But Terry Sheehan, a Liberal member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie, said several factors would buffer Hamilton. It is much larger, with about a half-million people, its economy is much more diverse and, above all, it sits within Canada’s most populous and job-rich region.
By contrast, no Canadian employment centers are within commuting distance of the Sault. And the end of Algoma would likely bring pension cuts. When looking at worst-case scenarios, Mr. Sheehan is among many people here who mentioned Elliot Lake, Ontario, the former “uranium capital of the world.” Its population plummeted when mining there shut down in the 1990s.
In the long run, the economic uncertainty could also harm cross-border relations. Hockey teams hopscotch the border for games, the bridge closes to traffic once a year for an annual cross-border walk and the two city councils even hold occasional joint meetings.
Christian Provenzano, the mayor on the Canadian side, spent much of the past week calling American lawmakers to tell them that anything that weakens Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, will also harm the American Sault, which has a population of about 14,000, many of whom work at shops and restaurants that rely on Canadian customers.
“These two communities are a great example of Canadian and U.S. integration,” he said at the waterfront city hall that looks directly across the border. “And how actions that you think are going to be focused on just one country can adversely affect the other.”
After Mr. Trump said on Thursday that Canada would be exempted from the steel tariffs, at least for now, Bob Karklins, who retired as an operations analyst at Algoma nine years ago, was exasperated.
“It’s just distasteful, it’s low class, it’s hick,” Mr. Karklins said of the president’s tactics. “We felt we were at a more mature level when dealing with our American friends. I grew up here in the Sault. I love America, I really do. But right now don’t want to go over there.”