No surprise in Trump’s shot at hijacking Canada-bound respirators

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Tough guys sometimes just run. Or hide. Or hoard.

The leader to the south, never without his hands on a large spoon to stir the pot, has ordered 3M to suffocate Canada’s regular supply from its Minnesota factory of the crucial N95 masks that health workers require.

Our leader and his deputy, meanwhile, are about as cautious as can be to prevent the pot from coming to a boil and spilling out the sides. We are being neighbourly with the unruly household violating the noise policy; about the most Justin Trudeau can call it publicly is a “mistake.”

We had to know this would happen again and again when the COVID-19 pandemic became obvious enough for even Donald Trump to recognize – that he would revert to his self-interested values, no matter who else experienced pain.

We first experienced this core characteristic in the ludicrous, off-kilter negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada got through it with what we thought was greater predictability, if not new benefits, but the bluster along the way was a big lesson, and today that predictability isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

We had glimpses of this erratic shambles in the pandemic era with the spectre last week that U.S. troops might be stationed near our border. (Message to America: We’re not trying to come there.) Thankfully, some deft discussion vanquished that silly notion. The mop-up of casual treatment of serious stuff had the professionalism of the talks that had earlier arrayed a smart plan of mitigating cross-border transit and travel.

We appear to have fooled ourselves into thinking the pot would simmer. Complacency and the Trump administration are not communal terms.

The Trudeau government now has an emerging crisis with its most important geographic and economic partner. After all, public safety is the most important matter for any government, and the fleeting Trump talk about 3M supplies heading from Minnesota to Canada has a more tangible, visceral, dangerous feel as the false alarms of troops.

And what seems to be a protectionist gesture – we will keep the masks, we won’t give you any – is not as simple as it seems. Our countries share health manufacturers and health workers. We have a trade deal. We can retaliate when we act out of pique or invoke extraordinary measures.

No matter. Trump orders the masks to stay put, 3M pushes back with a reasonable explanation, and the president responds: “We’re not happy with 3M.” If it means other countries cut supplies to his country, Trump shrugs it off as if no one else is needed beyond his border. His daily press briefings have become must-watch masterclasses in non-linear petulance.

So, while we can’t rely on Trudeau to deliver or Trump to relent, we can at least rely on . . .

Doug Ford.

Wait, let me make sure I typed that correctly.

Yes, I wasn’t mistaken.

We can at least rely on, ahem, Doug Ford.

The Ontario premier has been our pandemic’s national revelation. After doing so many things in office that seemed to be steering his province into the rocks, he has been quite the ship’s captain in recent weeks. We’re not quite ready to call him Captain Canada, but he’s become the first mate.

On Friday, Ford broke what most would think ideologically to be political brotherhood with the Trump administration, noted that he can’t depend on any president or prime minister, and that Ontario would make masks for itself and for all of Canada.

It is not ideal to have to look after ourselves when there are others able to use their vast powers to help, but survival mechanisms differ across our species. This is not necessarily the Doug Ford we have known, but it is the Donald Trump we have. One sheds some skin out of the greater good, one intrinsically cannot.

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.