Lots of us will recall that old saying, “when the United States sneezed the world catches a cold.”
The U.S. economy is, for now, still the biggest economy in the world while other economies, notably China, have now grown so large that an American hiccup does not reverberate around the world as dramatically.
But unlike the rest of the world which has managed to put considerable distance between the U.S. economy and themselves by way of growing their own economy and banding together in various economic unions and trade agreements, Canada still operates in the fiscal and functional shadow of the United States.
Our economies are inextricably linked. Canada is the United States second largest trading partner and they are our largest. Most of our trade and commerce with the U.S. runs north and south due to geography.
Our oil production is essentially landlocked with the U.S. really being our only customer.
Our gasoline trades in US dollars and as a North American commodity leaving 40 million Canadians as the ripple in the 530 million North American pond.
Canada has fought for years for a fair and balanced soft wood lumber agreement. This agreement has been the bane of the Canadian softwood industry for decades. High priced and influential U.S. lobbyists have been successful in having a disproportionate influence on the outcomes.
Over many decades Canada has managed along with the elephant on the continent. The occasional sneeze, cold or grunt has been weathered and we carry on with Canadian pride and resolve.
A good Canada U.S. relationship, built with a good neighbour attitude on both sides of the border, was the hallmark of coexisting with the elephant.
The future is maybe more tenuous. What can only be described as a circus sideshow nomination process of both the American Republican and Democratic parties has exposed the underbelly of U.S. politics.
The unwashed masses, Joe and Mary Sixpack, of both the Republicans and Democrats for that matter, have had enough.
They are tired of rich old white men deciding who will be the presidential candidate and ultimately the “leader of the free world.”
The Democrats have quite a riot with Bernie “Feel the Bern” Sanders putting up a good fight raising millions $25 at a time, fighting the millionaire and billionaire-funded Clinton campaign.
The Republicans have imploded and their dirty laundry is the subject of endless political pundits’ pontification and the fodder for late night comedy writers.
Billionaire Donald Trump, of swollen ego and television fame, is self-funding a kick to the Republican nether regions.
Not taken seriously at the start, Trump has risen like a phoenix with a bad hair piece from the ashes of the burned down Republican Party old boys clubhouse to become the party’s nominee when it meets this summer. The old boys don’t want him. But Joe and Mary do. They are voting with their finger and they are using the middle one.
What does January 2017, post inauguration, hold for Canada? Within the populist Democratic movement, there is a rising tide against once-popular trade deals. Not that Sanders is likely to be the candidate but he is absolutely against free trade.
Clinton has slowly moved away from free trade and is becoming Sanders-esque. They cite that the U.S. has been getting the short end of the free trade stick.
The Republicans… well, who knows. Trump has declared Canada “the least of America’s problems.” So we are still a problem but not at the top of the list. Good to know the Canada-U.S. wall is off the table.
Sorry, Mexico. Trump wants to “make America great again” by closing trade borders and adopting a protectionist attitude.
So stay tuned. The elephant on the continent may sneeze, hiccup, catch cold or roll over and implode and the effect on Canada is certainly unknown.
We will carry on with Canadian resolve and perseverance but the flu season might be a long one.
David D. Hull is a former City of Terrace councillor now living in the Kootenays.