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Pairings and Partnerships – how can elections help Canada?

August 20, 2008

By former Canada’s World blogger Lisa Wagner:

It is interesting that while the United States awaits its November election, Canada’s PM is threatening the same. The next US president – Obama or McCain? Democrat or Republican? Are Americans ready to vote a black man into office? Is McCain too old to lead? While these questions plague American and international newspapers, Canadians really ought to be thinking, “How does this affect us?” Of course, we already are. Many Canadians have declared support for either candidate (while another many of us are bored to death with the constant election news) and a large factor in support for the US presidential hopefuls from Canada is how the new US President will affect American-Canadian relations. If Canada has an election as well, how can this affect our role in the world and our relations with those south of 49?

Given that NAFTA has been taken under recent fire, US travel restrictions are rising, and the dollar looms around par, relations between us and Americans are and continue to be extremely important. In an increasingly global world, our relationships with other countries become crucial for survival. So if we are wondering how the next president will affect us, we may well look closer to home as a start.

Let’s look at Stephen Harper. What are his convictions and values, and how would he interact with either candidate should he regain power as our PM? Would he work well with John McCain, since they are conservative candidates in their respective countries? What about Barack Obama – is Obama too left for Harper? What could either pairing accomplish for Canada as well as the US?

What about Stephan Dion? Same idea – how would he work with McCain or Obama? And equally as importantly, is he at a disadvantage not having the experience already of leading a minority government? Do either Dion or Harper have what it takes to really assert Canadian sovereinty in a global forum?

With the four possible combinations (Harper/McCain, Harper/Obama, Dion/McCain, Dion/Obama), which would be best for Canada? The US?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Y permalink
    August 22, 2008 9:50 am

    I agree that the majority of Canadians like Obama better than McCain (incl. me), in the sense that I’d rather have dinner with Obama over McCain. I do think there is some degree of not liking the GOP that drives Canadians to Obama. McCain equals Bush equals evil, whereas Obama equals Democrats equals better than Bush. So, I think that logic is a little flawed.

    But, I’m not sure what you mean by there being a psychological impact (positive or negative) an Obama presidency would have on Canada. What do you mean? Because Canadians would fawn at the feet of Obama doesn’t necessarily mean it would improve our bilateral relations.

    But does the fact that Canadians ‘like’ Obama more mean that an Obama presidency will bring Canada closer together? Most Canadians don’t like Bush, but we still followed his every move closely. Why? Because the US is who it is and Canada’s can’t afford to NOT pay attention to the US.

    When the elephant is in the room, the elephant doesn’t notice whether the flea is watching it more closely or not, or whether the flea likes it more or less. The elephant is the elephant and there’s not much the flea can do about it.

  2. August 22, 2008 12:47 am

    I think many Canadians born outside Canada (I’m one)would love to see Obama become the next president of the United States. The psychological impact such a thing would cause in this segment of the Canadian population will be enormous.

    I also think an Obama presidency would bring Canada and the United States closer together, as many Canadians(born in and out of the country) seem to like Obama very much.

  3. Scott Y permalink
    August 21, 2008 4:37 am

    Here’s a fun fact – in a poll earlier this year, 1 in 5 Canadians would give up (as in, lose) their vote in Canadian elections if they could vote in the US election instead.

    In my opinion, I think it unlikely that Canada will have an election prior to November, barring a tempestuous fall session in Parliament. The reality is that Dion is not Prime Minister material and Layton will only ever dream of 24 Sussex. Therefore, the absence of real opposition that is maintaining the status quo for Harper will persist.

    Therefore, I sincerely believe the outcome of the US Election will already be decided before (or during) the next Canadian election campaign. So, despite some very friendly pairings (and not so friendly) in the past (Mulroney/Reagan), present speculation on which pairing will be more beneficial seems very presumptuous.

    A more cogent question is which president will be more beneficial for Canada rather than which pairing of leaders? Honestly, I believe that a McCain presidency would be more beneficial for Canada because of McCain’s support for NAFTA. Though we will have our inevitable disagreements (regardless of who our prime minister is) over issues like Arctic sovereignty, McCain’s support for NAFTA is overwhelmingly to Canada’s benefit in the long run. NAFTA isn’t perfect and leaves Canada vulnerable in many ways, but most Canadians would genuinely regret its dissolution or re-negotiation.

    However, I haven’t quite decided whether McCain or Obama would be better for the world (and that is a much more important question). FYI, the inaugural Munk Debate in May ( asked whether the world would be a safer place with a Republican president in the White House. Check out the website for more on that debate. Absolutely fascinating stuff. But regardless, I do think McCain will be a better friend to Canada.

  4. cwlisa permalink
    August 20, 2008 5:25 pm

    I definately agree that the US is too powerful to be ignored – which is kind of my point. The next PM will have to work with whoever is elected, so which PM will be the strongest leader with each President? Canadians presumably want to keep close ties with the US – who will have the closest relationship with Obama? McCain? Canadians also don’t want to become or remain a pawn of the US, we want our own identity in the international realm. Which pairing will help Canada assert itself on the world stage?

  5. August 20, 2008 4:38 pm

    I think a Canadian Prime Minister will have to work with whoever becomes president of the United States. I mean, is there really an option? The US is just too powerful to be ignored by Canada. However Canada can still disagree with America and get away with it. Chretien proved it over Iraq.

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