Voters fill out their ballots at American Legion Post 1 on Election Day in Tulsa, Okla. Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mike Simons/Tulsa World

Canada faces political, economic instability after uncertain U.S election result

Canada faces political, economic instability after uncertain U.S election result

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is carefully watching the political drama unfolding in the United States.

The U.S. presidential race remains too close to call, with millions of votes still being counted in battleground states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and North Carolina.

According The Associated Press, U.S. President Donald Trump has secured 214 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win, while former vice-president Joe Biden sits at 238. There are 86 college votes left to be confirmed.

In the wee hours of this morning, Biden preached patience and said everyone must wait for the ballots to be counted. Not long after that, Trump essentially declared himself the winner and said he would take his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trudeau briefly spoke to reporters as he arrived on Parliament Hill Wednesday morning, continuing his weeks-long effort to say little on the U.S. presidential election until it is decided.

“As everyone knows there is an electoral process underway in the United States. We are of course following it carefully and we will continue to as the day and days unfold,” he said.

His words were somewhat echoed by Quebec Premier François Legault, who tweeted in French that he is watching closely until the results are final, but that Quebec will work hard to have a good relationship with whoever wins.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he too was “continuing to watch” the election results as he left his party’s weekly caucus meeting Wednesday. Finance critic Pierre Poilievre said Canadians should focus on what we can control, like our own finances, and let the U.S. election play out as it will.

“The Americans have cast their ballots, and they’re doing their counting,” he said. “They’ll pick a president. We as Canadians have to work with whomever they choose. Beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything we can do.”

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet urged Trudeau to maintain his neutral positioning, because the Canadian government has “the obligation to respect and to stay away from internal American affairs.”

Blanchet said he had no such obligation, however, as a leader who does not think he will be the prime minister of Canada, and “I might think that it will take a little more than four years before Quebec becomes independent.”

“If I was an American, I would be a Democrat,” he said. “And if I were 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.”

Canadian business leaders and political analysts, however, said the lack of a clear winner is bringing more political and economic uncertainty for Canada, and Trudeau, who doesn’t know which man he will be working with as the leader of Canada’s closest ally.

Bessma Momani, an international affairs specialist at the University of Waterloo, says Trump might expect Canada to say something after he prematurely declares himself the winner.

“A big challenge for Canada now is that Trump may want to declare victory before all votes are counted and expect allies to send in their congratulations,” said Momani.

“For those who don’t, like Canada who will want to wait this out, Trump will take this very personally (and) be punitive on trade matters.”

Perrin Beatty, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said uncertainty is not good.

“From a business perspective, people want to know what to expect for the next four years,” he said.

“But we’re simply going to have to wait.”

Biden made strong early showings in Republican strongholds of Texas and Ohio early Tuesday evening, but Trump caught up and was declared the winner in both by The Associated Press. Trump also won Florida’s 29 electoral college votes, a state which has been a deciding factor in multiple recent presidential races.

Fen Hampson, an international affairs expert at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs said a close race that ends up in the courts is “the dreaded scenario.”

“And it will breed political uncertainty, which isn’t good for Americans or Canadians at a time when our economies are reeling from COVID-19.”

For Americans voting in Canada, the delay was also frustrating.

Houston-born Jennifer Phillips, 30, voted by mail from Vancouver in her native Texas after moving to Canada last year.

“Americans know that issues like COVID, climate change, the global economy, require U.S. participation and leadership. So you know, what happens in America impacts the world,” said Phillips.

Living in Vancouver, she says she has breathed the smoke that has drifted northward from the California wildfires.

“We need a president in office that realizes that things need to change and accept science,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield and Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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