By: Ryley Lopushinsky
It is no secret that Canada and the United States of America (USA) have significant relations. Not only are they geographically connected by a 5000-mile border, but they have significant trade and investment ties. As well, they have worked together on plenty of intelligence and law enforcement matters. Over the years, there have been significant accomplishments between the two countries located in North America. Including a deep economic partnership that saw $1.4 billion in goods cross the Canada-USA border every day in 2020. However, in recent years some significant disagreements between the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and the former USA President Donald Trump and now President Joe Biden, has put the ties between the two countries over a slow-burning candle.
Canada led by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has prioritized multilateral efforts to strengthen international orders since coming into power in 2015. Unfortunately, under former President Donald Trump the USA had withdrawn from multiple international organizations including, the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accord. By withdrawing from these organizations, the USA created tension between the two countries. As well, frustration arose when the Trump administration insisted on renegotiating the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement.
To the relief of the Canadian government, the 2020 Presidential Election was won by Joe Biden. On January 20th, 2021 Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. President Biden got to work right away; he withdrew the order to withdraw from the World Health Organization and re-instated the Paris Climate Accord. These were two wins for the relationship between the two close-knit countries.
Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden met on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, virtually due to continuing Covid-19 guidelines. The two leaders discussed how they would fight the Covid-19 pandemic and how they would work on lowering climate emissions together. President Biden said that “the United States has no closer friend than Canada”.
President Donald Trump announced in July 2020 that the USA would be withdrawn from the World Health Organization (WHO). The purpose for this being to redirect funds to the US global health priorities. His decision to do so was viewed as reckless, especially during a global pandemic. This strained ties between Canada and the USA because the border between the two countries had already been closed for months due to the pandemic. Cases continuing to climb in the USA and in Canada meant that the border between Canada and the USA remained closed for all of 2020 unless essential travel.
One of President Biden’s first acts as President was to rejoin WHO. The pandemic is still raging across the two countries; however, the USA is being hit much harder with inconsistent restrictions across each state. Currently, the USA has its own vaccine facility in Michigan where the Pfizer vaccine is being made. Canada on the other hand has been having a difficult time getting vaccines brought into the country. Trudeau was hoping to strike a deal to purchase some from the USA however, Biden believes “the first priority is ensuring every American is vaccinated”. Trudeau’s view is that the pandemic “will not end until everyone, everywhere is vaccinated”. The belief is that until the two countries vaccination numbers are much higher, the trade between the two countries will be reduced and the border will remain closed.
The border being closed between the two countries has proven very difficult for many citizens of both countries. Many people travel between the two to visit family and for work. A lot of Canadians have gone months and even a year without seeing some family. Luckily, most workers that must cross borders are allowed to as “essential travellers”. This pandemic has put a major strain on the relationship between the two countries, especially with the border restrictions.
The Paris Climate Accord is a worldwide pact to curb climate emissions. Working on climate change is something the two world leaders (Biden and Trudeau) discussed during their meeting on February 23. Trudeau commended President Biden on rejoining this agreement. In doing so, he worked a jab at the former President, Donald Trump, by saying “U.S. leadership has been missed over the past years”. The two world leaders see eye to eye on climate change and hope to be net-zero on emissions by 2050.
As well, President Biden used climate change activism as part of his election campaign. This is why it was no surprise when President Biden also signed an order that drastically affected Canada, specifically Alberta. President Biden signed an order stopping the expansion of TC Energy’s expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Neither leader mentioned whether they discussed the pipeline during their meeting. However, it is known that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supported the project and showed his disappointment with Biden’s decision.
The Keystone XL pipeline is designed to transport the planet’s dirtiest fossil fuel to market quickly. By expanding the already existing pipeline, they could increase the processing capacity of sending crude oil from Alberta to various processing locations in the middle of the USA. The purpose of these tar sands is to convert the gooey substance into fuel. With this TC energy said would come plenty of jobs (almost 100000) and a boost in the Alberta market. However, a state department said there would only be around 2000 jobs during construction. Following with around 35 jobs total once finished. As well, there is an extreme environmental impact which is one of President Biden’s main concerns.
Leaks are something next to impossible to avoid when it comes to pipelines. Tar sands oil is much thicker and more corrosive than other conventional crude oil. There have been multiple studies done that have found crude oil pipelines leak three times more per mile than the conventional crude pipelines. The Keystone pipeline system, already in operation since 2010, has leaked more than a dozen times. The most recent in 2019 where a spill in North Dakota saw more than 378,000 gallons spill. Any person or wildlife exposed to tar sands oil are exposed to toxic chemicals and rivers and wetland environments are particularly at risk.
The main purpose of the Keystone XL Pipeline is to accelerate the pace of production and transportation of tar sands oil. Unfortunately, this would lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions. It is believed that tar sands oil emits 17 per cent more carbon than other types of crude. This creates an extreme burden on the planet and puts into question whether climate change is really being taken seriously. This pipeline would undermine efforts to minimize global warming.
The two world leaders are now planning to work together to restrengthen the ties of the two countries. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the relationship between the USA and Canada one of “the strongest and deepest friendships between any two counties”. With the hope of positive relations continuing, it is curious that the Keystone XL Pipeline was even going ahead as planned. Canada recently implemented a carbon pricing system to attack climate change, so why would they want to implement this kind of environmental killer?
A final point with the hope to fix the relationship of these two countries comes with the NAFTA agreement, also known as the Northern America Free Trade Agreement. The Trump administration insisted on the renegotiation of this agreement. With that came the imposition of tariffs on Canadian Steel and Aluminum. With the insistence of renegotiating the agreement, it is now the USMCA, the United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. This put a major strain on the bilateral trade relations between Canada and the USA. With Joe Biden now President, it is hoped that he will take a less confrontational approach to trade relations with Canada.
Canada and the USA have the largest undefended ranging land border in the world. The ties between the two countries run deep and a positive relationship will leave both countries better off. Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the relationship between the two countries took a major hit. Mostly on the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and trade agreements. Now with the Biden administration, the two countries are already in talks working together on the pandemic, climate change and hopefully on trade agreements.