MONTREAL — U.S. President Donald Trump’s sharp comments against Canada over trade are just a blip in an otherwise unbreakable, long-standing friendship, say some Americans living in the northeastern part of the country near the Canadian border.
“In the long term, what we have in common as North Americans will ensure we overcome this period,” says John Tousignant, executive director of the Franco-American Centre, based in New Hampshire.
Trump embarked on a post-G7 Twitter tirade on the weekend against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him “dishonest” and “weak” in the escalating battle over trade tariffs.
The president’s surrogates also piled on during Sunday U.S. news shows, with Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro saying there was “a special place in hell” for Trudeau.
Navarro apologized Tuesday.
The jabs left a bitter taste with Phyllis Klein, owner of a marina on Lake Champlain in upstate New York, where about half the clientele are Quebecers.
“I feel that it’s certainly detrimental to U.S.-Canadian relations to have this kind of rhetoric out there,” said Klein, who will soon turn 80.
Klein, who has operated her business for 38 years, says she she believes Canadians understand the difference between political rhetoric and the opinions of everyday Americans.
“I find it difficult to try to apologize for words that come from the mouths of people in our government, so I don’t even try,” she said.
“Because they know that the words that are coming out of the president of the United States’ mouth are not necessarily the feelings of those of us who value our relationships with our neighbours to the north.”
In Vermont, where Trump is particularly unpopular, a few choice words from the president won’t keep people away from a popular weekend getaway on either side of the border, says one keen observer.
“There is a large influx both ways of people visiting,” said Aki Soga, reader engagement editor for the Burlington Free Press. “Vermonters visit Canada, Canadians visit Vermont.”
From a big-picture perspective, there are concerns about how the rest of the world sees the United States globally, he added. But as long as tariffs don’t directly have an effect on jobs in the state, the president’s words shouldn’t have a major impact, Soga said.
“I think the first-hand interaction is likely to be a stronger factor than anything the president says,” he said. “If it goes on for a while — and it would have to go on for a while — people might change their views, but I don’t think this one incident is likely to have that effect.”
Many social media users echoed that sentiment Monday, when the hashtag #ThanksCanada was trending on Twitter, celebrating Canadian contributions while pushing back against Trump’s comments.
In New Hampshire, which counts Quebec as its largest trading partner and where nearly a quarter of the population has French-Canadian roots, Tousignant doesn’t believe a few undiplomatic words will do much to sour relations between “cousins.”
“In the short term, we quarrel from time to time and certainly this is one of those quarrelsome moments,” Tousignant said, recalling that Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the current prime minister’s late father, had his own issues in 1971 with then-president Richard Nixon, who famously referred to the elder Trudeau as an “asshole.”
Upon learning of the insult by Nixon, Trudeau replied: “I’ve been called worse things by better people.”
That slight was a temporary issue and Tousignant believes this will be too.
“If we spend more of our time focusing on the positives we share as North Americans, we’ll get past this short-term issue,” he said.
Klein said tensions are normal in any relationship, but eventually the frostiness subsides.
“Take any husband and wife, who are trying to learn to live together and raise a family, you’re going to have tensions, but usually we overcome them,” Klein said. “I don’t see this as anything different.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.