The unexpected was the norm in 2017, starting with trade

The year 2017 will likely go down in the political history books for being the year of the unexpected.

To say it was a year of surprises would be an understatement.

The arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump on the international political scene delivered a jolt not seen in decades to the way in which the world conducts business and diplomacy.

Almost overnight, the country seen as the beacon for free trade, globalization and international co-operation rejected many of those ideas in favour of an “America First” policy laden with protectionism.

Suddenly, the future of the World Trade Organization and global, multilateral trade were in jeopardy.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government (elected on a platform more in line with a world where global diplomatic and trade co-operation were front and centre) found itself devising a negotiating strategy designed to try to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the original NAFTA brain child, was called upon to lend his expertise and insight. An advisory panel was struck with its membership comprising a cross section of some of this country’s brightest minds.

The original goal was to have the NAFTA renegotiation completed by the end of the year. That timeline has been deemed unfeasible, thanks to egregious American demands, and talks are now expected to stretch into early 2018.

The future of NAFTA remains in jeopardy. These days, uncertainty within the North American business community is simply part of doing business.

This year’s unexpected notes aren’t limited to the NAFTA front. Canada’s attempts to diversify its trade agenda have been marred by miscues and miscommunications.

Relations between Canada and the United States have taken on a chilly undertone thanks to an ongoing and longstanding dispute over softwood lumber. And, who can forget that never-ending, arm-breaking handshake.

Meanwhile, several countries — notably Japan — remain unimpressed with Canada’s performance at a meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership members on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam this year. Also, Trudeau’s visit to China failed to secure the launch of formal trade talks.

Then there’s India, which continues to wreak havoc with Canadian pulse exports by refusing to issue a new derogation order and by imposing a sudden 50 percent tariff on global pea imports. It’s an escalating trade dispute no visiting Canadian ministerial delegation has been able to resolve.

While the trade file has been rife with unpredictability, 2017’s unexpectedness stretches beyond the world of exports and imports.

Closer to home, the Liberals stunned Canadian business owners by moving ahead with a substantial tax reform plan in the middle of the summer, when most of the country was on vacation, and abandoning an unwritten protocol of cross-party collaboration when it comes to tax reform.

While the government was later forced to abandon many of its proposed changes (including a move that would have impeded the transfer of family farms from one generation to the next), Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Dec. 15 he was moving ahead with part of his tax plan, effective Jan. 1.

This, despite a stark warning from the chair of the Senate finance committee, who said Ottawa should scrap its entire tax reform plan — or at least postpone it until 2019.

The committee’s report was only the latest in a series of unanticipated moments of resistance from the Red Chamber.

It’s a trend that is expected to continue well into the new year unless the Liberals figure out a way to work with the newly independent Senate to ensure their legislation gets passed in a semi-timely manner.

In the meantime, expect political leaders both at home and abroad to continue hitting the reset button. The unexpected is only just beginning.

About the author


  • Harold

    WP – you wanted an example of an article written by an unknown or unidentified source; will this one do? Does the WP write articles or do the people with a name who work there write the Articles? Was this Article handed to you by a “street walker” (nameless) and then it was published? Who should I assume is the Author?

    • Sorry Harold – nothing hidden nor conspiratorial here.

      Each week I upload in the neighbourhood of 75 to 100 stories. I don’t have time to look at each and every one to make sure they have been properly imported – I have to trust that the system we use to accomplish this will work.

      Like any system, errors occur. Reputable news organizations own them, and correct them.

      This column was written by Kelsey Johnson, and you can find it on page 10 of this week’s paper – check out our digital edition here:

      I don’t know why this opinion piece was able to be imported without the proper byline information, but I’ll look into it when I’m back in the office following the Christmas holiday.

      In the meantime, I’ve updated the column with the author’s byline.

      Thanks for pointing out the glitch. My apologies for its mundane origin.

      Paul – WP web editor

      • Harold

        From memory, you had another commenter point this out about a month ago, and you asked the commenter to show an example of an Article without the Authors name attached. I did just that on his behalf so that you were aware that a problem does in fact exist. I wasn’t pointing at a conspiracy so your unfounded choice of the word “conspiratorial” is rather puzzling and a little too dramatic. I was giving you the readers prospective and I think that often times you are blind to it. Unintentionally the Authors name was hidden from the Article, but what are your readers to think? Did the reader cause the problem and the associated mixed messages? Is it the readers/customers responsibility to get your business right?
        You are apologizing – but for what “mundane origin”? If you are going to apologize at least do it from some conviction or don’t bother at all; its very unbecoming. Allow me to re-write your response using your words.
        This column was written by Kelsey Johnson, and you can find it on page 10 of this week’s paper – check out our digital edition here: I don’t know why this opinion piece was unable to be imported without the proper byline information, but I’ll look into it when I’m back in the office following the Christmas holiday.
        In the meantime, I’ve updated the column with the author’s byline. Thanks for pointing out the glitch. Cheers.
        Allow me to re-write my comment:
        Thanks for identifying the Author and for your concern in this matter. Knowing the source and the Author’s name are important to me and I appreciate your unwillingness to have me seek another News Paper to gain the important details that were missing in this one.

        • old grouchy

          Whilst your effort Harold was not only genuine but also very diplomatic the lack of acknowledgement by the web editor is quite indicative of their consideration of the question.
          Good on you for pointing out an error.
          Even better for pointing out how it could have gone.
          It is quite a shame that a genuine acknowledgment of an error (they did know better) or a mistake (something was overlooked) is so difficult to come by.
          I, too, hate being caught out wrong, but being able to, even if it takes some prompting, increases the relationship and trust between myself and that other person.

          • Harold

            It is called PR 101 and the talented know how to write a statement to create my thought (revised statement) regardless if I respond back by – saying it – or writing it. The WP created in their “righteousness” the original thoughts.
            As you have pointed out, trust is earned by owning your own mistakes and quickly and the pain in doing so is the level of trust that you have earned; the deepest pain that you endure owning up, is the highest level of trust. Those who can own up to their own mistakes are also those who can forgive the easiest. Those who cannot forgive are those in the business of covering up their own mistakes.
            Thanks for your concern and your comment to let the WP know that I was not alone. In my Boardroom, two comments such as these are x 20 and 40 gives me a reason to investigate.

          • old grouchy

            Well – – – as someone who has, more than a few times, tried to communicate with WP writers and ‘editors’ re: some inaccuracy or a frustration with the understanding displayed. Strangely they are not very approachable generally. What is even more fascinating is these same writers glee, what comes through at least, in reporting that kind of behavior in farm organizations. Somehow that doesn’t ‘feel’ good.
            Oh well, you’re welcome and I too have found that acknowledging mistakes and/or poor behavior makes for far better long term relationships that delaying or not doing so!
            May the windmill tilting never cease!


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