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Canadian experts react to U.S. election: Don't be too quick to assume Biden will be good for Canada, professor says

Elisabetta Bianchini
·13-min read

As the U.S. election day unfolds, Canadian neighbours are eagerly watching and waiting for the results to see who the next President of the United States will be. Will there be a second term for Donald Trump or can the Democrats take the lead with Joe Biden at the helm? Experts and analysts say a Joe Biden win could be in the best interest of Canada, but others say neither Biden or Trump are a perfect pick.

EXPERT REACTION:

Dr. Melissa Haussman, Professor at Carleton University

‘Their hands would be tied and they would become two very frustrated men for the next four years’

Dr. Melissa Haussman, a political science professor at Carleton University, believes at this point in the election process that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will come out on top in the election, but “never say never.”

“It'll be history-making to have the first Black woman be the VP of the U.S. and yes, I would take 1,000 of her over Mike Pence any day,” Haussman said. “A very confident woman, somebody who has achieved a lot.”

She also stressed that in the 2018 election, suburban women, white women in particular, “started deserting Trump in droves” to flip the House to Democrats.

“In 2018, there were record numbers of women elected to the House and the Senate, including women of colour, Muslim women, Black women, also Native American women, and actually even more running now,” Haussman said. “So with a more diverse Congress and if Biden and Harris get in, life is looking pretty good in the U.S.”

“Now I do have to say, if [Donald Trump and Mike Pence] did get re-elected, which I don't think they will but if they did, and the Democrats take the Senate, then there's very little they could do. Their hands would be tied and they would become two very frustrated men for the next four years.”

In terms of what may be a better result for Canada, Haussman identifies that it’s important to consider that we don’t know who the next Prime Minister of Canada will be, particularly after events like the WE Charity scandal and other issues that have plagued the Liberal party in recent years.

“Trudeau and Biden are much closer ideologically than Trump and Trudeau but the other thing is, who knows what's going to happen here,” she said. “That would be truly ironic, if in fact we flip roles and the U.S. President is progressive and the Canadian [Prime Minister] isn't.”

Dr. Andy Hira, Professor at Simon Fraser University

‘My feeling is that Biden is going to win and he's going to win pretty easily’

Dr. Andy Hira, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University is anticipating that the Democrats will ultimately win the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“My feeling is that Biden is going to win and he's going to win pretty easily,” Hira told Yahoo Canada. “If we believe that the polls have some accuracy, his margins are way better than Hillary Clinton's.”

“Many key constituencies didn't come out for Hillary Clinton, such as African-Americans and Latino voters. Then of course everyone's been talking about the swing constituency of suburban women. All of those constituencies are strongly in favour of Biden, and more importantly, the turnout seems to be a lot higher.”

Hira also indicated that the possibility of states like Arizona and Georgia becoming Democratic is a sign of a “possible landslide” for both the presidency and potentially control of both Houses of Congress. If that’s the case, the professor indicates there would would be the potential for “sweeping legislation” come January.

If Trump does end up losing the presidency, Hira said the future of the Republican Party is “really up for question.”

“We’ve seen some of the old guards in the Republican Party start to defect from Trump and if he loses badly, the Republican Party is really going to have an existential crisis,” he said.

Hira also stressed that there are some peculiarities in terms of mail-in versus in person ballots and how long different states are going to wait for ballots marked by election day to be counted.

“When we're talking about really close states like Florida or Pennsylvania, a handful of ballots could actually end up making a difference,” Hira said. “If it's a close margin, which ballots are going to be counted and which aren't,...those things could be litigated for weeks, past the actual official count.”

Dr. Emily Regan Wills, Associate Professor at University of Ottawa

‘Trump's attitude towards diplomacy was to walk into the room like a gorilla’

While many political experts have sounded off on what result could be better for Canada, Dr. Emily Regan Wills, an associate political science professor at the University of Ottawa, stresses “it's hard to take Canadian interests as a whole, just like it's hard to take American interests as a whole.”

“I do think that a better relationship between Canada and the U.S. is in Canada's interest and I do think that a Biden administration would be more willing to work with a Trudeau administration, or with any future Canadian government, just because they'll come from a more multilateral place,” the professor explained. “Trump's attitude towards diplomacy was to walk into the room like a gorilla, and Biden's attitude will be not that.”

Wills also indicated one of the “biggest issues” with Canada-U.S. relations is that the border is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Biden's not going to be able to pull a U-turn on the coronavirus, but it does seem likely that he would be able to put in place policies that would slow it’s spread and return to a possibility of the border being open earlier, but we're still talking on the order of six to nine months before there's any chance of that,” Wills said.

‘Watching what's happening in Texas, who is turning out, is really important,’ expert says

Wills believes some of the most interesting results of the night are going to come in from a set of swing states, which includes Florida, Pennsylvania, and particularly after the 2016 election, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Wills also believes the race between the Democrats and the Republicans will be “the closest for the Democrats in Georgia and Texas that we've seen in a while.”

