabbles. But I think the shared culture, as well as the security and trade and so on, is going to be something that's a little bit more evident. You know, we've tended to look at the last few years as like someone living above a car alarm that's going off and Americans feel like we've been in the car. So I think there's a hopeful attitude, but, you know, the economy is a mess, it's going to be, that's going to be the ongoing issue. And I think the bright spot probably will be the US being back and wanting to extend its reach with Canada at its side.
Taki: So Scotty, President Biden at some point will name an ambassador to Canada, maybe Congress at some point will affirm a nomination for an ambassador to Canada. The ambassador lands in Ottawa at some point in hopefully 2021, but maybe in 2022, depending on the virus. And they go to their lovely office on Sussex Drive, very close to our Parliament Hill, in fact, almost right across the street from our Parliament Hill and they're handed their briefing binder, and you've written their briefing binders Scotty, what are the top kind of two or three things you're telling the incoming US Ambassador to Canada about his or her next job?
Scotty: You know, Canadians have a reputation for being polite, and one of the things, Taki, is you would think that people would pre-brief, like maybe that we would have gotten a heads up about these questions. But no, this is the first time I'm hearing about this question. So just to level set with everybody, this is on the fly. I haven't given this particular question in this format for this audience a lot of thought, that having been said, you know, Chris said that Canada is in almost all the clubs we're in. Canada is in a bunch of clubs we're not in, globally. Francophonie and the... what is the British Empire one?
Taki: The Commonwealth.
Scotty: The Commonwealth, sorry.
Taki: But the British aren't even in that one anymore.
Scotty: Yeah, right. Right. Anyway. And some, and some others. And so one of the things that, that I think the new ambassador will be briefed on is there are areas around the world where Canada has more credibility and more access than the United States has. There are Global Institu-... you know, Canada hasn't spent the last several years trying to diminish global institutions. And so Canada-US relations work really well or, you know, work really well when Canada can play a role that is incredibly relevant to the United States, but is in keeping with its own what it would be doing anyway. So, you know, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien are two examples of historic prime ministers who could almost solve problems or take things on that the US really wanted to be handled, but the US either didn't have the credibility or didn't have the time or the attention. Canada has this unique position in a lot of places. So I think I would say, let's lean into that like, you know, the Canadians will want us to solve a whole bunch of bilateral issues. But Canadians can be relevant to us and can get some credibility and some standing by solve- if not solving at least brokering really important conversations. In my time in the Clinton administration, we really saw this in Bosnia with that conflict. And so there are a lot of other examples of that. So I think that's really what I would look at is, is where can we collaborate globally and where can Canada help with global institutions that the US has, you know, diminished over the last several years and Canada has always really, really upheld. And that will be the kind of block against China that Chris mentions that we need, because China absolutely does, you know, fill vacancies, especially with developing countries with its money and its influence and is happy to have those. The other thing that I think is a huge opportunity and also relates to China in relation to security is critical minerals and rare earths. So Canada has... there is a bilateral effort, there are several different efforts that are moving at the pace of government with all due respect to government. And if I'm briefing the new US ambassador, I would say "Look, there is a gigantic opportunity to really infuse this relationship. Canada already has expressed a willingness to lead on the production of rare earths and critical minerals, something that China, that is essential to our economy, our green economy, when you think of a Tesla battery, our military security, when you think of precision-guided munitions." So I would say, you know what, if, you know, the new ambassador wants to really make a difference and have the Canada-US relationship be super relevant in Washington, focus on critical minerals and rare earth.
Christopher: Chris, Scotty, Sue, thank you for illuminating the United States a little bit for us. It's always this this horrific box of politics and money and rules and laws and litigation. And it's really, really nice to have three observers like you who are able to help Canadian policy and program analysts and inspectors and others in the Canadian Public Service demystify the Canada-US relationship in the near term. Thank you for spending this hour with us and thank you so much for being friends of the Canadian Public Service. So we talk again.
Scotty: You're welcome for illuminating the horrific box.
Christopher: Thank you bye.