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Trump would be climate-change challenge, Clinton likely victor, feds figured

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in West Allis, Wis.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
December 15, 2016 - 6:00 AM

OTTAWA - Canadian diplomats in Washington warned Ottawa earlier this year that a Donald Trump presidency would affect how the two countries co-operated on fighting climate change.

They also levelled criticism at Trump's protectionist trade policy, at one point branding it ill-informed.

And less than two months before the Nov. 8 election, they said that a Trump victory seemed unlikely, given Hillary Clinton's strong showing in polls.

The findings are contained in a series of campaign monitoring reports prepared by the Canadian embassy in Washington for Global Affairs Canada.

Copies of the reports were released under the Access to Information Act.

They shed new light on how the federal government viewed a possible Trump presidency, especially given how Justin Trudeau steadfastly avoided criticizing the billionaire Republican nominee during a campaign — a decision that has won the prime minister plaudits since Trump's surprising victory.

The Canadian embassy flagged climate change as an area of concern in a possible Trump presidency in a dispatch this last May, saying that "at a minimum" he might try to renegotiate the Paris agreement on reducing greenhouse gases.

At the time, Canada and the U.S. were basking in the glow of their renewed alliance on fighting climate change, with Trudeau earning praise from Barack Obama for his role in helping negotiate the Paris accord last year.

"Donald Trump dismissed man-made climate change, referring to it as a 'hoax' and a 'very expensive form of tax,' and even goes so far as to suggest that it was created 'by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive'," says a May 25 report from the embassy's congressional and intergovernmental affairs branch.

"In stark contrast to his Democratic rival, Trump has not shied away from supporting fossil fuel development," it adds, noting that Trump has called the Environmental Protection Agency a "disgrace" that he might eliminate.

"Trump may be more positive towards Canadian oil exports, but his questioning of climate change science and the role of the EPA would likely impact bilateral and international co-operation on emissions reductions," the report says.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Canada would push Trump to be an ally in the fight against climate change, and will argue that the effort can create new jobs. Dion also called the EPA "a source of inspiration" for Canada.

Trump has since appointed Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt — an opponent of Obama's climate change policies — to lead the EPA. And his choice for energy secretary, former Texas governor Rick Perry, also has close ties to his state's oil industry.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told a session of the Senate's question period on Wednesday that Canada is committed to pursuing its climate change agenda with the Trump administration, including making a business case for clean energy technology.

She said the fact that 195 countries signed the Paris accord "sent a signal to the markets that we're moving to a cleaner future … a low-carbon future."

McKenna noted that leading U.S. American entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, announced a $1 billion clean tech fund for developing countries.

"Three hundred and fifty companies sent a letter to President Obama and president-elect Trump asking for continued support for the Paris agreement, for continued action on climate change," she said. "They know business and they see this as a business opportunity."

In a Aug. 2 report, the embassy takes a shot at Trump's agenda. "The Republican platform is light on substantive trade negotiation objectives. It does condemn forced localization, especially by China (demonstrating an ironic lack of knowledge of Buy America legislation passed by the last two Republican-controlled Congresses)."

As the campaign entered the home stretch it became apparent that the Canadian embassy — like most pollsters and the mainstream media — considered a Trump victory to be unlikely. A Sept. 9 report noted how most polls showed Clinton leading, albeit with a shrinking margin.

The embassy analyzed Trump's potential path to winning a majority of the 538 votes in the U.S. electoral college and concluded "his path to 270 is not so evident."

The embassy noted that both candidates had "record high" unfavourability ratings.

"Given how unpopular each candidate is, more Americans than ever before will be voting for a candidate they don't really like or trust."

Earlier this week, Trudeau reiterated details about his congratulatory phone with Trump and said he invited him to make Canada his first foreign destination as president, as his predecessors have.

"I reminded him of the tradition and certainly extended an invitation for him to come up and he responded positively, but obviously we're still working with the incoming administration to finalize," Trudeau said.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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