Article by : John Chilibeck
Photo by : Evan Vucci/The Associated Press
I don’t like the guy. Like most New Brunswickers, every time he sends out a tweet, I just shake my head and grimace, thinking, ‘how can this man be president of the United States?’ It doesn’t seem possible. – David Coon
New Brunswick politicians are less confrontational and polarizing than Donald Trump, that’s obvious.
But they can be just as blunt as the U.S. president when they assess his first year since winning the election.
Representatives from all three parties in the legislature who were interviewed Wednesday said Trump has been bad for the province.
“I don’t like the guy,” said David Coon of the Green Party. “Like most New Brunswickers, every time he sends out a tweet, I just shake my head and grimace, thinking, ‘how can this man be president of the United States?’ It doesn’t seem possible.”
The Liberal government also has its concerns, particularly on trade.
“One of the greatest risks we have in terms of the long-term sustainability of our economy is Donald Trump,” said Roger Melanson, the province’s minister responsible for trade. “The softwood lumber dispute was obviously not caused by Donald Trump. But the softwood lumber solution is in his hands.”
Under Trump, the U.S. Republican administration has imposed punishing duties on softwood lumber exports from Canada, with New Brunswick companies expected to pay anywhere from close to 10 to 21 per cent in tariffs.
It is also threatening to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, a move that could hurt the province’s export-oriented economy. New Brunswick is the most dependent economically on the United States of any Canadian province, sending $10 billion worth of goods and services south of the border each year.
The provincial economy has grown steadily since Trump came to power, and Melanson said local companies were still going about their business with the United States, for the most part, without hassle. He also points out that plenty of other American politicians – notably in Congress and the Senate – are pro-free trade.
But he’s concerned about Trump’s future plans. The Dieppe politician believes that free trade benefits both countries, both in terms of jobs and prosperity.
“Free trade means a flow of goods with few barriers,” he said. “It’s challenging to renegotiate a trade agreement with someone who’s not a free trader.”
The Progressive Conservatives are closer on the political spectrum to the Republicans, but that doesn’t mean they like Trump.
Tory MLA Bruce Fitch said he wasn’t a fan. “The Donald,” as Fitch calls him, is damaging the New Brunswick economy with his trade tactics.
“The only positive I see is more tourists coming from the United States,” Fitch said. “Maybe Americans are saying, ‘let’s get away from all the noise and all the rhetoric’.”
Fitch dislikes Trump’s negative tweets and says he has tried hard to be more thoughtful when he posts to social media himself.
“I have respect for the office, for the country he represents and the people he represents, but he’s been a very polarizing individual. People sometimes see that and they paint all politicians with the same brush.”
Melanson said it was unlikely Trump would succeed as president the way he behaves.
“His style is not my style,” Melanson said. “When you get into public life, you need to lead by example and respect people.
“In the private sector you can make a decision in your own office or boardroom and it’s your decision because it’s your company. In public life, when you want to influence public policy and accomplish what you set out to do, you have to work with other people.
“So, no, I don’t associate with his style, and I think in New Brunswick and Canada we do things in a much better way.”
Coon said Trump’s intolerance had encouraged belligerents closer to home, citing drawings that were anonymously circulated in Moncton last weekend that depicted Finance Minister Cathy Rogers and another female politician in a disparaging light, and recent anti-Islamic posters that were put up at St. Thomas University campus in Fredericton.
“Because of the influence of U.S. media and the extraordinary coverage Canadian media have given Trump, it has expanded the space in which those with misogynist and racist attitudes can feel safer to operate in.”