Preparing the Cabinet: Ottawa prepares for a new administration

Essentially an interim document on Canada-US relations pending further review in the spring of 1981, this Cabinet submission from McGuigan acknowledges Reagan’s past desire to consult with Canada (possibly referring to the May 1974 meeting while Governor of California in Document 1) but identifies the challenges that Reagan’s conservative outlook, and the like-mindedness emerging in the United States will pose for Canadian efforts to regulate its struggling economy. By 1980 it had become relatively rare for foreign policy issues to go before the whole Cabinet (usually handled in Committee), and therefore this submission attests to the centrality for Ottawa of relations with the United States. It anticipates that a Reagan administration will be more ideological and nationalist than the last Republican administration of Gerald Ford, with whom Trudeau had had a surprisingly successful relationship. This document predicts trouble with the US over the recently unveiled National Energy program, environmental matters, and the potential economic repercussions of high defence spending accompanied by tax cuts. Despite these trepidations, the document cautions against excessive early criticism of Reagan, and advocates that Canadian diplomats in the United States be proactive in communicating Canadian positions. It also advises that arrangements be made for an early Trudeau-Reagan meeting.

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Under Secretary Gotlieb to McGuigan “Memorandum to Cabinet on Canada-US Relations,” December 11, 1980, Library and Archives Canada, RG 25, vol. 28698, file 20-1-2-USA pt 61.