The Morning Brief – 11.05.20

By Bruce Carson


United States Presidential Election (Part 2)

State of play between President Trump and Vice President Biden

Not too early to start probing consequences of the U.S. election

Effect of the Results on Canada regardless of which candidate wins

Yesterday was a busy day as Vice President Biden and his wife made a public appearance in the afternoon during which Biden stated that he is “not here to declare that he has won” but “we are winning enough states to win the presidency.”

He also spoke as he has previously about being president for all Americans regardless of their blue or red affiliation. He said that he will work as hard for those who didn’t support him as he works for those who did support him.

These are easy phrases to rattle off but will be incredibly difficult to implement.  As Canada’s former Ambassador to the United States, Derek Burney said last evening on Power and Politics the United States and Canada because of their close connections are moving into a period of chronic uncertainty.

Not only is there uncertainty as a result of COVID-19, but now there is uncertainty as to the political future as to who will occupy the office of president of the United States.

Burney described the political state of play in the U.S. as “polarizing leading to paralysis.”

Biden, should he be successful, will be faced with, as former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson noted a “divided government.” The number of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives is close to where it stood before the election, with the addition of a few more Republican representatives and the Democrat’s expected flip of the Senate from Republican majority did not materialize. As Jacobson said “it’s not going to be easy to get things done.”

The polarization in the country and in the legislative branch of the federal government will not be easy to bridge. Not until the numbers became clear on Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning did the amount of support obtained by President Trump become clear. 2016 was not an aberration as Trump was able to increase his popular vote and broaden his appeal to immigrants and working class Americans who came out in droves to support him because he speaks to their issues.

Although Trump didn’t have the usual election platform, Americans in greater numbers than in 2016 were able to see themselves in what he promised.

So building that bridge to Trump supporters by Biden will not be easy unless he is able to explain how they will fit into his plan for the future of America. Jobs, respect and inclusion in the society that Democrats are attempting to fashion will be an important part of that outreach.

Challenges will also confront President Trump should he regain the White House. His economic plans prior to COVID-19 went someway to addressing gaps but he will also have to address racial issues in American that have become exacerbated during the last four years. If the state of social justice is not addressed by Trump, the next four years will look an awful lot like the past four years.

Both political parties, particularly the Democrats who were waiting for the blue wave to materialize, have to engage in a period of introspection, as it was clear that their campaign emphasized Trump’s wilful neglect of the pandemic while the voters they needed to attract to actually set up that blue wave, were preoccupied with jobs and the economy.

Parenthetically, there are lessons here for Canadian political parties wishing to broaden their appeal as we approach an election either this fall or next spring.

Challenges also face the Government of Canada, regardless of who occupies the White House.

Again, Derek Burney in a recent National Post article began this discussion by writing “Canada no longer has a special relationship with the United States.” His comment comes from the position that whatever we thought was “normal” before the Trump presidency, we are not going back there, regardless of which candidate wins the presidency.

The issues that will confront but hopefully not confound the Canada-U.S. relationship can be divided into three groups; energy and climate change, trade and procurement and the U.S. approach to international affairs, organizations and multilateralism.

On energy and climate change, it is useful to remember that one of President Trump’s first acts after assuming office was to grant a presidential permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Biden has said that one of his first acts as president will be to cancel that permit.

The issue for both the Alberta and the Trudeau governments will be to find a way to stop this revocation should Biden win. Lauren Gardner of Politico notes in a recent article that the project has evolved and times have changed since it was cancelled by President Obama.

Both Canada and Alberta have cut carbon emissions and Indigenous groups led by Natural Law Energy are seeking an equity share in the pipeline. Also Alberta now has a significant investment in the pipeline. Premier Kenney said at the UCP AGM on October 17 that Canada has to show that the energy sector is making progress reducing emissions.

It can also be argued that the pipeline contributes to North American energy security as well as supply chain security.

Two arguments that may appeal to Biden are that the pipeline provides much needed jobs and will provide a needed source of heavy oil for U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. TC Energy will be hiring 7,000 unionized workers in 2021and in total the pipeline will create 60,000 jobs in the U.S.

Alex Pourbaix who heads up Cenovus has said “I would be surprised if there’s a knee jerk reaction (from Biden). The project brings a lot of benefits for the United States.”

On climate change, Biden is “better news for those favouring more action on climate change” wrote Derek Burney. Biden will have the U.S. rejoin the Paris Accord. Canada may have the opportunity to enlarge its commitment to green energy.

Also, if there is a cutback in U.S. fossil fuel production, Canada may have an opportunity to increase its exports to the U.S. A Biden win may also result in the revocation of the permit issued by President Trump for the Alberta-Alaska railway.

A Trump win would see the expansion of fossil fuels in the U.S. and offshore drilling. It is Trump’s intention to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. An issue for Canada is whether we can continue to rely on the U.S. as our main energy market as it moves towards self-sufficiency under Trump. Canada really does need to diversify its energy markets.

When The Morning Brief returns next week, it will deal with trade and procurement as well as the U.S. approach to international affairs.

To Come

  • The Government of Ontario presents its budget
  • U.S. Fed concludes its two day meeting
November 6
  • Job numbers for October to be released
November 9-13
  • House of Commons not sitting
November 11
  • Remembrance Day
November 12
  • Speech from the Bank of Canada’s Senior Deputy Governor, Carolyn Wilkins
November 18
  • CPI numbers for October to be released

The Morning Brief will return next Tuesday or Wednesday when hopefully more clarity has been brought to the presidential vote in the U.S.

– BC