Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is opting a low-key approach to dealing with United States President Donald Trump – seeking to avoid clashes while indirectly signalling the two leaders’ difference to a domestic audience.
Insiders have acknowledged that the cautious strategy could anger progressives whose support helped bring Mr Trudeau to power in 2015, however they say that for now, he has no choice but to maintain a low key approach, as Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the US and could suffer if it were to be targeted by Trump’s administration.
While Mr Trudeau maintained a close friendship with former President Barack Obama, Canadian prime ministers have not always had close ties with US presidents. Insiders however have noted that few in Ottawa have experienced anything like Mr Trump. While Canada regards the US as its closest ally, Mr Trudeau has yet to visit Washington to meet with Mr Trump. According to people familiar with the matter, a visit tentatively scheduled at the beginning of this month was cancelled after a shooter killed six Muslims in a Quebec mosque. No new date has been set.
According to Michael Kergin, a former Canadian ambassador to Washington, Mr Trudeau’s caution has been wise, stating “he’s been playing it pretty well by restraining the temptation to be publicly critical of the president.” Kergin went on to say that Mr Trudeau was also right not to follow British Prime Minister Theresa May in rushing to Washington to push for closer ties only to watch President Trump make an unpopular move on immigration after she left.
Mr Trudeau however has taken indirect shots – when Mr Trump signed orders banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr Trudeau tweeted that Canada was open to those fleeing war. Furthermore, while his chief spokeswoman blasted US network Fox News late last month for a tweet falsely claiming that the Quebec gunman was of Moroccan origin, she said nothing publicly when Trump’s spokesman said that the attack on Muslims showed why it was important to suspend immigration from Muslim nations. This approach however has angered many in Canada, including the opposition New Democrats, who have called on the Prime Minister to denounce Mr Trump’s “racist” immigration policy. In turn, members of Mr Trudeau’s team have acknowledged that over time, the Liberals could lose support before a 2019 election if the prime minister is deemed not tot be standing up for Canadian values, such as inclusiveness.
According to a classified document, Canada’s main spy agency, CSIS, last year warned energy companies about an increase risk of cyber espionage and attacks on pipelines, oil storage and shipment facilities and power transmission towers using homemade explosives.
The warning, which was made in May last year by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) highlights an additional risk for the energy sector, where opposition to pipelines has increased in Canada and the United States. Reuters, which has seen the document under access-to-information law, has reported that it features speaking notes prepared for a CSIS briefing with energy and utilities sectors stakeholders, adding that an unidentified official specifies a threat from foreign state-owned firms looking for confidential information about investments or takeovers. The official disclosed in the document “you should expect your networks to be hit if you are involved in any significant financial interactions with certain foreign states.” The official went on to say in the document that the hackers would want information on anything from valuations to tax records and clients names. The official stated that the agency had collected evidence of such espionage in the past. The document also warned that the sector was “vulnerable to explosives” and identified potential targets. In the document, the CSIS official referred to “terrorist attacks” since 2014 in Canada and abroad, stating that even large-scale attacks are “technically simple.”
The document, parts of which were obscured for security reasons, did not show the foreign states whose companies may be linked to industrial espionage or their purported Canadian victims. A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada, which oversees CSIS, stated that there had been “growth in attempted cyber attacks,” however she declined to comment on the specific incidents or threats, citing the demands of privacy and national security.
In 2012, CSIS told the Canadian government that takeovers by Chinese companies may threaten national security. At the time, China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd had bid for Canadian producer Nexen Inc. Last year, five oil pipelines carrying Canadian crude in the US were halted in coordinated attacks by environmental protesters. The attacks demonstrated the ease with which people with no technical expertise can disrupt the industry. While energy companies already use surveillance cameras, helicopters, remote sensors and drones in order to monitor some 119,00 km (74,000 miles) of pipelines across the country, which carry 3.4 million barrels of crude a day, and have an agreement to collaborate during an emergency, security experts and energy industry officials have said that it is impossible to lower the threat to zero.