The Sudbury-born head of North America’s largest private sector union says many of his members voted for Donald Trump.

International Steelworkers president Leo Gerard supported the Democrats in the recent U.S. election, but says many Steelworkers on both sides of the border liked Trump’s focus on the economy and restoring industrial jobs.

“I say this with both some pride and some embarrassment: he took the agenda that the United Steelworkers have been advocating for 35 years in both countries,” Gerard said, speaking on CBC Radio’s The House.

“I’ve said to some of our members: ‘Can you trust him?’ and they say ‘We don’t care if we can trust him. He’s the only guy and we’ll judge that after'”

Gerard said despite Trump’s tough trade talk, the softwood lumber dispute remains his top concern for Canadian workers. Hundreds of northern Ontario forestry workers represented by the Steelworkers fear the expiring of the softwood lumber trade deal last year will hurt the industry’s ongoing recovery.
Gerard said he suspects Trump’s attacks on free trade will largely spare Canada, but said he’s actively lobbying American lawmakers to hold the line on new duties on Canadian lumber.

“But it’s being used in the U.S. as a fundraiser for a lot of Republican and Democratic candidates,” he said.

“So there’s places, because I’m in the U.S., I can defend and work with Canada. We’re going to defend Canada, left, right and centre, or mostly left I hope.”

Gerard said despite the incoming U.S. president’s tough talk on free trade, the Canadian and American economies are too intertwined for it to have much of an impact north of the border.