As hundreds of Canadians descend upon Washington, D.C. to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump, a respected pollster says Canadians "should be afraid, be very afraid" of the Republican businessman sitting in the White House.

"It’s imponderable, the circus accompanying Mr. Trump over the last two weeks," said Frank Graves, president and founder of EKOS Research Associates. "You can’t believe this kind of stuff on a day-by-day basis is sustainable.”

In the months since Trump's historic presidential victory, a candidate for Conservative leadership in Canada has proposed a Trump-style immigration screening policy and been accused of xenophobia by her colleagues. Racist rhetoric in Canada has spiked, evidenced through a number of shocking confrontations, and Americans crashed the Canadian immigration website at least five times.

South of the border, the Mexican peso has tanked, equity markets have soared, and early efforts to dismantle the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) already appear to be well underway. That doesn't mean the sky is falling, said Graves, a regular political commentator in Ottawa, but it does mean justification for Canadians who feel panic as the Republican businessman and reality TV star enters the White House.

The EKOS Research website notes that during his 36-year-career, Graves has directed hundreds of large scale studies of Canadian attitudes on issues ranging from the economy to national unity and Canada-U.S. relations, and has provided advice to an array of decision makers in the private and public sectors.

A "legitimacy crisis" in the United States

"I did a poll on this after he won, and there is a huge consensus that this is going to have direct impacts in Canada and even me in my household," he told National Observer​. "Whereas people thought Brexit was a big deal, it didn’t have the same sort of personal connection to their economy or wellbeing that this does.”

The economic implications of a Trump presidency are still up in the air, but his plan to re-open the North American Free Trade Agreement is already giving jitters to stakeholders across a wide range of industries, such as lumber and auto parts. The United States is Canada's largest market, with $51 billion in goods crossing the border monthly, supporting many thousands of jobs.

On the other hand, if Trump is successful in his long-term plan to boost the U.S. economy and create 25 million new jobs, cutting taxes, and investing in infrastructure, Canada's economy could enjoy a much-needed boost. Revival of the embattled Keystone XL pipeline, which Trudeau approved and Obama rejected, could also have a similar effect.

Graves however, brings up a different concern: If allegations of Trump's involvement with the Russian government (or "compromising" sexual activities in Moscow, for that matter) turn out to be true, the American public could face a "legitimacy crisis" upon realizing their new leader isn't fit to govern. He said Justin Trudeau's Liberals have enough problems adjusting their course to deal with Trump without that kind of extra uncertainty south of the border.

"(The federal government's) policy platform and agenda were very much based on what everybody thought was a safe assumption of Hillary as president of the United States," said Graves. "I think now they’re trying to pivot and adjust to a really surprising turn of events. And we won’t figure out whether they’ve been successful or not for a long time to come.”

Will Trudeau's "new kids on the block" take on Trump?

From a values standpoint, there are certainly plenty of opportunities for the two governments to butt heads on policy: While Trump picks climate change deniers to lead his administration and promises to retreat from domestic and international climate agreements, the Trudeau administration has unequivocally committed to meet climate change targets set by the Paris agreements, and to balance environmental and economic interests.

Where Trump has vowed to deport millions of undocumented U.S. residents and build a wall with Mexico, Canada has welcomed more than 29,000 Syrian refugees. Where Trump has appointed a "sclerotic gerontocracy of 70-year-olds" for a cabinet, said Graves, Trudeau has appointed "the new kids on the block."

"How does that work out? I don’t know," he said. "It will be really interesting to watch.”

Many members of Trudeau's cabinet are not only first-time ministers, but first-time MPs. Maryam Monsef, for example, Canada's former minister of democratic institutions and newly-minted minister of status of women, held public office for the first time in 2015. Asked by National Observer if she would ever confront Trump or his staffers for making offensive comments about women, her press secretary, Matthew Pascuzzo, wrote in an email:

"Minister Monsef is looking forward to working with the new administration to advance gender equality. Our government has been very clear that gender equality is a key priority and that we need to ensure that all women and girls have a chance to reach their full potential. The Prime Minister has been vocal at home and abroad about the importance of gender equality. We encourage all leaders to continue to work to overcome all social barriers, including sexism and deep-seated resistance to change."

Jordan Owens, press secretary to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, a decorated veteran but a newcomer to politics, offered a similar response:

“Our government and Minister Sajjan certainly will work with the incoming administration to mutually benefit both of our countries," she told National Observer in an interview. "I don’t think our Minister would hesitate to ensure that Canadian values and interests are heard and represented and given the time and space they deserve."

Sajjan, who has previously said that some of Trump's comments, particularly about NATO, are "not helpful," was scheduled to attend inauguration celebrations at the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. on Friday with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.

Potential silver lining for Canada

Should chaos ensue in the wake of Trump's presidency, Graves said there could be a silver lining for Canada. If Trump makes good on just a handful of his promises involving immigration, Mexico, or refugees, the pollster said Canada's may have a shot as stealing America's limelight as the 'leader of the free world.'

"As time goes on, the (federal government) can present themselves as a place that still believes in an open, cosmopolitan posture with respect to globalization in the world, foreign direct investments, trade liberalization, refugees and so forth; to present ourselves as now being the shining city on the hill," he told National Observer.

“For a while, under the Bush administration, Canada very much enjoyed this lustre as the poster child for lost liberal aspirations in America. They could recover that and could be kind of a good magnet for attracting some of the best people and industries in Canada."

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F... Trump. He is nothing more than Dante in hell. He preacribes greed and wealth at the expense of poverty and fairness. I can only wish that I had a permit. 4 years of assholeishness and we shall progress with sustainable energy. P.S. my permit is for a gun!

Imaging the Headline: Apple Computer Moves to Canada; Micrsoft Google Still Deciding.

One would question the efficacy of Mr. Graves advice considering Canada is deeply in debt, the gap between rich and poor grows steadily, we are not meeting our climate promises, the health care system is in disaray and foreign entities have been invited in to buy up our infrastructure. So exactly how has Mr. Graves advice worked in our favour. Pollsters and pundits and journalists are always busy giving us the benefit of their wisdom and I think it is time to stop listening to them.