According to a Pew Research Center survey released Sept. 15, only 20 percent of Canadians have confidence in Trump’s leadership. Trump’s personal approval numbers have been low in Canada since he took office. This is largely due to his controversial behavior in public and on social media, trade and tariff wars between our two countries, and Canada’s longstanding fascination with progressive-style politics.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden would be seen by many Canadians as a welcome change. His liberal viewpoint on domestic and international issues would be appreciated, and his leadership style and perceived conciliatory approach to Canada-U.S. relations would be warmly embraced.
But is this a valid assessment?
“The personal is political,” as Carol Hanisch famously wrote in a 1969 essay. While the feminist author’s viewpoint has become generally accepted, there are instances where the personal and the political can and should be divided. The overwhelming majority perception of Trump’s reelection bid in Canada is one of them.
In two key policy areas of particular relevance to Canada — the North American economy and border security — a Biden administration might not bring as much to the table as Canadians hope. Trump, on the other hand, has been more successful than most people assume.
Trump obviously isn’t the second coming of Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan when it comes to economic conservatism. His typical negotiation strategies, including economic nationalism and the short-term implementation of tariffs as a bargaining tool, have driven many right-leaning thinkers up the proverbial wall. Nevertheless, Trump is a stronger supporter in principle of free markets and private enterprise than Biden. Like most Republicans, he respects the need for tax cuts, economic growth, profitability and ensuring North America remains successful and competitive.
With respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has argued was “perhaps the worst trade deal ever made,” critics in all three countries were concerned the president would tear up the whole thing. He didn’t. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement went into effect in July. While it’s not going to make an enormous difference — an International Monetary Fund working paper suggested in 2019 it would have a “negligible” economic impact — it proved that existing trade deals, even ones Trump found distasteful, could be renegotiated and maintained.
Consider what Hoover Institution research fellow David R. Henderson wrote last October. In his view, Trump’s tax cuts for personal and corporate rates, increased tax credits and incentives for individuals and families, and ability to reduce and prevent regulation proved that the economic issues on “which Trump has been ‘very good indeed’ seem to have outweighed the policy issues on which he has been ‘horrid.’”
Biden is no socialist, despite what his political opponents often suggest. Nevertheless, the large swath of progressives in his party, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and the other “Squad” members in Congress, control his fate when it comes to most political and economic matters. They care more about protectionism and enhancing the size of government than capitalism and opening up the free market. They could potentially be more fierce opponents to Canada when it comes to trade liberalization and economic expansion than Trump has ever been.
Trump is also a stronger advocate for border safety and security than Biden.
Like most Republicans, the sitting president understands that guns, gangs and drugs are major domestic problems faced by both the United States and Canada. While the land border between our two countries has been closed to non-essential travel since March due to covid-19, the threats of domestic and international terrorism, along with illegal immigration, haven’t disappeared.
That’s why Trump has worked with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure border security remained a “top priority” or both countries — for instance, an understanding that “security and efficiency go hand-in-hand.” Stronger safety measures with U.S. and Canadian law enforcement to prevent illegal immigration, crack down on cybersecurity threats, eliminate the black market for illegal weapons and drugs, and make cross-border travel and trade more efficient would all play a role, too.
No one is suggesting Biden would be weak on the border. Alas, his approach would be vastly different than Trump — and softer in certain respects. He has already proposed a fluffy “regional resettlement solution” with Canada, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and other Latin American nations, and announced Trump’s H-1B visa freeze “will not be in my administration.”
That’s not an encouraging start from Biden. The message would likely become more muddled if he became president, and border security could turn into a boondoggle. This is exactly what Canada shouldn’t desire, and doesn't need, when it comes to the safety and security of our nation.
Canadians, like many Americans, might not like Trump’s politics, behavior and incessant tweeting. But I believe that, when it comes to real policies, Trump is a better political option than Biden.