As US presidential election enters final days, Canada braces for fallout

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The federal government is bracing for the weeks of uncertainty that could follow a U.S. presidential day without a clear winner – by making contingency plans for the border and other issues that could erupt between the November 3 vote and the day of the inauguration in January.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously signaled that his government is monitoring the election more closely in the final weeks of the campaign because of its potential impact on the Canadian economy.

“I think we are all hoping for a smooth transition or a clear election outcome like many people around the world,” Trudeau said at a press conference earlier this month. “If it’s less clear, there may be disruption and we have to be prepared. ”

The cabinet committee on global affairs and public safety has prepared for various scenarios: the re-election of President Donald Trump, a victory for Democrat Joe Biden or a long period of uncertainty associated with multiple court challenges to decide the result.

We can no longer count on the status of good neighbor, best friend. And that stays regardless of a Trump or Biden victory.– Senator Peter Boehm

A government official (who asked not to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly about the plans) said the cabinet committee was concerned about border security, the prospect of rates of COVID infection even higher in the United States and the possibility of Trump adopting tougher lines on international issues that could affect Canada.

Trump has repeatedly refused to say he will ensure a smooth transition of power if he loses and pushed unfounded allegations of massive voter fraud during the pandemic as unprecedented numbers of Americans mailed ballots to vote.

Senator Peter Boehm is a veteran former Canadian diplomat who was posted to Washington during the disputed 2000 election result in Florida between George W. Bush and Al Gore. He said the Canadian government has worked hard since Trump’s election to develop contacts at all levels of government in the United States.

A more “sophisticated” approach from Washington

Boehm said these contacts, refined during the protracted negotiations to renew NAFTA, should help Canada overcome challenges that will arise after November 3.

“What we’ve seen over the past four years is greater use of the tools we have. What this means is not just discussions at the head of government level, but with Congress, on Capital Hill, and with state and local governments, ”he said.

“And what this tells us is that we had to become more sophisticated in our approach, that there must be coherent contacts and a network, because we can no longer count on the status of good neighbor, best friend. . And that stays regardless of a Trump or Biden victory. ”

The Trump presidency has proven to be an unpredictable dance partner for Ottawa. Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement and imposed national security tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum exports.

Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak” in tweets following Canada’s troubled G7 summit in 2018 – while on other occasions he has said he really liked the Prime Minister.

A protectionist slant on both sides

Biden is less volatile and more in touch with Canada on issues such as climate change. But it would cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project – which is still viewed by Alberta as a vital prop to struggling oil – and its rig emphasizes the same kind of U.S. purchase commitments and protectionist that Trump defends.

Either way, Canadian officials will need to remain vigilant to protect that country’s interests – especially the bilateral trade relationship and the millions of jobs that depend on it, and especially if pressure mounts on the US side to reopen the border. for non-essential travel.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden delivers remarks during a campaign stop for a voter mobilization event at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. on October 12, 2020 (Tom Brenner / Reuters)

“The last four years have created some real friction,” said Andrew McIntosh, a Canadian-born lawyer in Florida who heads the Canada-Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.

“You can’t be a Canadian living in the United States and not recognize that the relationship has been called into question, not only in business terms, but as neighbors, the value we place on the relationship. I don’t think anyone can look at Canada // Relationship with the United States and not think that there has been a disregard for the history and the close ties between the two countries.

Donald Trump unbound

Scotty Greenwood is the CEO of the Canada-U.S. Business Council and a partner of Crestview Strategy in Washington. She said Canada will have to exercise caution if no clear winner emerges on November 3.

“Everyone is holding their breath to see if this is four more years of Trump or a new administration,” she said.

Greenwood said she believed Trump would be even more emboldened by winning a second term.

“You would have to worry a lot about the tariff wars. The United States is expected to engage more and more in a transactional relationship, ”she said. “Canada has developed a manual that has been reasonably successful in dealing with the Trump administration during the NAFTA negotiations and will need to keep it. ”

Boehm said the relationship between Canada and the United States needs to be built around more than just personal connections with the person in the Oval Office.

“What this relationship boils down to is not whether you like the CEO, but what is in the best interests of your own nation,” he said.

“This is the way the United States works and this is how Canada should work.

This means that Canadian political leaders must refrain from commenting or endorsing Trump or Biden – especially if the process of counting mail-in ballots or deciding legal challenges launched because of the results leaves the outcome. uncertain for days or weeks.

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