Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is “carefully” watching the vote-counting that is still unfolding in the United States presidential election, while some opposition leaders are reacting to what the results show are deep divisions among our neighbours to the south.
As ballots continue to be tallied in what’s turned out to be a very tight race between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Trudeau says Canada is keeping a close eye on the political uncertainty that Americans woke up to on Wednesday.
“As everyone knows, there is an electoral process underway in the United States. We of course are following it carefully and will continue to as the day, and days, unfold,” Trudeau told reporters on his way into West Block on Wednesday morning.
Later in the day he spoke in the House of Commons about the state of the race, saying that he wanted to “reassure Canadians that the Canadian government is watching very carefully events unfold in the United States.”
Trudeau did not speak about Trump’s false claim in the early-morning hours that in his view he has won, calling for counting to stop and threatening to contest the outcome at the United States Supreme Court, though some Liberal MPs and cabinet ministers offered their perspectives throughout the day.
“I am mindful of the precious gift that is democracy,” said Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef.
“I think we take for granted sometimes how smooth and how effective our elections are and how effortless it looks but how much work it actually takes… I hope they get their vote count done quickly and I hope we get a clear answer,” said Liberal MP Adam Vaughan.
Beating Trump to the microphone in the early morning hours, Biden said he believes the Democrats are “on track to win this election,” and called for patience to allow the democratic process unfold. In further comments on Wednesday afternoon, Biden doubled down on his optimism in there being enough support for him in the remaining ballots to be counted.
With a record number of advance votes and mail-in ballots cast due to the COVID-19 pandemic, votes are still being counted in a handful of key states where Trump and Biden are neck-and-neck.
In the weeks leading up to election day, Trudeau and his cabinet have been restrained in their comments about the state of the race and potential economic and policy implications for Canada.
Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland have vowed repeatedly to work with whomever wins and have sought to assure Canadians that the federal government has a series of contingency response plans at the ready for any outcome, including in the event of civil unrest.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is also refraining from commenting until the results are complete, saying only that “we’re continuing to watch.”
“I think we should focus on what we can control,” said Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre. “The Americans have cast their ballots and they’re doing their counting. They’ll pick a president. We as Canadians have to work with whomever they choose.”
BLANCHET, SINGH QUESTION OUTCOME
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said Trudeau is obligated to stay out of internal American political affairs, though as the leader of a one-province party he doesn’t feel the same responsibility.
After saying earlier in the week that he thinks it would be in the best interest of both Americans and Canadians if Trump lost, Blanchet told reporters on Wednesday morning that if he was a Democrat “I would be asking myself ‘What did we do wrong?’”
“How come the American people support so much a man who openly lies, avoids paying his taxes, carries and shares prejudice against so many people? Why do the American people still support so strongly that man is a question that he does not have to ask himself. He's faring very well. The Democrats, the media, the institutions should ask themselves this troubling question,” Blanchet said.
After calling for Americans to vote Trump out on Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that like Americans, “a lot of Canadians woke up today pretty worried and pretty afraid.”
“I think more than ever we have to get really serious about why this has happened. Why, despite all the obvious glaring problems, massive problems, and abject failure of leadership by President Trump, that people still voted for him,” Singh said, suggesting it has to do with a misdirection of people who feel they haven’t been able to get ahead.
WHAT'S AHEAD? ADVICE FROM PAST LEADERS
The Trump administration has challenged the Trudeau Liberals at times over the last four years, with his 2016 win taking many by surprise and forcing Trudeau to reconfigure some key federal cabinet roles, including seeing Freeland take on the Canada-U.S. file. Since then, the Canada-U.S. relationship has had its rocky moments, with personal and policy conflicts erupting periodically between the leaders of the two countries.
It’s largely expected that Trudeau and the Liberals would have an easier go at cross-border collaboration under a more ideologically-aligned Biden-led administration, as the final year of former president Barack Obama’s term generated headlines about the duo’s “bromance,” which since has apparently carried on, with Obama offering a key endorsement of Trudeau during the 2019 federal election.
Canadian political observers will also remember the “vive le Canada,” that former vice president Biden exclaimed during a dinner held by Trudeau during his December 2016 visit to Ottawa in advance of Trump’s inauguration. There, Biden asked Trudeau to act as a defender of the rule of law in the years ahead.
In an interview on CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney said that he thinks regardless of who emerges the winner, Canada will be “well treated,” but Trudeau will have work to do to ensure that is the case.
Mulroney said that under Trump—who he said “will never be accused of excessive diplomacy”—Trudeau has had a “more difficult” time than past Canadian prime ministers have had with other Republican leaders, saying that past presidents were more willing to find compromises than the current administration has been.
“The prime minister has an enormous burden to bear in making certain that this giant next to us, on who we depend so much for our economic advancement, that that relationship is maintained and it flourishes,” Mulroney said, adding that he thinks regardless of the result and despite the ongoing 14-day quarantine requirement for Canadians who cross back into Canada from the U.S., Trudeau should plan to get down to Washington, D.C. for some face time with the winner of the election.
“It is so important for whomever emerges that the prime minister get down there for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, for informal meetings with the president to advance the Canadian agenda. I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut that without the president on-side, major issues for Canada are not going to be resolved,” Mulroney said.
In an interview on CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday night, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer issued a caution to the federal party leaders watching to see whether Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are re-elected or Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris turn them into one-term leaders, to hold their tongues until all is said and done.
“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.