Albertans have to be ready to deal with the effects of a Trump presidency on our environment, economy and society, say local experts.
Donald Trump stunned the world this week when he won the U.S. presidential election, leaving everyone wondering what would happen next.
Morinville Mayor Lisa Holmes said she was disappointed by the result, especially after the only two women in the Progressive Conservative leadership race dropped earlier this week due to allegations of harassment.
“I don’t know if it’s because society isn’t ready for a female in leadership roles or if it has to do with these particular circumstances,” she said.
“It’s just another proof to me that a smart, educated and experienced woman is not as supported in politics as a man.”
On her personal Facebook page, Holmes wrote that this election saw the first U.S. female presidential candidate lose to a “misogynistic, disrespectful and arrogant” man who was the antithesis of what she wanted as a role model for her sons and who will have the power to set women’s rights back decades.
Greg Anderson, a professor of Canada-U.S. relations at the University of Alberta who voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, said the result left him very depressed.
“I’ve been referring to it today as American Brexit,” he said, referring to Britain’s surprise vote to leave the European Union earlier this year.
Like the scores of Britons who Googled “what is the EU” after they cast their ballots, he said this was a vote against the political establishment by those who felt excluded by the new global economy.
“What you’re seeing isn’t any particular love affair with Donald Trump,” he said.
“This is an effort to shake it up.”
Eric LaMont Gregory, a former envoy at the U.S. embassy in London with about 40 years of experience as an American diplomat who now lives in St. Albert, said he was not surprised by Trump’s win.
Trump’s supporters were overwhelmingly white rural non-college-educated people without land-lines who had not voted in many past elections – exactly the sort of people pollsters didn’t call.
“Trump brought out that population overwhelmingly,” he said, just as Brexit supporters did for seniors in Britain. Gregory voted in the American election, but would not disclose whom he voted for.
What it means
Many environmentalists predicted dire results from Trump’s election, noting that the candidate had vowed to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and withdraw from the historic Paris climate accord.
Anderson said Trump could give Canada the cover it needs to not act on climate change, noting that the same thing happened with the Bush administration and the Kyoto Accord.
“It was a convenient excuse for the Chrétien government to do nothing.”
In a press conference Wednesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said that Alberta’s emissions reductions plans would go ahead as scheduled, as they had been designed on the assumption that the U.S. would not act on climate change.
“There are strong, strong compelling reasons for moving forward on our climate leadership plan,” she said, including economic diversification, international reputation, and public and environmental health.
Trump has also vowed to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Anderson said NAFTA has been unambiguously good for Canada, and that any move to restrict trade to the U.S. would be bad news for us.
But NAFTA was also a huge part of the recovery of the American auto industry, and Canada and Mexico would welcome the chance to renegotiate it, Gregory said.
“That’s what Trump has to contend with: real numbers, real balance sheets, real workers.”
Notley said Alberta would work with the federal and provincial governments to defend Alberta’s interests relative to NAFTA.
Trump has also committed to a war against the terrorist group ISIS. Gregory said he immediately wrote a letter to Trump after election night on the consequences of such a war.
“We’re going to have to have troops in Syria for decades,” Gregory said, and Canada will likely be called upon to contribute troops.
Trump’s threats to deport illegal immigrants could affect the many Canadians who have overstayed their visas, Anderson said. It could also mean more restrictions on Canada-U.S. travel, as the Department of Homeland Security tends to treat its Mexican and Canadian borders the same.
“You’re going to be frisked a little bit more,” he said.
Anderson said that the American political system and his deep unpopularity would make it very difficult for Trump to enact many of his policies.
Trump now has to deal with a litany of problems that he did not think through during the election, and that gives those who have thought about them a chance to influence him, Gregory said.
“He’ll listen because he really has no idea how to go ahead and do the things he promised.”
St. Albert LGBTQ advocate Kristopher Wells said that he had been hearing PC leadership candidates calling for Alberta to follow Trump’s lead, and was concerned that we could see a similar movement here.
“Our country is built on a fabric of multiculturalism and diversity,” he said, and this should be of concern for all Canadians.
Holmes said that Trump’s election just meant that she had to work even harder to promote women in politics.
“We do not need to be defined by the actions of others,” she wrote on Facebook.
“We can rise above it and use it to motivate ourselves and others to work harder to be the change that we want to see in the world.”