I predicted in December that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s immature diplomatic blunder — the “hot mike” recording of him ridiculing U.S. President Donald Trump at the last NATO conference — would cost Canada dearly. Now, we know the price.
On April 2, Trump banned 3M from fulfilling its contractual obligations as Canada’s sole supplier of essential N95 respirator masks. Since then, it’s been obvious that Trudeau’s phone calls — or his minions’ — have not even been returned.
This is a shabby way to treat Canada, which, lest they forget, came through for Americans during 9/11 and the Second World War. But Trudeau has no savvy or judgment, which is why he has failed to tend to the country’s most important geopolitical relationship.
Now in a crisis, Trump also banned the export of gloves and other medical equipment, but — even more hurtful to Canada — added that exceptions might be made to help Italy and Spain, which have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Then, even after Canada and 3M pushed back, citing contractual obligations and humanitarian concerns, the president said dismissively that he was “not happy with 3M.”
Trudeau’s response about this deadly snub, on April 5, consisted of bobbing and weaving. When asked if he’d talked with Trump to try to resolve the crisis, he replied that he was “looking forward” to doing so in the “coming days,” but that a process involving the usual channels was underway.
This is Canada being put on hold, not Turkmenistan.
Of course, Trump is a piece of work and Trudeau is not the only leader on his “hit list.” On April 4, Germany and France charged that airlifts of masks from China were diverted to the United States by officials in Washington. On Friday, German officials claimed that the U.S. “confiscated” 200,000 3M masks that Germany had ordered for its medical workers from a 3M factory in China, according to press reports. When asked, German Interior Minister Andreas Geisel said: “We consider that an act of modern piracy. You don’t treat your transatlantic partners like that. Even in times of global crisis, there should be no wild-west methods.”
Given the bully to the south and the botch-up at home, Canada should reciprocate, not retaliate, and Trudeau should step aside until a healthy relationship with Trump is reconstituted and let a more amiable and business-savvy leader, like Ontario Premier Doug Ford, take the lead diplomatically.
Retaliation is crazy, but reciprocity is a matter of applying to them what they’ve applied to us. Canada, including the provinces, must adopt identical protectionist and emergency measures during this public health calamity.
Top of the list is an immediate travel ban on the estimated 2,000 health-care professionals who commute daily from Windsor, Ont., to Detroit’s embattled hospitals, and others who cross the border daily. This is an emergency public health issue that puts Canadian lives at risk by allowing health-care workers to cross back and forth from the U.S., which has been much harder hit by this pandemic, without being subjected to a 14-day quarantine.
Canada should also send out a request to the tens of thousands of Canadian nurses, doctors and health-care professionals who work in the United States on visas to return to Canada during this time. They should be flown and housed here free of charge, with their families, and offered large bonuses to help during this crisis.
The federal government should get its act together and expedite permits to companies that are capable of producing millions of N95 masks immediately. On April 4, Premier Ford decried Ottawa’s foot dragging over this issue — and he’s right. This is pure incompetence.
Canada must also ban the exports of test kits, drugs and raw materials that are needed to make medical supplies, unless these goods or services are surplus to our needs.
Put another way, what’s good for the eagle is good for the beaver.