In an audio recording obtained by CTV News, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper says current PM Justin Trudeau is playing politics with NAFTA. Harper says Trudeau is taking an adversarial role in his relationship with President Trump and endangering trade negotiations in order to project a tougher image of a prime minister who is willing to take on a president who is unpopular in Canada.
“The reality is that the Government of Canada believes today that it is doing very well, the fight with Trump is good for it politically, it is winning,” Harper said at a private function that was part of the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum in Montreal on July 11.
“So if it can take that fight and continue it, and more importantly paint conservatives as linked to Donald Trump, this is great for them. And so right now that is the strategy they are on.”
Harper also objected to the way that the Prime Minister’s Office discussed his trip to Washington this month, suggesting it intentionally leaked the story to make him appear as an interfering former prime minister.
The former Conservative PM said it would be “foolish” to sacrifice NAFTA on the altar of political partisanship, though he said both the U.S. and Canada have come close to doing so. Though Harper acknowledged that Trump was a tough negotiator, he didn’t think that should discourage Canada from closing the deal.
Trudeau’s office was quick to deny Harper’s allegation that it is deliberately scuttling the NAFTA negotiations, telling CTV News that the government’s liaison with all levels of the U.S. government and business has been exhaustive.
Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad issued a statement to CTV that read: “Canadians know this non-partisan approach is in the best interests of the country. And many prominent Conservatives feel the same way.”