BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that trade is an issue she can work on with the new administration even though she has concerns about the impact some of President Donald Trump’s ideas might have on business relations with Canada.
“I agree with the president that there were many poorly negotiated trade agreements that have cost us manufacturing jobs in our state and throughout our country,” Collins said after touring the Bangor YMCA to learn about its programs for senior citizens. “His approach to renegotiation I believe will be better refined once he’s brought on a special trade representative.”
Trump has nominated Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative. Collins said she knew Lighthizer in the late 1970s and early 1980s when they both were staffers in Congress. Collins worked for William S. Cohen when he represented Maine in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
“I believe he will be good,” she said. “If we can have a trade policy that helps preserve our manufacturing base, that would be great progress. Now, I do see problems with the border tax that is being proposed.”
The border adjustment tax, proposed by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan would impose a 20 percent tax on imported goods, according to news reports.
“If you look at the amount of trade we have with Canada every single day, that could cause retaliation by the Canadian government that might hurt some of our small businesses and small employers in our state,” Collins said. “I’m also not sure what would be the impact on the mill in Madawaska, the Twin Rivers mill, where the pulp is produced on one side of the border and the paper on the other side of the border. So, would there be a tax? That doesn’t make sense. There are a lot of issues to work out.”
But Maine’s senior senator was not at the YMCA to talk about trade.
As chairwoman of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, Collins said she went to the Second Street facility to meet with members of Second Wind, a program for senior citizens.
“We have a hearing coming up about the impact isolation has on the mental and physical well-being of seniors,” she said before starting the tour.
The date of that hearing was not listed Wednesday on the committee’s website.
As Collins entered the lobby that morning, a bevy of children in preschool programs along with CEO Diane Dickerson greeted her and posed with her for photographs.
Dickerson said that one of the goals at the Y is to offer programming that would appeals to all generations.
“We love the multi-generational,” Dickerson said. “We have some of our seniors volunteering with the little kids, doing some reading and STEM programs so that everybody is important to us.
Collins met with Greg Zielinski, senior fitness program manager, and half a dozen members of Second Wind. All of them previously attended programs at the Hammond Street Senior Center, which closed its doors on Oct. 30, 2015.
Since February 2016, the Y has offered social programs to complement its exercise classes for seniors, Zielinski said.
“I really appreciate this Second Wind program,” Marie Keane told Collins. “It doesn’t set the seniors off as an afterthought [and say] ‘Oh, they just play bingo.’ They’re not as important. Here, you may feel equally as important as a child that’s here at a swim class or somebody who’s taking yoga. You’re integrated into all parts of the programs.”
Collins, who broke her ankle a few days before Christmas, still wore a “boot” and walked using a cane Wednesday. The senator said she will graduate to a brace at the end of the week.
After spending about 45 minutes at the Y, Collins headed to her office in Bangor, where was scheduled to meet with a group of primary care physicians concerned about how a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that Collins has sponsored would be implemented if the health care law is repealed as promised by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. She also was to meet with a group of people from Mount Desert Island concerned about Trump’s foreign policy.