“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?” In the words of 18th century novelist Jane Austen, comes the thrust behind Canadian and U.S. relations. Joining the popular crowds of the Western world, Canada takes aim at the theatrical display of 21rst century gladiatorial campaigning that is American politics. While the U.S. election crusades continues to draw audience like a dark satirical comedy, Canadians watch on, mesmerized by the sucker-punch politics, the heavy-handed propaganda campaigns, and the skyrocketing expenditures that plague Uncle Sam. It is perfect fodder for Canadian censure, and albeit Canadian phlegmatic resolve, despite the secret desire to import some of that U.S. political drama to our own political monotony. And while American dollars continue to pour over the presidential elections from the drains of its dripping economy, Canadians continue to point a sanctimonious finger, veiled by the ‘sucker-to-saint effect’ by which we do not suffer fools gladly. But whether envy or hubris, the irony lies in the fact that the joke is really on us. No matter how ridiculous the U.S. political scene may seem at times, there is nothing laughable about the militate affect its thereafter has on our own.
So just how will the US election results affect Canada? Well first let’s have a look at the policies and positions of our current conservative Harper government and cross compare those with both the democratic and republican agendas. Despite Canada’s sometimes-haughty opinion over its neighbor, Canadians must understand the interdependent nature of Canada’s relationship with the United States, (in which case, burning down our neighbor’s house will only make ours look worse!) To put it into perspective, no other economy comes close to the American weight in our trade flows, with more than 70 per cent of our exports bound for the U.S. market. And it doesn’t stop there. So just what is on the table? Both parties have distinctive approaches when it comes to mitigating America’s national debt and high unemployment rates. Obama’s tactic is simple: cut military expenditure and put a greater tax burden on the country’s biggest businesses and wealthiest citizens. Romney’s plan on the other hand, mirrors more closely the Canadian program, which emphasizes tax cuts for big business in an attempt to boost job creation and investment. So while the U.S. economy directly impacts the performance and growth plans of a substantial number of Canadian businesses, both plans therefore have far-reaching ramifications for Canada. Slashing the U.S. corporate tax rate will directly affect Canada’s ability to attract foreign investment and further republican cuts to government funding could likewise result in less work for Canadian companies that have benefited from American government contracts in recent years. However the democrat’s plan to maintain government spending and re-invest in infrastructure may mean more opportunities for Canadian companies.
While energy and environment issues continue to plague our politicians, the big headline thundering across Canadian media of late has been the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the outcome of which will be reflected by the outcome of the U.S. election. A means of weaning U.S. dependency on foreign oil by carrying Alberta crude more than 2500 kilometers south to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, the jury is still out. And while both Obama and Romney may in fact approve the pipeline proposal, they each have very different views on securing U.S. energy, decisions that influence Canada’s own energy industry. With the copycat Harper government imitating U.S. environmental policies, a more environmentally relaxed republican administration may mean less emission-reduction targets for Canada in the coming years. Likewise the fate of the U.S. healthcare system, which has notoriously been at the epicenter of much global criticism and controversy over the years, (albeit something to really laugh about), will also perturb the Canadian medical sector. Commonly known by the colloquial moniker Obamacare, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to result in 32 million more Americans having access to health care, which will in turn, result in a shortage of 63,000 doctors by 2015. This will inadvertently see a southward flow of Canadian doctors and nurses that will pull at the fibers of our own distressed healthcare system.
Amidst the political fray, let us not forget the figureheads behind these campaigns. Over the years, we have seen Stephen Harper construct a good working relationship with President Obama, however critics are quick to point out the similarities between the two conservative mouthpieces, which may result in a much closer relationship between Canada and the United States. And while Obama’s wariness over free trade has helped Harper drive home his free-trade agenda to maintain a competitive advantage over the European and Indian markets, a Romney presidency may see a renewed commitment to fast-tracking talks and concluding agreements, resulting in a more competitive trade environment for Canada.
In conclusion, our schadenfreude, or moral triumph over the U.S. economic decline, and our holier-than-thou humor over American political outplay is ultimately misplaced. Whether we like it or not, Canada can no longer consider itself partisan or independently thinking from its southern neighbor, especially while we share clothes and bank accounts. In the end, whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama resume the presidency, Canada can be certain, the outcome either way will be incumbent upon Canada’s geopolitical, economical, environmental and social landscapes.