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Ambassador Heyman: Populism gaining momentum in Canada

Ambassador Bruce Heyman discusses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's election win and challenges facing his second term. Watch on Bloomberg

Quotes from the Interview

"First of all I think that we’re seeing this all around the world, we’re seeing it in the United States, we’re seeing it in Europe. The far-right populism is really getting some momentum here and [Trudeau] was facing some really populist views. In fact one of the candidates was very Trump-like in his language of racism, and immigration, and climate and all of these things. He is facing that in Canada like the US, not to the same degree, and then of course like when you govern there are some bumps in the road and he clearly had some missteps that he was held accountable to both on a personal basis but also during his governing period so the public had to make a judgement here but I think they did the right thing and from someone who cares about the environment and cares about women’s rights, cares about what’s happening with our next door neighbor to the north I think this was a good outcome."

Question: Is Canada becoming much more polarized? Because the election last night might tend to indicate that, there was a very strong turnout particularly in the West among conservatives.

"I think you’re right and not only the West, but also Quebec, I think you have a rise of the Bloc Quebec party, and this party has 32 seats now, triple the number of seats that they had at the bottom. So here you now have a party that is the third largest party in Canada and that’s the Bloc from Quebec. Now you also have out west as you mentioned Saskatchuwan and Alberta are now all ALL conservative. And so when you have a minority government, you’re going to have to learn to coalesce these various other parties and come together and do deals, get your budget passed, set your priorities, pass laws. So it’s going to be a whole new challenge for the Prime Minister that he doesn’t have a majority where he can just put things through his own party."

Question: Is USMCA in jeopardy from the Canadian side?

"Not the Canadian side, I don’t think so. I am deeply concerned as to what’s happening with their U.S. Trade Representative and while these discussions have been very quiet and appropriately so between the House of Representatives and the U.S. Trade Representative, I think he’s mismanaged the calendar historically on this, he had a Republican House and Senate where he could have gotten this deal all through and wrapped up, but now he’s facing a Democratic House which has raised appropriate concerns about the flaws in this agreement and has said we need language change. We only have a couple of weeks left on the legislative calendar for the balance of this year and he has to get going. My bigger fear, is the President response with if this doesn’t get done with the House and tears up or sends the notification on NAFTA of withdrawal. If he does that, that’s on him, and the economy will be effected by it and this is not a course that we should go."


Ambassador Heyman served as U.S. Ambassador to Canada from 2014 to 2017. He continues his work strengthening U.S.-Canada relations by serving as a strategic advisor to Canada 2020, a Canadian progressive think-tank based in Ottawa; as co-chair of the advisory board to the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center; and as an honorary patron to the Council of the Great Lakes Region. He is the co-founder of Uncharted LLC, an organization that convenes and connects diverse groups of Americans and Canadians.


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