Newt Gingrich: Trump and Trudeau could work 'issue by issue'

Former U.S. Republican presidential candidate suggests frontrunner might be inclined to revisit Keystone XL

TORONTO — Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. Republican presidential candidate, believes Canada’s new prime minister and Donald Trump would be able to work together “issue by issue” despite their widely divergent ideologies if the controversial Republican frontrunner makes it to the White House.

Gingrich, who ran for president in 2012 and once served as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a Trump supporter and said the polarizing billionaire doesn’t appear to bear any automatic hostility towards Liberal Justin Trudeau.

“Clearly Trudeau will be much more liberal on a whole series of issues than Trump will be, and that leads to a certain natural friction, but I certainly don’t sense any kind of anti-Canadian bias,” Gingrich told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“I think that Trump is a very practical person and he does business in Canada, knows Canada reasonably well, and I think that his inclination will be to go issue by issue.”

Trump is cognizant of the fact that Canada is the U.S.’s closest neighbour and its biggest trading partner, Gingrich said, and he would likely be in favour of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, the beleaguered project rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama last November.

“I think that will be one of the very first things he does because it’s easy and it’s obvious and straightforward,” he said.

Trudeau, for his part, has been asked repeatedly for his thoughts on Trump — including during an interview with CNBC on Thursday. He’s been careful in his responses, typically avoiding mention of the businessman’s name altogether.

Trudeau has said he has “tremendous confidence” in Americans’ capacity to get “the right result” through their electoral system, and has said he hopes Canada’s choice in electing a Liberal government and opting for a “more open, fair and positive way of doing politics” resonates through political systems around the world.

The prime minister has also said he’d work with a potential president Trump on areas where they shared common ground, such as a mutual desire for better jobs.

Trump, however, isn’t paying attention to what Canadians are saying about him, Gingrich noted.

“No,” he said wryly. “He’s not (even) paying attention to what American politicians are saying.”

Trump has astounded observers with a bid for the White House that has seen him abandon political correctness and insult large segments of the voting public.

In recent days, he has said women should face some sort of punishment if they have illegal abortions, though he quickly backtracked, and has staunchly defended his campaign manager, who has been charged with simple battery for an altercation with a female reporter.

He has also suggested some Mexicans entering the U.S. are murderers and rapists, and has suggested banning non-citizen Muslims from the country, among other controversial pronouncements.

The inflammatory rhetoric, however, is likely to change if Trump secures the Republican nomination, Gingrich predicted.

“Trump has a very segmented sense of what he is doing. Right now he is winning the nomination, then he will have to win the general election, then he’ll have to figure out how to be president,” he said.

“He is very clearly speaking to his American audience. He’s not speaking to university professors who don’t like him, and he’s not speaking to the Hollywood liberals. He knows that between now and July he has to find a way to get enough delegates to become the nominee or it doesn’t matter what he says. And so he’s pretty maniacally focused at that level.”

Trump, Gingrich went on to note, thrives on securing deals, in business and politics.

“I think he understands that he’s got to move to a new level and the challenge is whether or not he can do it,” he said. “He really has a passion for getting to a deal. I think he’d approach a lot of these things trying to find a way to get things solved, not a way to continue hostility.”