It takes a lot to rile people in Canada. But after President Donald Trump’s parting shots against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the day he left the Group of 7 summit meeting in Quebec, the country reacted with uncharacteristic outrage and defiance at a best friend’s nastiness.
MONTREAL — Canadians have had enough.
It takes a lot to rile people in this decidedly courteous nation. But after President Donald Trump’s parting shots against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the day he left the Group of 7 summit meeting in Quebec, the country reacted with uncharacteristic outrage and defiance at a best friend’s nastiness.
“It was extremely undiplomatic and antagonistic,” Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, wrote in an email. “It was disrespectful and ill informed.”
Even Trudeau’s political foes rose to his defense.
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“We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister and the people of Canada,” Doug Ford, the Trump-like renegade who was recently elected premier of Ontario, wrote on Twitter.
Stephen Harper, the former conservative prime minister whom Trudeau beat to become prime minister, told Fox News on Sunday that Trump had made a mistake targeting trade relations with Canada.
“I think sometimes, you know, you have to tell the schoolyard bully that they can’t have your lunch money. And I think that’s what the prime minister did today,” said Jaime Watt, a Toronto-based conservative political strategist. “I think most Canadians would say that they were proud of their prime minister.”
James Smith, a spokesman for the federal New Democratic Party, which is left of center, echoed those on the right. “All Canadians stand united against these inflammatory attacks on our government officials,” he said. “Mr. Trump has made a career out of using bully tactics, and we all know there’s only one way to stop a bully.”
Canadians agree this weekend was a turning point, and maybe an overall historic low, in Canada-U. S. relations. The two countries’ trade conflict has been ratcheting up for weeks, but twice recently — before and after the G-7 meeting — Trudeau repeated a certain comment, saying Canada was “polite” but “will not be pushed around.”
Trump took the second such comment, made in a news conference after the Quebec meeting, badly. In a tweet, he depicted Trudeau as two-faced, saying the prime minister had been “meek and mild” during the meetings, only to lash out afterward. “Very dishonest & weak,” he tweeted.
As Canadians were recovering from the sting of those remarks, Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow piled on, saying on television that Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back,” betrayed Trump and made him look weak before his summit meeting on Tuesday with North Korea’s leader.
And Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, suggested on Fox News Sunday that “there’s a special place in hell” for Trudeau.
Trump is not exactly popular in Canada. And the Twitter tirade threatened to inflame already boiling resentment of the president, whose anti-immigrant stances and skepticism of climate change have infuriated many in a country that prides itself on its openness and social responsibility.
A Pew Research survey published last year found that Canadian antagonism toward Trump had helped reduce Canadians’ opinions of the United States to a low not seen in more than three decades, with only 43 percent of Canadians holding a favorable view of the United States.
Public opinion has been fairly supportive of Trudeau all along, including his mild approach to Trump, said Nik Nanos, a leading Canadian pollster.
“I’m not sure if it’s been niceness,” he said. “It’s been more cordial — cordial and businesslike.”
When it comes to their international image, Trudeau has been generally keeping with what Canadians demand, Nanos said.
“I think the Canadians do pride themselves on an international image where we’re seen as being cordial, friendly and evenhanded in terms of trying to get along with other states,” he said.
“The reality is that even under the best of circumstances, Canada is a middle power and, you know, when you’re a middle power, you have to get along with larger powers. You’re not necessarily going to get along with larger powers by aggressively attacking them.”
Canadian fury at Trump notwithstanding, analysts said it was difficult to overstate the damage that bad relations with him could cause to the Canadian economy. Canada relies on the United States as its only neighbor, its military ally and its largest trading partner.
About 1.9 million Canadian jobs are tied directly to trade with the United States, which absorbs almost three-quarters of Canada’s exports.
“Any Canadian prime minister, no matter what the American president does or says, has to deal with the president of the United States,” said Janice Stein, founding director of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.