As the flow of results slowed late Tuesday night for the U.S. election, with no end in sight, Americans weren’t the only ones waiting up with bated breath -- many Canadians, too, are keeping their eyes fixed on the situation unfolding south of the border.
Canadians crowded around televisions with family members, organized virtual watch parties and refreshed news websites, anxious to find out whether their closest neighbours would choose four more years of U.S. President Donald Trump, or would usher in a new administration under Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Due to the high volume of mail-in ballots, officials and news outlets had warned that the results of the elections likely wouldn’t be known on election night, a prediction that seemed closer and closer to coming true Tuesday evening, as midnight passed with no winner.
Sault Ste. Marie resident Linda Lundhild said earlier in the day that she would “be glad when it’s over.
"There's so much of it, you know, and people protesting, killing each other over this,” she told CTV Northern Ontario.
The U.S. has been shaken this year by not only more than 230,000 deaths due to COVID-19, but also a huge wave of anti-racism protests that shook the foundations of the country, and left many calling for change. It’s an atmosphere that makes for a tense, divisive election.
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Violence in the wake of the election result is one big worry for Canadians, according to a new Leger poll of Canadians that found that 68 per cent say they're concerned that there will be a "complete breakdown of the political system in the U.S., leading to a period of social chaos."
Although COVID-19 restrictions have meant most watch parties are online, some viewing parties still went on in-person. In Kitchener, one theatre hosted a sold-out event, with 50 people — the maximum according to COVID-19 rules.
"It's a historic election taking place in a historic time," Andrea Perrella, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, told CTV News Kitchener.
He pointed out that the U.S. is Canada’s “closest ally, our biggest trade partner,” and that no matter who wins, Canada will be hugely affected.
"Apart from the economy and military links, there's a lot of cultural links.”
Those links include people with dual citizenship, and Americans living in Canada. For Simon Hiatt, a dual citizen who lives in Saskatoon, it’s been difficult to see divisions widen in America.
“Really tough to watch,” he told CTV News Saskatoon.
He cast his absentee ballot long before election day, and has already received an email that his ballot was received. Although he’ll be safe in Canada, he’s worried there could be an outbreak of violence depending on the results of the election.
“It's certainly not inconceivable that there could be violence, there could be rioting, I wouldn't be surprised if one way or another, there were at least protesting,” he said.
“I do love the country, and I hope that it's — I believe it will survive this, no matter what happens. It'll be fine. And eventually, it'll trend towards the way, hopefully, things should go. I love the United States, but I'm a little worried for it right now.”
There is an estimated 620,000 expatriates living in Canada. And according to Democrats Abroad, their election turnout has been massive this year.
Timothy Flannery, chapter chair of Democrats Abroad for Kitchener-Waterloo, said that more than 80 per cent of their members with dual citizenship registered and voted this year, a huge jump from 5.5. per cent in 2016.
A spokeswoman for Democrats Abroad told the Canadian Press that the organization is holding a Canada-wide Zoom watch party, with at least 400 people registered to attend.
Part of the anxiety is the polarization between Trump and Biden, explained David Tabachnick, a political scientist at Nipissing University.
"It's been a rather stark difference, the two men and their personalities are already quite different," said David Tabachnick. "I guess the COVID-19 crisis makes that all the more obvious.”
The majority of Canadians are not rooting for a second victory for Trump, according to numerous polls.
The Leger survey found that 80 per cent of Canadian respondents were hoping for a Biden win this election, and an August poll from Research Co. found that 73 per cent of those surveyed believed Trump’s time in the White House has been “bad” or “very bad” for Canada, with 47 per cent saying it had been “very bad.”
But the sentiment is not unanimous across the country. There’s a website for clothing for Canadian Trump supporters, and numerous Facebook groups claiming to be Canadian fans of Trump.
Vancouver entrepreneur Massimo Mandarino told CTV News that he likes Trump’s policies and finds his “no-nonsense attitude” to be “refreshing.”
“With that said, is he bombastic, is he rude? Yes, and I think that’s too much on that side and I don’t like that part of him,” he added.
Paula Collins, another Saskatoon resident who moved from the U.S., was unafraid to say she’d cast her vote for a change in leadership, citing the unrest that has been boiling in the U.S.
“There's a lot of troubled times,” she said, referencing the shooting of Breonna Taylor in her home state of Kentucky. “With the outcome of not seeing justice being served, yeah, there's major issues, major issues.”
It’s still unknown how long the process of counting every ballot will take, whether it will be stretched out over the next few days, or could last weeks, and whether a result will be evident soon. But Canadians will be staying tuned in, no matter how long it takes.
"As a Canadian, I hope that Mr. Biden will win and I hope he comes in strong," said Sault Ste. Marie resident Suzanne Kearns. "I'm worried that it'll be a little close."
With files from the Canadian Press, CTV News Northern Ontario’s Christian D'Avino, CTV News Kitchener’s Heather Senoran, CTV News Saskatoon’s Pat McKay and CTV News Vancouver's Penny Daflos