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WARREN: For Canada to get this through, we must hope the U.S. does as well

Some Canadians seem almost smug that we may be handling the COVID-19 crisis better than the United States. There is much speculation on social media that the dysfunction of the federal government in the U.S. and the resulting disaster will be the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.

What a remarkable attitude. Many critical aspects in the lives of Canadians depend on the health and success of the United States.

Every death in the U.S. will be felt here north of the border. Every mistake that hurts the American economy will hurt the Canadian economy.

More than our economy, our health and security depend on the U.S.

No matter how much you may dislike Trump, we all have to hope and pray that he makes better decisions in April and May than he did in February and March.

When Trump unilaterally canceled NAFTA, one of the smart decisions Trudeau made was to continue the work of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in seeking out new trade deals.

Trudeau now has the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which is a free-trade agreement between Canada and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Canada also has the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – unofficially, Canada-Europe Trade Agreement – which is a free-trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.

But when it comes to our food and our security, we need America.

And as the days grow darker in the U.S., I worry about what Trump could do in these areas by putting America first.

Although Canada produces more food than its people can consume, we also need access to different types of food than we can currently grow or harvest.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Canada is the second largest market for U.S. agricultural exports. In 2016, Canada imported more than $20.2 billion in agricultural products from the U.S alone.

Almost 80% of Canada’s fruits and vegetables are imported, primarily from the U.S.

Trudeau should have someone in his cabinet looking at what Canada would need to do this summer to become food self-sufficient.

In 2017, the Trudeau government launched a public consultation for a national food policy. Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay tabled a report in 2018.

The report looked at the cost and plan to use greenhouses to grow food in Canadian winters. We now have more greenhouses than ever before thanks to the cannabis industry. Could they be converted to grow fruits and vegetables?

If food shortages are caused in the U.S., what will happen if Trump closes the borders this fall? We need to be ready.

Second is our security. Canada cannot protect itself from a foreign threat. Decades of neglect in adequately equipping our defence forces have left us with armed forces strong in human capital but weak when it comes to infrastructure.

With Europe and the United States embroiled in the COVID-19 crisis, we are all collectively at our weakest to a foreign threat like China or Russia.

The United States government speculated about putting armed forces at our border before changing their position.

Canada needs to be working behind the scenes to ensure NATO is ready to protect all of its members from a foreign threat. In a time of domestic chaos from COVID-19, you need to remember the external threats as well.

There has been remarkable collaboration by politicians in Canada of all political stripes to work together to deal with COVID-19.

I am hopeful that our government is doing the best they can while the worst is yet to come. But, we need more than our government to be successful. We need our best friend and ally south of the border to be equally successful.

Our futures are inextricably intertwined. We are indeed all in this together.

Jim Warren is a Liberal strategist who has worked for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman.