When the mayor of Canada’s capital city decides to boycott the American ambassador’s annual Fourth of July picnic, you know the jig is up with the Yanks.
By SHEILA COPPS
First published in The Hill Times on July 2, 2018.
OTTAWA—What if you threw a party and nobody came?
That is exactly what might happen to the annual Fourth of July bash at the U.S. ambassador’s official residence in Rockcliffe.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is not known as a big risk-taker. Throughout his time in politics, as a Parliament Hill employee, a provincial minister, and then mayor, he has usually managed to keep all sides happy.
So when the mayor of Canada’s capital city decides to boycott the American ambassador’s annual Fourth of July picnic, you know the jig with the Yanks is up.
Unlike the federal and provincial scene, civic politics is most successful for leaders who try to find middle ground. They must appeal to all sides of the spectrum in order to secure support and usually win by making few enemies.
Watson’s publicly-announced boycott is an indication that millions of Canadians are feeling the same angst.
A no-show party list would be a clear indication that the trade war launched by United States President Donald Trump has no support in Canada.
Watson’s decision is a reflection of just how most of us are feeling in the wake of an unprovoked and scurrilous attack on our prime minister by the man who purports to be the leader of the free world.
Some might argue that missing the party is bad manners. The ambassadorial invite is billed as the biggest Independence Day bash outside the U.S. But this certainly is not politics as usual.
The current ambassador is a Trump-friendly appointee and the situation has gotten so tense that even her own predecessor is throwing grenades at the president.
Barack Obama-appointed ambassador Bruce Heyman weighed in on the fight last month when he demanded that Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro apologize to the Canadian people for stating on an American news show that “a special place in hell for any foreign leader” has been reserved for Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau because of his “stunt press conference” after the G7 meeting in Quebec.
Canadians thought Trump was joking when he referenced the war of 1812 as the starting point for warring relations between the country. They didn’t realize that that sally was a precursor of the war he was starting on the trade front.
Trump supporters have been fed fake memes and elaborate online charts purporting to show how Canada is clobbering the United States with unfair tariffs. The only problem: the numbers are wrong, but that means nothing to Trump collaborators who care little for news truth.
Even when confronted with the falsity of the facts, multiple-pro-Trump supporters have refused to edit them. Some have even been created by Russian agents. And while the American president trashes his closest friend and ally, he is busy playing footsy with Russian and North Korean despots and dictators.
The world order has, indeed, been upended, and it has been carried out by deliberation, not chance. Heyman told The Globe and Mail last week that Trump “is purposefully evoking a fight against Canada right now. He has an agenda to demonize the relationship.”
Mentions of the Trudeau name provoke hisses and boos at Trump rallies, at the same time the White House is finalizing details for a bilateral tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin. The summit will confer special status on the Russian leader in the midst of ongoing investigations into his meddling in the American election.
Based on Trump’s recent actions, we can only assume that he is more comfortable building relationships with leaders who regularly threaten their enemies with nuclear attacks or engage in subterfuge to despoil elections.
Trump the bully is actually more comfortable with his own kind.
His campaign manager has already been charged with criminal activity, his family members are under investigation, and his own behaviour has reinforced the fact that the television caricature of Trump is actually the real deal.
But Canadians do have a few arrows in our own quiver. On Canada Day, our retaliatory efforts against unfair U.S. tariffs commenced.
Some are suggesting we should also target coal, blocking its shipment to Asia via the Port of Vancouver.
Ordinary people are changing their summer travel plans. Why visit the United States when there are so many beautiful destinations in Canada and elsewhere?
Even people booking international flights can do their best to avoid transiting in American airspace.
And then there is the ultimate rebuff, which may happen at the American ambassador’s residence on July 4.
You throw a party and nobody comes.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.