OTTAWA — The Conservative foreign affairs critic says former prime minister Stephen Harper’s appearance in Washington today could help keep pressure on the Trump White House to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Erin O’Toole says Harper’s is an ardent free trader whose voice will help convince congressional and business leaders to preserve and update NAFTA, rather than tear it up, as Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened.
It also doesn’t hurt that Harper will be sharing a stage with former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich, who was arguably the pre-Trump era’s most right-leaning American populist politician.
Other prominent Canadian conservatives have publicly aligned themselves with Trudeau Liberals in a bipartisan effort to preserve Canada’s open trading relationship with the United States.
They include Rona Ambrose, the former interim Conservative leader, and former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, who gave an unprecedented briefing to Trudeau’s cabinet on Trump, who is a friend.
Harper, who lost a long, hard-fought campaign to Trudeau in 2015, has kept a lower profile since then.
“Mr. Harper is quite well regarded within trade circles. If he can use that platform he has as a former prime minister to remind people in Washington to apply pressure on the White House, I think it’s good,” O’Toole said.
“Mr. Gingrich is still a voice that gets a lot of attention, especially in Washington,” he added.
“That is good because we need more and more voices saying, ‘We need NAFTA, we can’t step away.'”
The Canadian Press