The United States is Canada’s neighbour, closest ally and most pivotal trading partner.
What happens there is bound to shape our lives somehow — and the 2020 presidential election is no exception.
This fall, Canada’s National Observer explored what the outcome of the election could mean for us. While you wait for the results to come in, here’s a roundup of what we learned.
The fate of a Canadian pipeline is at stake
The controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from the Alberta oilsands to the Gulf Coast, is already under construction. The Alberta government, which sees it as essential to the province’s economic future, has even invested $1.5 billion in the project.
But President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee, former vice-president Joe Biden, have very divergent ideas about whether it should go ahead. Trump supports it, but Biden has threatened to cancel Keystone XL if he’s elected, saying it’s “high pollutant.”
Read more about Alberta’s big bet on the U.S. election here.
America’s climate choices will likely also define policy choices in Ottawa
Biden’s platform includes a “clean energy revolution” and a US$2-trillion plan to get the U.S. to net-zero emissions by 2050. Trump has repeatedly questioned the science of climate change and undermined environmental protections. So in terms of what to do about the climate crisis, this election is a pivotal crossroads.
That matters because carbon emissions don’t recognize borders, and neither do climate-linked natural disasters. But it’s also important because it’s difficult for Canada to be out of step with the U.S. on climate policy: Businesses here have been known to lobby heavily against it, because different sets of rules on both sides of the border can make it difficult for businesses to compete with their counterparts in the U.S.
Read more about America’s two different paths on climate here.
An American conspiracy theory is stirring up trouble in Canada
QAnon — a convoluted, sprawling and baseless conspiracy theory from the U.S. — gained new prevalence in Canada this year amid COVID-19 and the presidential campaign.
Violent incidents related to QAnon are still relatively rare, but experts are increasingly warning that it could be a security threat. The question of what we do about it is complex: Most anti-extremism programming in the past has been aimed at young men in their 20s, but QAnon supporters tend to be middle-aged and elderly people.
Read more about why this particular conspiracy theory is so capable of mobilizing people, even some in Canada, here.
The election has brought uncertainty along the border
The border between the U.S. and Canada has been closed to non-essential travel since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold in Canada. When will it open again? Nobody knows — officials have said it’s likely to remain shuttered as long as the virus rages uncontrolled in America.
Experts say Biden’s COVID-19 plan is more likely to reduce that problem than Trump’s, but no one really knows what’s going to happen. That’s led to a very uncertain situation for businesses, especially in border regions, that rely on close ties with the U.S.
“Peace always pays, and we have none right now,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, which represents a multitude of employers in the Windsor region.
Read more about what border regions are watching ahead of the election here.
The next four years of U.S.-Canada relations will likely be challenging
Over the past four years, Trump’s relationship with Canada has been contentious, which is deeply unusual for two countries that are usually tight allies. Even Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who used to be a huge Trump fan, says he won’t be sending a Christmas card this year.
Another four years of Trump, then, might be challenging. Biden has said he would work to repair America’s relationship with its allies if elected, but a win for him wouldn’t automatically fix the fractures that have come to the surface.
Read more about the bumpy ride ahead here.
The racism Trump tapped into isn’t going away — that goes for Canada, too
After Trump’s 2016 victory, hate-related incidents increased in the U.S. and Canada. Some of what the U.S. experiences usually trickles across the border, and there was already fertile ground here for far-right groups.
Now, as America decides which path it wants to take, the choice will likely affect us again. The racism Trump emboldened won’t disappear if he loses, so Canada must figure out how to reckon with that.
Read more about how hate in the U.S. affects Canada here.