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Challenges ahead despite major shift in Canada-U.S. relations under President Biden: expert

Canada and U.S. flags fly in the wind at the Douglas-Peace Arch border crossing, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, March 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

The PM congratulated President Joe Biden, speaking of strong ties between the U.S. and Canada

A former diplomat says Biden's presidency marks a shift in relations, but there will still be challenges ahead

The Keystone pipeline could bring friction at the beginning, Colin Robertson says

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The official swearing of President Joe Biden marks a shift in Canada-U.S. relations over the past four years, yet one expert says there will still be challenges ahead with the new administration.

Shortly after Biden became the 46th president of the United States Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his congratulations, speaking of the strong ties and common interests between Canada and the U.S.

“Our two countries are more than neighbours – we are close friends, partners, and allies,” Trudeau writes.

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who was posted in Washington, says it will be like night and day for Canada, bringing stability and confidence to the Canada-U.S. relationship after years of working with an unpredictable administration.

“Most western leaders, collectively, are sighing relief,” he says, noting the prime minister and the new president have more in common when it comes to political views.

While Trudeau says he looks forward to working with Biden on combatting the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on economic recovery, and advancing climate action, Robertson says there will be hurdles ahead, pointing to the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline between the two countries.

Robertson believes this could cause friction in the early days.

“Mr. Trudeau can raise it, the Alberta government will continue to push, and we’ll wind up in litigation,” he says.

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Ahead of Biden’s inauguration, TC Energy suspended work on the pipeline in anticipation of its permits being revoked. Opposition parties on both sides of the pipeline debate called on Trudeau to take a stand earlier this week.

It’s also unclear at this point, how Biden plans to approach the tensions with China and the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, however, Robertson believes the president will be a greater ally in the country’s fight for their release.

Biden also campaigned on Buy American policies, and like his predecessor, he may want Canada to play a bigger role in NATO.

“I think he’ll push us to do more in defence,” Roberston suggests.

Trudeau ended his statement on welcoming the president by saying, “I look forward to working with President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, their administration, and the United States Congress as we strive to make our countries safer, more prosperous, and more resilient.”