“It was not very long ago when we all started by saying, obviously Texas is going to go Republican, just the same way California is going to go Democratic, and you can't say that anymore,” the professor told Yahoo Canada. “Watching what's happening in Texas, who is turning out, is really important.”

Wills added that anyone following the vote count also needs to be aware of whether mail-in or in person ballots are being counted first.

“Because this year, mail-in ballots have a strong partisan lean, be aware of what vote counting methodology you're listening to,” the professor said.

Wills also urges people watching to keep an eye on any major issues that come up in terms of vote invalidation and voter suppression activity, which could delay the results or potentially disqualify votes that don’t meet the “technical criteria.”

‘I think we are all right to be a little on edge’

In terms of the potential unrest and riots that many Americans are anticipating, Wills cautions that it’s “more likely than it's ever been in my lifetime, which is still not terribly statistically likely.”

“I think for Americans who’ve lived their whole lives in the United States, the prospect of election violence is confusing and unthinkable, and intimidating,” the professor explained. “Whereas, unfortunately, it's a part of election processes in a lot of parts of the world.”

“I think because we've seen a higher than normal baseline level of civil unrest, I think we are all right to be a little on edge. That being said, I'm not going to think ‘oh, hooray we dodged a disaster’ if there's no violence, I'm going to think, ‘OK, the worst case scenario didn't happen.’”

Jagmeet Singh: ‘Vote him out’

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was very clear and transparent about his thoughts on the U.S. election, calling for Americans to vote out President Donald Trump.

“Trump makes the world a more dangerous place for all of us and I hope to see him lose,” the tweet from the federal party leader reads.

“We’re not in normal times,” Singh told reporters in Ottawa. “What president Trump has done is so far beyond what is normal that is a moral imperative that we have to speak out and make it really clear that what he has done in his presidency is wrong.”

The NDP leader sited how he “abysmally failed” American people, and people all over the world, by his mismanagement of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Singh said the responsibility lies with a president who “clearly is challenging science, who denies basic steps that would keep people safe, who has inflamed division, has inspired white supremacists.”

“In that context, yes, it is important for the wold to say very clearly, I’ve said very clearly, I think it would be better for the world if Trump loses and I hope he loses today,” the NDP leader said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also commented on the U.S. election, but did not go so far as to express his personal preference on the result.

“Canada has been and will always be a strong friend, neighbour and ally to the United States and we will all be watching with great interest the United States elect a president, practice their democracy,” O’Toole told reporters. “We are here to work with whomever the next president will be.”

“As prime minister I’ve said the priority will be trying to find common ground for the best interest of our citizen and hopefully the best interest of their...We have to keep that strong relationship.”

Freeland: ‘Every Canadian government needs to be a specialist in working with the United States’

At a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked to comment on the U.S. election, stressing that the Canadian government will continue to work with Americans and “defend Canadian interests” no matter the result.

“Many people will be watching this election tonight, I will certainly watch part of them, but we also know that there is a possibility that we won’t know results until tomorrow morning or even later in the week, or even longer than that,” Trudeau said. “We’re going to continue to watch and make sure we’re standing up for Canadian interests every step of the way but we will allow the American elections...to unfold as they will.”

“There are ebbs and flows of different factors, there are choices made by American presidents that are the reflection of movements and expressions of...the American people. These are all things that are important to Canada to keep an eye on, to watch for, to try to figure out how to best defend Canada’s interests.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland also wanted to “assure” Canadians that the federal government has “thoughtfully prepared” for all possible outcomes of the election.

“I think it’s a reality for Canada that every Canadian government needs to be a specialist in working with the United States and that has certainly applied to our government,” Freeland said. “We absolutely respect the choice that the American people are making today and we will be ready to work effectively with whomever they choose as their government.”

The prime minister went on to highlight that over the past four years, the Canadian government successfully negotiated a trade deal, and needed to “stand up” for steel and aluminium producers in an effective manner.

“Obviously elections matter and we will watch the results of this one, but Canada is well positioned and ready to continue to work with the American people and the American government, regardless of the outcomes of tonight,” Trudeau said.

Canada takes to social media on election day

Canadians have already taken to social media to share their thoughts on the U.S. election and how they feel about being both so close but so far from Americans today.

According to a poll from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, in collaboration withe The Canadians Press, of 1,516 Canadians and 1,001 Americans between Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, a total of 77 per cent of Canadian respondents indicated they are very or somewhat interested in the U.S. presidential election. When asked if they plan to follow the results live on Nov. 3, 55 per cent of Canadian respondents said that is their plan.

In terms of concerns or anxieties around the U.S. election, 75 per cent of Canadian respondents indicated they are “worried” about the outcome, while 80 per cent are particularly concerned about “increased racial tensions leading to protests and violence.”

Of the Canadians surveyed, 80 per cent believe a Biden victory is better for Canada, with 81 per cent indicating they would vote for the Democratic candidate if they were able to.