Once again Justin Trudeau is rushing to the aid of a Quebec industry while ignoring workers west of the Ottawa river. This time it is the juxtaposition of our prime minister freaking out over the Quebec-centric aluminum industry while ignoring western farmers.
Before I fill you in on the latest details, some key points need to be stated.
Justin Trudeau was born in Ottawa while his father was prime minister. He spent the first 14 years of his life living in Ontario but he identifies as a Quebecer. His other family tie is to Vancouver where his mother is from, where his grandfather was an MP and cabinet minister in the first Trudeau government.
Why does this matter?
Because knowing this helps you understand that those are the parts of Canada that Justin Trudeau truly cares about and the parts in between are fly-over country to him.
Thus he sympathizes more with the pipeline protester in downtown Vancouver than the men and women working the oil patch. He cares more about tariffs that hurt Quebec than tariffs that hurt Saskatchewan.
This week Trudeau and his cabinet have been all over the threat by Donald Trump to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. At this point Canadian officials don’t even know if products from this country will be subject to a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum considering that the real target is thought to be China and other countries that even we accuse of dumping product at below market prices.
That hasn’t stopped Trudeau from going before the cameras to repeatedly say that this proposal is “unacceptable.” His cabinet has done the same, found cameras to vehemently denounce the proposal inside and outside of the House of Commons.
Their reaction on chickpea tariffs from India? Agriculture minister Lawrence MacAuley issued a statement via email.
This is a domestic issue related India’s food security and Canada has not been singled out.
We remain committed to working closely with India to finalize an arrangement to reduce barriers to export Canadian chickpeas to India and ensure there is more transparency and predictability for our hard-working farmers across the country.
Trudeau parroted that line while speaking in Barrie, Ontario.
Can you imagine Trudeau saying about Trump’s tariffs that, “this is a domestic issue.”
Because that has been the defence from Liberals since the Indian government announced the chickpea tariff, they will tell you that this isn’t about hurting Canadian farmers, this is about helping Indian farmers raise their incomes. If you listen to Donald Trump, he’ll tell you this is about raising the fortunes of American steel companies and their workers.
So why the difference?
Well you could point to the fact that chickpea exports are a smaller market, Gerry Ritz the former agriculture minister appeared on my radio show the other day and said the exports to India are worth about $14 million a year. You could point to reports claiming the increase in tariffs by India from 40% to 60% will not effect the majority of chickpeas grown in Canada. That is the claim that Brian Platt of National Post said he was unable to confirm beyond a comment from one official.
And as Gerry Ritz pointed out in that interview, beyond the chickpea tariff there are a pile of other tariffs and non-tariff barriers imposed on Canadian agricultural exports by India in sectors worth billions.
Yet we don’t see Trudeau rush to the cameras on that. We don’t see Trudeau rush to the cameras calling for a solution to grain farmers that can’t get their product shipped to ports due to a lack of rail cars. We don’t see Trudeau rushing to settle an ongoing dispute between Canada and Italy over the durum wheat we sell to the Italians for their famed pasta.
We don’t see Trudeau on any of these files because they are all files that hurt people in fly-over country and not Quebec.
Compare that to the steel and aluminum tariffs.
There are, according to Industry Canada, 96 aluminum processing and production plants in Canada and 43 of them are in Quebec. That tells you everything you need to know about Trudeau’s reaction to this.
You could argue that aluminum is bigger, that more jobs are at stake. I’m honestly not sure of the stats. I do know that agriculture is one of the biggest sectors of our national economy and Trudeau didn’t even take his ag minister on the trip to India at a time when there are major trade irritants with that country.
But if jobs and total economic impact are what really matter then explain Trudeau slavishly looking after every want and need with Bombardier but when it comes to oil and gas workers he puts every impediment that he can in the way of that industry reaching its full potential.
It comes down to Quebec vs fly-0ver country. For Trudeau, Quebec wins every time.