OTTAWA — Canada’s House of Commons adopted an unusual unanimous resolution Monday backing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after he was harshly criticized by President Trump, while Americans lent support to their northern neighbor on Twitter through a special hashtag #ThankCanada.
Trump attacked the Canadian leader after withdrawing U.S. approval of the joint communique issued at the close Saturday of the Group of Seven summit in Charlevoix, Quebec. Trump acted following Trudeau’s reiteration of Canada’s opposition to new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
After Trump called Trudeau “very dishonest and weak” on Twitter, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro asserted over the weekend that the Canadian prime minister “deserves a special place in hell” for attempting to “stab [Trump] in the back on the way out the door.”
Bruce Heyman, who was U.S. ambassador to Canada during President Barack Obama’s administration, called on Navarro in a tweet to formally apologize to Trudeau for his “insulting and inappropriate remarks.” Joining that view was Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. undersecretary of state under President George W. Bush, who called Canada “the best neighbor we could have.”
Burns said that Navarro would have been fired if he had made those sorts of remarks under any other U.S. president and added, “Trump will likely reward him.”
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council who also attended the G-7 summit, countered Navarro by insisting that “there is a special place in heaven for Justin Trudeau,” and thanked Canada for “the perfect organization” of the meeting.
On Twitter, Americans used the #ThankCanada and #ThanksCanada hashtags to praise their neighbor. They cited Canada’s welcome of transatlantic flights diverted to Newfoundland after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as well as its role in spiriting U.S. diplomats out of Tehran during the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis. Some thanked Canada for maple syrup, Leonard Cohen or early adoption of same-sex marriage.
The expressions of support extended beyond Twitter. Actor Robert De Niro, in Toronto for the launch of a real estate venture, apologized to Trudeau for what he called “the idiotic behavior of my president.”
In Ottawa, the Canadian House of Commons passed a unanimous resolution backing Trudeau that rejected “ad hominem statements by U.S. officials, which do a disservice to bilateral relations and work against efforts to resolve this trade dispute.” The resolution, which is largely symbolic, was presented by a member of Parliament from the left-of-center New Democratic Party and received all-party support, almost unheard of in Canada’s highly partisan political atmosphere.
It followed supportive comments by Canadian politicians of all political stripes in defense of Trudeau. They included statements by Doug Ford, the newly elected Conservative premier of Ontario, and Stephen Harper, a former prime minister. The United States and Canada “fighting over our trade relationship when the Chinese have a 4-to-1 imbalance with both of us is in my judgment just the wrong priority,” Harper told Fox News.
Mel Cappe, Canada’s former ambassador to Britain and onetime head of the federal public service, called on Trudeau to seek a formal apology from Trump for what he called an “unprecedented” attack on a democratic leader.
“Decent people do not belittle or mock their allies or their enemies,” Cappe wrote in the Globe and Mail. “Decent people do not engage in name calling. Decent people do not resort to personal attacks when they don’t like the outcome of a meeting.”
Trudeau had no public comment Monday on the dispute.
“Donald Trump may think that his outrageous behavior is softening up his trading partners but it’s not working with Canada,” said Roland Paris, a former Trudeau adviser and professor of international affairs at University of Ottawa. “I’ve never seen Canadians so united.”
Despite this unusual demonstration of unity, Paris said, the Trudeau government faces a huge challenge going forward. “The status quo is doing some limited economic damage to the Canadian economy, but preventing further escalation of trade tensions should be the priority.”
Doug Porter, chief economist at the Bank of Montreal, said he couldn’t recall Canadian-U.S. relations being at such a low ebb: “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I haven’t seen anything remotely like this.”
Not only is he concerned about the impact on the economy of the disruption caused by the steel and aluminum tariffs but the broader effectof the poor state of bilateral relations and the uncertainty over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“What I’m more worried about is the tone of the relationship and what it means for business investment.” He said the bank may have to revise downward its forecast for the growth of the Canadian economy in 2018, now at 2 percent, if the situation doesn’t improve.
Trump imposed the tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union on May 31, citing imports as a national security threat to the U.S. domestic metals industry.
Economist Dan Ciuriak, in a study for the C.D. Howe Institute, a think tank, said Canada will be hit harder than any other country by the tariffs because it sells more steel and aluminum than do others. He predicted they could mean a loss of 6,000 jobs in Canada and shave off as much as 0.33 percent of gross domestic product.
And there is more damage being done by the clouds that hang over the future of NAFTA, which is inhibiting investment by companies uncertain whether the pact will remain or be scuttled.
“Can you sign a new agreement with Mr. Trump and be sure that it will stay for more than a nanosecond?” Ciuriak told The Washington Post. “The concept of a North American production unit has been damaged for at least a generation.”