1) What do you see as the key lessons/points of tension of the 2019 Canadian election campaign that newly-reelected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will likely continue to have to grapple with in his second term?
The results of the election underscored regional divisions that pose a serious political challenge for Trudeau. His Liberal Party won no seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan, two oil-producing provinces in western Canada whose economies have suffered due to low petroleum prices and whose populations largely oppose Trudeau’s environmental and climate-change agenda. He also lost seats in Quebec, where the separatist Bloc Québécois, which the other parties had been written off as moribund, rose from the dead and won 32 of the 78 constituencies. Managing these tensions will become more difficult now that the Liberals have been reduced to a minority government, but differences among the opposition parties reduces the chances that they will unite against Trudeau, giving him room to maneuver.
2) What, if any, changes to Canadian foreign policy priorities can we expect to see in the next term?
I do not expect significant changes. Canada will continue to champion liberal democratic values and free trade in the face of rising intolerance, authoritarianism and protectionism.
Managing relations with the Trump administration will remain the top priority – not surprisingly, given that 76 per cent of Canada’s merchandise exports are destined for the United States. Relations have improved considerably since the nadir of 2018, when Canada and Trudeau were the target of Donald Trump’s insults and ire. Since then, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been renegotiated and the US has lifted its tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, but given Trump’s unpredictability, Ottawa remains vigilant.
Trudeau will also continue his strong support of multilateral institutions, from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. With Canada is running for a rotating seat in the UN Security Council and the vote expected in mid-2020, he will likely devote considerable attention to foreign policy and international travel over the coming months. In addition to emphasizing women’s rights, a central theme of his foreign policy, the Liberal Party’s election manifesto pledged to lead an international campaign to ensure that the world’s refugee children receive quality education.
The identity of the foreign minister will also shape Canadian policy. Apart from Canada-US relations, Trudeau has delegated much of his government’s international strategizing to Chrystia Freeland, the talented former journalist who has served as foreign minister since 2016. Whoever assumes the role of foreign minister, however, will confront ongoing difficulties with China, which detained two Canadians in December 2018 in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on an extradition request from the US. There is little prospect of resolving this dispute before Meng’s extradition case is resolved, which could take many months, or longer. Meanwhile, Canada faces a decision of whether to allow Huawei to participate in its 5G networks, which will likely create difficulties with either China or the United States, or both.
3) As the United Kingdom looks to leave the European Union, and with Prime Minister Trudeau given a renewed, albeit weakened mandate, how will the UK-Canadian relationship evolve?
Canada will work to maintain excellent relations with both the European Union and Britain. Trudeau will not favour one over the other. Given Canada and Britain’s historic ties and extensive trade, the Trudeau government will wish to conclude a comprehensive trade agreement with a post-Brexit Britain promptly. However, if London decides to drop tariffs on most imports from all countries, Canada would have little impetus to offer concessions in a trade negotiation.