Canadian politicians mum as tight U.S. presidential election heads into Wednesday

With full results still pending in a handful key battleground states and no clear winner in the U.S. presidential election, federal Canadian leaders are staying quiet pending a definitive outcome.

Despite U.S. President Donald Trump calling the night “a big WIN,” and saying that the Republicans are “up BIG,” as of 1:30 a.m. The Associated Press was reporting Trump had secured 213 electoral college votes, while Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had secured 224. 

Beating Trump to the microphone in the early morning hours, Biden said he feels good about where the Democrats are, saying he believes they are “on track to win this election.”  

“Because of the unprecedented early vote, it’s going to take a while, we’re going to have to be patient,” said Biden, promising he’d have more to say later on Wednesday. 

On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has seen historic numbers of advanced and mail-in votes counted, prompting some states to say it’ll take them days to complete their counts. 

Canadian political leaders had anticipated this possibility and as of 1 a.m., none had weighed in on the state of the race since before polls closed across the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his opposition counterparts watched the results come in over Tuesday night, as did millions of Canadians curious to see how the outcome will impact this country.

Whether Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are re-elected, Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris turn them into one-term leaders, or it takes days for a clear winner to be declared, Trudeau had told reporters on Tuesday that Canada will continue to “make sure we're standing up for Canadian interests every step of the way.” 

The prime minister had plans to watch “part of” the election coverage tonight from home, but he isn’t expected to comment on the results until a clear winner is declared.

Trudeau noted the possibility of the race being too close to call Tuesday night, leaving the answer to who will lead that country for the next four years unanswered for an indeterminate amount of time. 

Regardless of who wins, Trudeau has pledged to “work alongside” the U.S. administration and keep on top of the “ebbs and flows” and “movements and expressions of will” within American society. 

“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,” he said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole offered similar assurances that if he was the prime minister, he’d be committed to working “very closely” with whomever the next U.S. president is to keep the relationship “strong,” given the extensive economic, social, and policy ties between the two countries.

“The Americans are a very close and important ally. It’s important for the prime minister to find common ground in the best interests of our citizens, and to try to work together on issues. I will do that regardless of who the president is,” O’Toole told reporters on Tuesday. O’Toole also has plans to spend part of his night watching the results roll in, but also wasn’t expected to weigh in until a victor is declared.

In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer issued a caution to the federal party leaders watching tonight’s election outcome.

“My advice in 2012 when I was in Washington was: Let the American people decide who the president is going to be,” he said, adding that he thinks regardless of the outcome it’s “really important” that the other political leaders support how Trudeau deals with whomever gets sworn-in in January.

BLANCHET, SINGH HOPE FOR TRUMP LOSS 

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet have taken a less diplomatic position, with both in recent days saying they are hoping for a Trump defeat. 

On Monday, Blanchet said that while he tries to be careful about speaking about the internal affairs of other countries, he hopes Trump loses the presidency -- and that he loses “so clearly, that any attempt to challenge the result would be utterly in vain.” “It’s not only the United States, or Quebec, or Canada that would fare better if this man was to leave the Oval Office," he said.  

Singh took his remarks even further on Tuesday, tweeting early on that he hopes Americans “vote him out.” 

The NDP leader said that over the last four years Trump has “fanned the flames of hatred and division,” and “failed” the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from COVID-19.

“Trump makes the world a more dangerous place for all of us and I hope to see him lose,” Singh said. 

In a later press conference Singh doubled down on his position, saying he thinks it’s a “moral imperative” for him to speak out. 

Reacting to Singh’s approach, former foreign affairs minister John Manley said on CTV’s Power Play that it indicates “he doesn’t ever expect to be the prime minister of Canada.”

“They’re expected to work with whoever the United States chooses, and they will do so because they work for Canadians and Canadians’ interests are going to be served by having some kind of working relationship with the president of the United States. Jagmeet Singh doesn’t obviously think he’ll ever be in that position so he can say whatever he wants,” Manley said. 

PANDEMIC IMPACTS, POSSIBLE UNREST 

Another factor Canadian officials are keeping close watch for is the potential for civil unrest or protests as a result of the outcome, or in the instance of potential instability prompted by lack of a clear winner. 

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Tuesday that the government will respect the choice made by American people but Canada stands ready to “be there for Canadians” who live in the United States, should violence break out. 

“We'll be there for them,” she said. 

Freeland said she has spoken with Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman and wants to assure Canadians that “our government is absolutely ready and we have thoughtfully prepared for all eventualities.” 

“I really want to assure Canadians that, you know, just as we were ready when we came into office in 2015, just as we were ready in 2016, we are ready today,” Freeland said.I 

In an interview during CTV News’ U.S. election special with Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme, Hillman said the embassy has “security and contingency plans in place that we will deploy if we need to.”

“But you know these are plans that we have in place for a variety of different things that can happen here or anywhere,” Hillman said. “But yes, absolutely we're prepared.” 

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