During nearly a decade as prime minister of Canada, one of Stephen Harper's primary objectives was to weaken the authority of governments by making them subservient to international trade deals.
This was detailed in Burnaby author Donald Gutstein's incisive 2014 book, Harperism: How Stephen Harper and His Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada.
“He’s gradually moving the country from one that’s based on democracy to one that’s based on the market, which means that the decisions are not made by our duly elected representatives through the laws that they pass and the regulations that they enact,” Gutstein told the Straight four years ago.
Now, Harper is chair of the International Democrat Union, which is advancing this neoliberal agenda internationally.
The IDU supports a world in which appointed tribunals are able to inflict penalties on governments who obstruct corporations. Especially those with a head office on one country, sourcing products in a second country (often poorer), and then shipping them to a third country.
Donald Trump has undermined this smooth-running operation by imposing high tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
It's led to retaliation by governments in other countries, including Canada. It's added duties on everything from orange juice to roasted coffee coming from American producers.
Hence, Harper paid a visit today to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Harper might have even been summoned by the White House to help it sort through this mess.
There were reports that Harper was also going to see uber hawk and Secretary of State John Bolton. But according to the White House, that meeting did not occur. Harper and Bolton share a deep affinity for Israel.
So what did Harper likely tell Kudlow?
Kudlow is a former Wall Street chief economist, right-wing media commentator, and former Reagan administration official.
As such, he didn't need to drink any Harperian Kool-Aid about tax cuts. That's because Kudlow's been a cheerleader in this area for decades.
Kudlow also used to be a free trader, but he's modified his position since joining Trump's White House. To do otherwise might lead to his dismissal by the mercurial president.
My guess is that Harper talked politics, not economics, with Trump's chief economic adviser.
Harper likely explained to him that as long as Trump kept up his trade war with Canada, Justin Trudeau will become more popular in his home country.
If Kudlow needed schooling about Trudeau, Harper could have told him that he's a lot like Obama except when it comes to climate change.
Harper likely emphasized that Canada is just over a year from a federal election.
This year, the Conservatives opened up a lead on the Liberals in the polls. That's created a very real possibility that Justin might be a one-term wonder.
But the more Trump rants about Trudeau, the more likely Canadians will vote Liberal to give their collective finger to the Donald.
Already, the Liberals are back in front, albeit narrowly, in the CBC poll tracker.
That's bad news for the Conservatives in Canada. And it's particularly bad news for Harper, whose life's work has been to derail the legacy of Justin's father Pierre Trudeau.
Harper has to stand on the sidelines and watch his former cabinet ministers, including Rona Ambrose and James Moore, speak up in favour of the Liberal government's position.
Trump is likely oblivious to all of this. After all, who's going to tell a narcissistic, bullying boss that Canadians despise him so deeply that if he criticizes Canada, Trudeau immediately becomes more popular?
So the White House message remains the same, leading to more fawning coverage of Trudeau in the Canadian media.
When Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked about Canada's new tariffs on U.S. goods today, she stuck to the boss's script.
At times she appeared to be reading from prepared notes on the topic.
"We've been very nice to Canada for many years, uhm, and they've taken advantage of that, particularly advantage of our farmers," she said. "And at the G7 the president proposed that they get rid of all tariffs and drop all barriers and have really great trade. And they refused that.
"And escalating tariffs against the United States does nothing to help Canada and it only hurts American workers," Sanders continued. "The president is working to fix the broken system and he's going to continue pushing for that."
There was no olive branch. No admission that maybe those steel and aluminum tariffs were unfair.
This, of course, is not good news for neoliberals, including Harper.
Big business made the mistake of thinking that it could control Hitler.
Similarly, the Davos set probably thought that Trump could be tamed.
But it's looking more likely that he's going to rip apart the Republican Party in due course.
He'll also contribute to the election of politicians that neoliberals despise.
It already happened yesterday in Mexico when left-wing populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
And next year, it could occur again if Trudeau wins a second majority government, courtesy of Trump.
Now you know why Harper's so alarmed about this situation.More