Trudeau’s jolly progressivism and America’s revival will bring back the brain drain

Conrad Black
Conrad Black

The Liberals are courting disaster with feel-good measures, casual appropriation of income from those who earned it to those who haven’t

Canada voted to change governments just a year before the United States did and the countries are taking more divergent policy tracks than at any time since Pierre Trudeau warned Ronald Reagan that his proposed missile defence system was destabilizing. (It was, in the sense that the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War ended, and there was only one superpower left in the world.) All indications from both governments are that the NAFTA free trade talks are not going well. It is time to recognize that Canada got a very good deal in free trade with the U.S., thanks in large part to the very high esteem then-prime minister Brian Mulroney earned with president Reagan and president George H.W. Bush. He was widely criticized at the time for being a White House lap dog, but in fact, he recognized that with the United States at the height of its preeminence in the world, the only way for Canada to have any influence was to be taken seriously by Washington.

No Canadian leader ever had higher credibility with an American administration than Brian Mulroney, and Canada gained from that. Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney were by far the most highly regarded foreign leaders in Washington at that time, and when Mrs. Thatcher retired in 1990, that left Mulroney without a rival. (Both spoke at Reagan’s state funeral, by request of the deceased, the first time any such occurrence had happened.)

Mindful of the problems between Trudeau and Reagan, and of the domestic political backlash against Mulroney’s popularity in the White House, Jean Chrétien was correct but not close with the Clinton administration, and visited 34 capitals before he got round to Washington. But Clinton graciously demolished the separatist argument at a conference on federalism that Chrétien convened at Mont Tremblant in October, 1999. Stephen Harper also had correct but not at all intimate relations with Washington. Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama seemed to be soulmates: they were both environment crusaders, traditional believers in redistributing money, and doffing their caps at anything that was politically correct, ever on the lookout for new categories of victims to identify and reward.


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