Ottawa resident Kelly Caldwell couldn't bear to watch.
As Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, her cell phone was cast aside on her desk, pinging with news of the inauguration. She had no interest in watching the celebrity Republican businessman turn her country into a "reality TV show," she said, and opted to spend her afternoon working.
"Watching the primaries, watching him beat Hillary — I felt numb," Caldwell, who hails from North Carolina, told National Observer. The 34-year-old restores and preserves heritage buildings and has lived in Canada for the last four years.
It's "going to get worse before it gets better," she said, but there's no use getting worked up about it. "Otherwise the anxiety and anger would overwhelm me on a day-to-day basis."
Very few feelings for Donald Trump
Trump's inauguration speech, while free of the bombastic and explosive comments that made him famous on the campaign trail, had strong undertones of nationalism and protectionism. He said his administration would be "transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people," pledged to put "America first" in 100-per-cent of his decisions, and to end the "American carnage" associated with drugs, crime, unemployment, and poverty.
Not far from Caldwell's office, at a bar on Ottawa's Sparks Street, observers watched the proceedings with varying degrees of doubt about Trump's ability to deliver on his commitments. Like Caldwell, they were surprisingly subdued on a day that will undoubtedly go down as one of the most polarizing and controversial inaugurations in American history.
"I fear this will only become a four-years-long episode of The Apprentice," said patron Cameron MacIntosh. "I mean, I’m a bit worried here. My mom just retired to Florida, bought a house there, literally days after he won the elections. In the end, we've got to give him a chance, but it’s still all so surprising."
"We’re hoping for the best," added Connor, a businessman from Georgia visiting Ottawa for work, who asked that his last name not be identified. "He’s got a big job ahead of him to make sure this country’s resources are properly exploited. The GDP growth has been stuck around three per cent and that’s just too low for this country."
Canadian industry already worried
A major part of Trump's election platform and inaugural speech included a vow to "buy American and hire American." His comments worry Canadian industry stakeholders, particularly in the automotive, lumber, and energy sectors.
Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers told The Canadian Press that the protectionist sentiments are a "wakeup call" and said Canadians must remind the new administration of when their policies will hurt their northern neighbours. McMillan attended the inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C., and met with U.S. industry stakeholders and government contacts shortly afterwards.
With such instability looming over the trade relationship between the two countries, he emphasized the importance of getting Canadian oil to tidewater to reduce Canada's reliance on American purchasing. He didn't mention the possibility of re-opening the case to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which Trump has previously supported, or how America's retreat from climate commitments could impact Canada's energy sector.
Less than half an hour after Trump was sworn in on Friday, media outlets across North America had reported that all references to climate change had been deleted from the White House website, and the only mention of climate on Trump’s new website is under his “America First Energy Plan” page, which includes a vow to destroy climate progress made by the Obama administration.
Trump "completely lost" on turning ideas into action
It's precisely this retreat from 'progress' that has left-leaning Americans like Caldwell worried. She's also worried that if she ever moves back to the U.S., she won't have healthcare.
"There's a lot of progress he could overturn, especially in the areas of civil rights, environmental matters and international policy, which are some pretty big things," said the staunch Bernie Sanders supporter from her Ottawa office. "I don’t disagree with his message that there are a lot of problems, and maybe it’s a good idea to have an outsider with new perspectives come in to help fix things, but it seems that turning that enthusiasm and mindset into action is where he’s completely lost."
Caldwell will participate in Ottawa's version of the Women's March on Washington on Saturday, to voice concern about a Trump presidency, and to promote women's rights. She said she hopes Trump's victory inspires more Americans to get involved in politics, particularly at the local level. It could even be a silver lining, she said.
Long-time Ottawa resident Steve Flannery, however, said Trump does not worry him a bit. Watching the inauguration from D'Arcy McGee's, the 62-year-old said his political leanings are "right of Attila the Hun," and expressed no qualms about having a businessman with no political experience in the White House.
"I think it’s Trump’s time now," he told National Observer. "I feel the left is just over-blowing in its resistance for what that means. I’m not worried about it. To me, Trump’s style is about stating extremes, and then to negotiate away from these extremes. So I’m not worried about his outrageous statements."
Trudeau's challenge with Trump
According to EKOS Politics, Trump is supported by a surprising majority of conservative Canadians. Regardless of their political preferences, polls have found, most Canadians want Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work hard to cultivate a strong relationship personal relationship with Trump as leader of America's closest ally.
Trudeau issued the following statement congratulating Trump:
"Canada and the United States have unparalleled cooperation on matters of national security, and have always worked side by side to protect our citizens and ensure our shared border is secure. We look forward to working with President Trump, the U.S. Administration, the 155th Congress, and officials at the state and local levels to restore prosperity to the middle class on both sides of the border, and to create a safer and more peaceful world."
The statement was neutral and expected. Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research and a respected political commentator, said Trudeau has a delicate balance to strike between standing up for Canadian values that appear to conflict with Trump's, and maintaining a close relationship to the president to effectively promote Canada's economic interests.
Nanos told National Observer that Canadians probably don't want Trudeau to be overly friendly. "We’ve usually traded on our good relationship between the president and the prime minister to allow us to have, what I would say, is not just a cordial relationship, but a relatively equal relationship in the United States.
“I think the challenge for Trudeau is that Trump knows that he has the leverage in the relationship to, for all intents and purposes, pretty much do whatever he likes... (Trudeau) has to balance on the one hand, the fact that many Canadians do not have an affinity for Trump, his style of politics or his views, but at the same time, know that the relationship with Donald Trump could have a material negative impact on the Canadian economy.”
Earlier this month, some of Trudeau's top staffers met with members of Trump's team to establish an early connection with the new administration, but it is not yet known when Trudeau and Trump will meet.
— with files from Canadian Press