Canadians across the country ushered in what they hoped would be a new, calmer era of relations with the United States on Saturday, welcoming U.S. president-elect Joe Biden with open arms.
Relations with Canada’s nearest neighbour and largest trading partner grew strained at times during President Donald Trump’s reign, as he insulted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and imposed punitive steel and aluminum tariffs using a section of U.S. trade law that called its long-time ally a national security threat.
Hours after Biden and vice-president elect Kamala Harris obtained enough electoral college votes to secure the White House, Canadians began offering optimistic takes on how the next chapter of American-Canadian relations will read.
“Trudeau — I don’t think he had much respect for Trump,” said Paul Shepherd of Newmarket, Ont. “…So I think it’ll open up some more things for Canada and (we’ll) have a better relationship.”
He said he watched the slow trickle of election results with bated breath, and let out a sigh of relief when Biden eventually won.
“I’ve just never understood how anyone could vote for Trump in the first place. I’m so glad to see that he’s gone,” Shepherd said.
Trump had consistently low approval ratings in Canada, with one recent poll from Leger and the Association of Canadian Studies finding 80 per cent of Canadian respondents hoped Biden would land in the White House.
Darcy Lennon of Stouffville, Ont., counted himself among them.
“You can be a fiscal conservative but you’ve got to have a better face than that,” he said. “Trump is just a brute. He’s been called everything and it’s probably all true. He’s just a disturber and we’ve got no room for that in politics.”
Khalid Malik of Aurora, Ont., meanwhile, said he didn’t think Trump was “treating Canada fairly,” and looked forward to a Biden presidency as a welcome reprieve.
“I think it’s good for America as a whole and good for our country also. So we’ll have more stability and I think things will get settled down,” he said.
Some Albertans were also pleased to learn of a Biden victory, but even those who dislike Trump are concerned about Biden’s pledge to cancel a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
The multi-billion-dollar project would carry crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Nebraska. Earlier this year, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney threw his province’s fiscal weight behind Keystone, with a $1.5-billion equity investment and a $6-billion loan guarantee.
Doug Willis of Edmonton speculated that if Biden follows through on his pipeline pledge, the matter would likely end in lawsuits.
But he said he was pleased with the outcome of the U.S. vote.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “… I’m happy for Biden. He’s better than Trump. He couldn’t be much worse than Trump in my opinion.”
Others in Alberta weren’t as happy, such as Lorna Levesque, who was among a few dozen people at a protest at the provincial legislature against masks and other government restrictions to fight COVID-19.
Levesque believed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that there were “fraudulent votes that are still being looked at” and contended voting numbers are “still so fluid.”
“I would not be surprised if there was a change,” Levesque said.
Meanwhile, Giles Hogya, acting chairman of the Victoria chapter of Democrats Abroad, said he was celebrating from home. He described his mood as “joyful, dance in the streets, couldn’t be happier, wonderful.”
Hogya planned to celebrate with other left-leaning expatriates virtually on Saturday due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Despite the long wait for results, Hogya said he never felt tense and instead was inspired by the energy of volunteers in the group.
“Right from little old Victoria we had 30 dedicated volunteers manning the phones, getting the vote out, it was really wonderful,” Hogya said.
“I wasn’t nervous, I was very calm. My wife was coming apart though.”
The couple moved to Canada from Ohio 48 years ago.
“I’m dancing in front of CNN because I’m watching the people on the streets of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia,” his wife Leslie Hogya said from their home in Victoria.
She said she hasn’t relaxed since election night began Tuesday.
“I felt my whole ribcage was frozen for five days. It was so tense, just so tense,” she said.
Christine Sorensen, a public health nurse from Kamloops, B.C., said she’s been glued to Twitter and CNN over the days since American cast their ballots on Nov. 3.
It’s been difficult to watch the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and she believes the election result could be a positive turning point.
“There could have been such a different outcome for the United States if only people had been open to science and curbed a number of their activities in even a minor way,” she said.
“I’m pleased for Americans, I’m pleased for what I believe could be a change in the U.S. course on the pandemic.”
Sorensen said she also believes the election of Kamala Harris as vice-president will be inspiring for women and girls around the world.
Biden has a big job ahead, but Sorensen said she’s hopeful he can begin to mend divisions in the country.
“It will be a challenge for President Biden to bring the country back together,” she said. “I do look forward to a U.S. that is more stable.”