TORONTO - One engages in politics to advance collective interests. Admittedly, there are the individual, egotistic, considerations. It never hurts to have a healthy dose of selfconfidence and ambition. Critics are never in short supply. "Friends" are few and "allies" and as steady as blades of grass in the wind.
With rare exceptions, however, absent a shared, sense of collective purpose (national interest and one's role in it), vainglorious individuals flame out rather quickly. Does anyone remember a Michael Ignatieff in Canada? A promising, energetic former Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, who entered the World stage at about the same time as our own Prime Minister Trudeau, saw his hold on his Party and his control of the agenda in the country evaporate into ether because he did not "stoop to conquer”.
The National stage is not for the feint of heart. Renzi has plenty. But it is never enough. And the international stage can be a mine field for National leaders with pressing domestic dynamics to which international colleagues are completely indifferent.
Justin Trudeau has lost a potential political ally to the vagaries of our electoral system - first past the post - when the Liberal Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant, became victim of a disaffected electorate, on Monday. He may lose yet another next Monday in Quebec.
The big issue in both provinces was Immigration: how to grow and how to distribute the wealth. It is the issue that threatens to tear Europe apart and to destabilize North Africa and the Greater Middle East. President Trump has made it one of the three pillars of the new American ideology: keep foreigners out; keep out competitors from the American economic market and arm the USA to protect its interests anywhere.
Canadian "negotiations" on a desperately needed trade agreement with its continental partner(s) appear to be going nowhere fast. Trump's demands for movement on dairy products (milk) supply management appear to be falling on deaf Canadian ears. Justin Trudeau does not want to tip the scales against his ally in Quebec, until after the election. He is taking a risk that the Americans will not hold to their threatened "take it or leave it" deadline.
Trump is not taking kindly to this tactic. With his own electoral concerns looming next month, the President does not appreciate "being played". At the UN Assembly on Wednesday, he openly snubbed Trudeau's efforts to shake his hand, moving not an inch from his chair.
It was an open display of disdainful disrespect for all to witness. It was a crowd that Trudeau had been - and will continue - courting: Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ambassadors crucial to his (and Canada's) bid for a Security Council seat in 2020. To achieve that objective, he'll need 129 votes from the 193- member nations. Trump signaled that the USA will not be helpful. He reinforced his open dislike for Canada's Prime Minister in a very undiplomatic and petulant press conference later in the day.
Who cares, one might say. Except that Trump may trigger a damaging, if not disastrous, trade war that could see the exodus of our Auto (and Auto parts) manufacturing sector for the sake of maintaining the excessive (rather than simply "healthy") profit levels of 6,000 milk producers in Quebec.
On the trade front, any initial success with Europe now seem to be going awry. Europeans are "scrambling" to adjust to a post-Brexit world. Ireland, a competing country for Canada's bid to the Security Council, is emerging as key to that re-adjustment process. Italy has indicated it will not ratify the CETA. Some in the Leadership of the new compromise government of the peninsula have begun to display concern over Canada's treatment of the Demitri family’ humanitarian and compassionate application for permanent residency.
As the erosion of the Schengen rules and other regulatory changes begin to take root, Italy, Poland and Portugal face the prospect of tens of thousands of their expats being "shipped home" from post-Brexit England. Meanwhile, Trudeau keeps Canada's doors solidly shut to immigration from the three countries.
Italy has accepted 650,000 North African and Sub-Saharan refugees in the last two and a half years. Poland sees its Eastern and Southern borders inundated with Greater Middle Eastern migrants - Muslim in the main. Canada can't seem to cope with the few thousand border-crossers, asylum seekers, from the USA. A good number (114) of those identified so far holds American citizenship. Perhaps Trudeau will find a more receptive audience among the African and Asian representatives.
In that case, we should re-visit our relationship with Russia and China. Most of those nations are quasi client-states of those countries. The Philippines are not; but, their President has already told us to kiss-off.
If his international reputation-building exercise does not bear the fruit Canada covets and needs, how then will Trudeau deal with the likes of Alberta (whether NDP or extreme right-wing Conservative), an antagonistic Ontario and probably - at the very least – an uncooperative Quebec?