The implications of US Elections on Canada

By Christopher Blatch

The University of Calgary Canadian Institute for International affairs and the Faculty of Social Sciences hosted a panel discussion on “The U.S. President Election: What are the Implications for Canada” Tue., Oct 19 at the Rozsa Centre.

The three person panel, consisting of Naim Ahmed (United States Consul General), Roger Gibbins (President and CEO, Canada West Foundation), and Mercedes Stephenson (Society for Military and Strategic Studies, U of C) each brought diverse points of view and predictions.

While the election in the United States is drawing a lot of interest around the world, it could mean the most to Canadians.

“The US accounts for 89 percent of Alberta exports,” Gibbins pointed out, “We are part of the American Economy just as much as any [US] state.”

Ahmed stressed that no president would do anything to undermine Canadian trade, regardless of the rhetoric.

“In this election foreign policy only means one thing–Iraq,” added Ahmed.

The Consul General also touched on John Kerry’s position in the area of trade, and his aim to make it an even playing field in regards to the US being the target of one third of all WTO trade cases. The Consul General then proceeded to glaze over the issue of beef and softwood lumber.

Stephenson concentrated on the hot button topic of missile defense. She went in depth on how Canadians should be more worried about the name change of Space Command (in which Canada had a say) to Strategic Command (in which Canada has no say) which deals with the satellites used by the military and NORAD.

“Canadians use American military satellites all the time for everything from credit cards swiped at the pump, to cell phones,” Stephenson said. “Canadians were only invited to participate in ground based missile defense, the system is up, we can discuss whether or not it [Star Wars and other types of missile defense programs] is good or not, but the Americans are going ahead with it.”

Gibbins suggested that in this election there may not be a good outcome for Canada. In Gibbins view, Bush has a history of not being on Canada’s side, with a tendency to prefer Mexico to Canada. While Kerry is a protectionist who could hurt Canadians by costing Canadians jobs, and drawing us into the war in Iraq, as he advocates bringing the world into Iraq.

Ahmed cautioned that there are other factors that Canadians must take into account. The House of Representatives are also holding elections in which only 40 seats are really competitive, (however the recent edition of the Economist lowered this number to 10 seats being competitive), and the Senate is holding elections for 34 seats (of which only 10 are really competitive). Both houses are currently held by the Republicans and predicted to stay that way. This would mean that even if Kerry got in, by the nature of American politics, he would be restrained in his actions.

All that can be done now is to wait until Tuesday, and see what happens in this election, which could heavily affect Canada over the next four years.

“In fact it’s so important… it’s a shame we [Canadians] couldn’t vote,” concluded Gibbins.