Trump’s Tariff Threat Sends Fear Through a Canadian Steel Town

Trump’s Tariff Threat Sends Fear Through a Canadian Steel Town

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario — The name Sault Ste. Marie is shared by two communities with intertwined fates: this isolated city in Ontario and its smaller neighbor in northern Michigan, right across the St. Marys River. Their mutual destiny is reflected by the lights on the mile-long bridge that connects them: one side with the red and white of the Canadian flag, the other with the red, white and blue of the American.

Now the Canadian city’s fortunes are under severe strain from the steel and aluminum tariffs that President Trump formally announced on Thursday.

Although he gave Canadian and Mexican steel makers a reprieve, the exemption is seen here as giving breathing room rather than lasting relief. The exemption leaves open the possibility that Mr. Trump can impose the tariffs at any point, for vaguely expressed reasons.

“Did you ever see a cemetery?” a retired Algoma steelworker, Rudolph Wheatley Jr., asked as he characterized the likely effect of steel tariffs on his hometown. “Donald shook up everybody. But what am I going to do? I can’t vote over there, but he can affect me.”

Algoma, the steel maker that dominates the local economy, employs about 3,000 people and provides pensions to about 8,000 others in this community of 75,000. The staggering company is just now emerging from creditor protection and into new ownership. The loss of its vital American export business could be the final blow for the company. And without Algoma, Sault Ste. Marie might become, if not a ghost town, a city without a purpose.

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