A right-wing protester armed with an AR-15 style rifle looks at Black Lives Matter counter-protesters who are across the street in front of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. Canadians are watching in fear today as their American neighbours vote in earnest, capping a campaign marked by rising voter intimidation, threats of postelection violence, and the potential breakdown of democracy itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andrew Selsky

A right-wing protester armed with an AR-15 style rifle looks at Black Lives Matter counter-protesters who are across the street in front of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. Canadians are watching in fear today as their American neighbours vote in earnest, capping a campaign marked by rising voter intimidation, threats of postelection violence, and the potential breakdown of democracy itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andrew Selsky

‘Keep calm, consult with the allies:’ Canadian political analysts on U.S. presidential results

‘It’s really encouraging that a lot of people are out voting.’

Democrat Joe Biden’s stronger than expected early showing in states such as a Texas and Ohio wasn’t enough for Canadian political observers to see a decisive path to the White House for President Donald Trump’s challenger.

“It’s the early vote and Democrats voted disproportionately in the early vote, so it’s pretty hard to read,” said Perrin Beatty, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday’s early results came as Americans went to the polls, capping a campaign marked by voter intimidation, threats of postelection violence, and concern about the potential breakdown of democracy itself.

Colin Robertson, a retired diplomat who served in multiple U.S. postings, said Canadians have every reason to be concerned about what has been unfolding south of the border, but now is not the time to take sides.

“What can we do? Keep calm, consult with the allies and, as (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau said, prepare for all contingencies.”

The first returns showed Trump, as expected, winning in Indiana and Kentucky. He also pulled ahead in Florida after an early see-saw for that crucial state.

It was going to be a long night that would likely not produce a definitive result, said Mark Feigenbaum, the Toronto tax lawyer who is the chairman of Republicans Overseas Canada.

“It’s really encouraging that a lot of people are out voting. Whomever they’re voting for, I think it’s good,” he said.

Biden was performing better than expected in Republican strongholds such as Texas and Ohio. Biden’s strong showing in Ohio was significant because it represented a breakthrough in the Rust Belt that Trump dominated in 2016. Biden also leapt out to an early lead in Pennsylvania but the final tally is not expected there until later in the week.

Feigenbaum said Trump could be in trouble if Biden held those leads.

“It’s 18 votes, right. So Ohio, and Pennsylvania. between them are 38 votes. And in 2016, he (Trump) got both of them. So that could be a bit of an issue if he loses both of them this time.”

Bruce Heyman, Barack Obama’s second ambassador to Canada, cautioned: “Judging a game at half time or the first period, you just can’t do it. You have to wait to the end.”

The struggle for Florida, with its 29 votes in the electoral college, was closely watched. Trump won the state in 2016 and Biden was behind in the key county of Miami-Dade.

“Criticism that Biden didn’t have enough boots on ground to get out the vote in Miami-Dade may be valid,” said Robertson.

Bessma Momani, an international affairs specialist at the University of Waterloo, said it was too early to draw any definitive conclusions.

“People are just projecting their own hopes,” she said.

“The early voting is pretty spectacular. From the academic side of this, usually early voting does not indicate a vote for the incumbent.”

Long before the polls closed Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government was “absolutely ready” for whomever won.

“We have thoughtfully prepared for all eventualities and I am really confident that we have a plan no matter what happens,” she said.

Earlier Tuesday, a new poll from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found a clear majority of Canadians surveyed worried that the United States will suffer a breakdown of its system marked by “social chaos” if no clear winner emerges.

That fear was driven by the assumption that Trump won’t accept defeat if he does in fact lose, or may prematurely declare victory on election night before all votes, including mail-in ballots, can be legally counted.

The Leger poll found that three-quarters of those surveyed in Canada are worried about the U.S. election, and 68 per cent worry that there will be a “complete breakdown of the political system in the U.S. leading to a period of social chaos.”

Four out of five respondents said they were concerned that increased racial tension would lead to protests and violence.

“It’s a bit like watching your neighbour’s roof catch fire,” said Beatty.

“You’re both fascinated and horrified.”

The survey of 1,516 Canadians selected from an online panel was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1. Polls conducted this way do not come with a margin of error, since they are not considered random.

The survey delved deeper into Canadians’ anxiety: The possibility of “significant civil unrest or violence” in the streets on election day or the following days worried 77 per cent of respondents; 72 per cent were concerned that Trump wouldn’t accept the election result if he lost; 62 per cent were worried about a stock market crash.

Georganne Burke, an Ontario-based dual Canadian-American citizen who has campaigned for Trump in the U.S., blamed the Democrats for stoking fears of unrest and violence.

Burke said it was “hype” that Trump would refuse to accept a defeat.

“That’s garbage. Will he be unhappy? Sure, he’ll be unhappy. Will he say outrageous things? Probably. But he’ll leave.”

The Leger poll left no doubt who Canadians want to win the White House — 80 per cent favoured Biden.

Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada’s job is to work with whomever American voters elect, and cited trade deals as particular evidence that his government has been able to work with Trump.

He said he would spend some time watching the results Tuesday night, though he acknowledged that word of a definite winner could take days or even weeks.

If there should be trouble in the U.S., Freeland said in response to a question about that possibility, Canadian diplomats will be prepared to assist Canadians living there.

“It is absolutely a responsibility of our government to be there for Canadians outside out country, and we will be there for them, too.”

Like Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Canadians would be closely watching as Americans “practise their democracy.”

Sarah Goldfeder, now an Ottawa-based consultant and former U.S. diplomat under two American ambassadors, said Canadians must be vigilant to guard against the ideological infiltration of extreme, divisive politics into Canada.

“Literally, stores are boarded up across America right now, in anticipation of civil unrest in the streets. And that’s not good for anybody that has to do business with the U.S.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

File photo
Castlegar sees spike in crime over winter

Local RCMP report increase in calls

Kirk Duff is running for mayor in the upcoming Castlegar byelection Photo: Submitted
Third candidate enters Castlegar mayor’s race

Kirk Duff previously served 18 years as a city councillor

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

The Kaslo Outdoor Recreation and Trail Society will build a trail on Mount Buchanan, seen here with society secretary Stuart Heard, with support from Columbia Basin Trust. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay trails receive Columbia Basin Trust funding

Several locations in the West Kootenay are undergoing upgrades

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read