Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is finally waking up to the trouble the incoming Trump administration could spell for Canada, according to a former senior diplomat to the Canadian embassy in Washington.
“The realization that the Trump administration posed an existential threat to the party in power, it accelerated their decision to shuffle the cabinet, to put the best foot forward,” John Higginbotham told BNN in an interview.
The cabinet shuffle included replacing Stéphane Dion with Chrystia Freeland as Foreign Affairs Minister.
Higginbotham chalks the replacement of Dion up to him not fitting in well with the “carnivores now in Washington.”
“[Canadian ministers] have got a heavy burden of previous decisions to deal with. It’s not just a question of personalities with the Trump administration, it’s radically different priorities,” he said.
Freeland will handle the Canada-U.S. file, including trade relations. She is also still under sanctions imposed in March 2014 by Russian President Vladimir Putin in retaliation for her support of Ukraine.
“She brings many strengths, and I don’t think the Russia factor will be a very important one,” Higginbotham said of Freeland. “The United States is still working out the consequences of Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process.”
The new Foreign Affairs Minister will have to contend with Trump’s proposed protectionist policies, including the possibility of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, and convince the incoming administration that Canada is just as important to the U.S. as their country is to us.
“Even if he does much less than he’s promised to do, our relationships are so delicately balanced and so sophisticated and intense,” Higginbotham said. “I’m sure there’s going to be difficulties in the trade area.”