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Chris Gray

Chris Gray is an Associate Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be reached at chris@grassrootspa.ca.

With the January 20th inauguration date on the horizon, Grassroots connected with two key business influencers in Ottawa to get their perspectives on what Canada’s business environment could look like moving forward, with a Democrat back in the White House.

What does the Democrat win mean for our economy? Biden’s trade plans include bringing back critical supply chains so the U.S. are not dependent on other nations during a crisis, and promising to tighten domestic content rules, which may have implications for some closely linked Canadian manufacturing sectors. Some irritants will remain even under Biden. For instance, Biden promises more ‘Buy American’ policies, and perennial disputes like softwood lumber will not disappear.

Perrin Beatty

“From a Canadian business perspective, it will be good when we have greater clarity, not only about the Presidency, but also about Congress,” noted Perrin Beatty, President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“When a President is faced with a Congress where one or both houses are controlled by another party, it becomes even more important for Canada to be present, not just in the White House, but also on the Hill,” Beatty continued.

From an industry specific perspective, President & CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada Derek Nighbor had this to say about the Biden victory: “Historically, the softwood lumber file has been challenging for Canadian producers under both a Democratic and Republican administration. This trade dispute doesn’t only hurt Canadian workers, but it also hurts American families – driving up the cost of lumber that they need and driving up the cost of housing. At the best of times, Americans can only satisfy 75% of domestic demand for softwood lumber. They need Canadian lumber.”

Derek Nighbor

Beatty continued: “We can expect to see fewer capricious trade actions against Canadian products, but we should not assume that, just because the current President has embraced protectionism, having a different party in the White House would mean that the U.S. once again embraces open trade. Both parties have supported Buy American policies, and they will be a continuing concern for Canada.”

“We remain hopeful that the federal government can advance a more productive dialogue under the Biden-Harris administration. More broadly, while we expect there will continue to be protectionist winds out of the U.S., we are hopeful that President-elect Biden’s commitment to dialogue and multi-literalism will help tone down some of the unhelpful rhetoric and bring thoughtful discussion and less unpredictability to Canada-U.S. relations,” Nighbor noted in relation to the natural resources sector.

“The Canadian business community believes it’s important to restore the special relationship with our closest friend and most important customer. We hope that we will see the United States resume its leadership role in the world, including in international bodies like the World Trade Organization. While there are always challenges in our bilateral relationship, they can be overcome if both nations treat each other with respect and understanding. We should never forget that other countries throughout the world envy what Canada and the U.S. have built together,” Beatty concluded.

Prime Minister Trudeau has congratulated President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, setting the stage for positive relations moving forward, and Members of Parliament from all political stripes passed a motion unanimously on Monday calling on the government to invite them to visit Canada, post-pandemic.  The next two months will be interesting, given President Trump’s embattled position on the 2020 election results, amid the national transition to a different administration.