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All about U.S.

One of the largest factors at play in the upcoming Canadian election may be its American counterpart, where a victory for Donald Trump is one of Justin Trudeau’s only remaining lifelines to remaining in power.

 


As the United States 2024 presidential election draws near, millions across the continent await every new twist and turn of the campaign trail with white knuckles. However, those watching with bated breath are not confined solely to the borders of the United States. America’s neighbors to the north are no less invested in this upcoming election than those south of the 49th parallel. While at first glance this may seem like stereotypical American self-aggrandizement, the impact that the American election will have upon Canada’s, should not be discounted. Canadian politicians would certainly agree. More than 75% of Canadians follow US news closely (one recent study shows that only 38% of Americans report doing the same), while the close cultural, historical, and political ties both nations share means that the race to see who will live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may be one of the deciding factors in seeing who will live in 24 Sussex Drive next year.

As incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approaches his 10th year in office, he has announced his intention to lead his Liberal Party into the next general election and extend his term for a further four years. This would make Trudeau the longest-serving Prime Minister in Canadian history since his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who left office in 1984. However, current polling indicates that this will be an uphill battle for the younger Trudeau. Leading a minority government, he faces sharp criticism both from the right, as well as from the left-wing New Democratic Party with which his Liberals have maintained a confidence and supply agreement. He currently rides an approval rating of roughly 30-35 percent, with only 24 percent of Canadian voters saying they would vote for his Liberal party were an election held this month. His approval ratings have shown a clear similarity to those of President Joe Biden. In an increasingly globalized media landscape, both praise and criticism of Biden and progressive politics have found an ear north of the border as well. 

Trudeau enjoyed approval ratings higher than his immediate predecessors for almost the entirety of President Trump’s administration, according to most polls. South of the border during those years, his policies on marijuana legalization, gender equality, and indigenous relations, among others, garnered him immense, at times fawning, praise in American press and amplified a common American and Canadian view of Canada as a bright, progressive foil to a right-wing US to heights not seen since the early days of the Presidency of George W Bush and the Premiership of Jean Chretien. At that time, Canada’s domestic and international policy, such as its gradual legalization of gay marriage and its decision not to join in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, alongside its ever-lauded public healthcare system, it a darling of the American left whose praise was happily accepted by Canadian progressives. 

This popular portrayal does not reflect certain realities, such as a majority of Canadians opposing gay marriage when it was federally legalized in 2005 and the heavy support Canada still provided to the US-led collation in the Iraq War. Yet, in spite of this, the narrative of a more compassionate, left-wing, and caring Canada had been firmly established in popular culture by this point. It would resurge during the beginnings of the Trudeau-Trump era when Trudeau's welcoming stance to Syrian refugees and his scaling back of Canadian involvement in the War on Terror were just two of the policies that resulted in similar echoes re-emerging in American media. 

However, Trudeau’s approval in Canada has not mirrored the flowery press laudits he has received in the US. His approval has steadily sunk lower and lower, with the Conservative party firmly overtaking his Liberals in the polls, notably close to the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States in 2021. As his honeymoon period firmly faded into the background, Trudeau’s critics slowly began to find their footing. Now, without a right-wing counterweight in Washington, Trudeau’s hold on power has continued to weaken while his rivals have come ever closer to wresting it from him.

A rising Conservative party has emerged from its defeat in 2015. Its wilderness years have coincided almost exactly with the rise of Donald Trump. While the Conservative Party of Canada has continually striven to emphasize that it is not a northern extension Republican party and has gone out of its way to distance itself from Doland Trump, it has nonetheless been influenced by the increased political polarization seen in the US during the Trump years. The party fractured with the formation of the self-described “Canada First” (a term which, in fact, pre-dates the “America First” slogan, now re-popularised by Donald Trump) People’s Party of Canada led by former conservative MP Maxime Bernie. However, following the ousting of leader Erin O’Toole, widely viewed as representing the extreme moderate wing of the Conservative Party in 2022, the party has reorganized under the new leadership of Pierre Poilievre who has ridden the wave of Trudeau’s unpopularity to place the Conservatives on the cusp of a majority government. While Trudeau can theoretically call the Canadian election tomorrow, he has until October 2025, to do so, and it seems almost certain he will attempt to hold as long as he can to do so in the hopes that his fortunes may change. It seems the most likely way this could happen is if the American left loses its upcoming election. 

Both major Canadian political parties are likely now quietly rooting for their closest American counterparts to lose come November. Trudeau’s liberals currently stand poised to win fewer than a quarter of presumptive Canadian votes and, at times, have been within spitting distance of dropping to third place in parliamentary seat count for only the second time in Canadian history. Facing opposition from the right, Trudeau has continually lost the support of more left-wing Canadians as a result of his handling of the war in Gaza as well as perceived failures to live up to his progressive talking points. Head of the left-wing NDP, Jagmeet Singh, has even threatened to break off the supply and confidence agreement keeping the Liberals in power in recent months. Should polling be accurate -though of course, recent elections certainly have dented trust in them- It seems he is in need of a miracle to pull out a victory. Should President Biden be re-elected, there may be a brief potential upswing in Liberal and progressive support across Northern North America, however such a victory will almost certainly be a death knell for the Liberal party’s electoral chances. Continual conservative angst against President Biden is unlikely to dissipate even should Biden remain in the White House, and this anger will provide free ammunition for Trudeau’s opponents in Canada. 

The lines between American and Canadian conservatism have blurred greatly over the past few years, perhaps best highlighted by the sold-out speaking events of Tucker Carlson in Alberta earlier this year. American conservatives have increasingly sought to portray Trudeau’s Canada as the nightmare scenario of what will happen in a progressive-dominated America, while their Canadian counterparts seem increasingly willing to agree with this characterization. Trudeau for his part, has continually striven to emphasize the “American-style” (long a derisive boogeyman term in Canadian politics) right-wing beliefs of his opponents, and portray a Conservative victory as Donald Trump's politics coming to Canada. Trudeau has accused Pierre Polivre of taking pages “out of Donald Trump’s failed political playbook” and compared the Tories to "Tucker Carlson and those who enable him.”

Conservative politicians and pundits for their part, have shown an increasing willingness to borrow criticisms of “woke” and “radical-leftist” politics developed and honed in American conservative media to throw at Trudeau’s government, there has still been reluctance on the party of party leader Pierre Polievre to fully commit to this line of attack, and at times a rejection of it, in part to maintain the support of more moderate Canadian voters and to pull more away from the Liberals. In the event of a Trump victory in November, it will be far easier to tie Canadian Conservatives to “Right-Wing MAGA politics'' in the words of Prime Minister Trudeau, and may provide the Liberals the breathing room they need to develop a more viable election strategy. If Biden emerges victorious, the “American-Style'' epithet will find itself a much more impotent assault, while Conservatives can portray themselves as a check on and an alternative to an American President, who may be reelected, but seems unlikely to see his approval ever rebound to levels hoped by his supporters. In fact, the day the last Canadian election was called, August 15th, 2021, was the last date on which Biden enjoyed approval ratings of above 50%. The ability of the Canadian Prime Minister to call elections at will, results in a tremendous deal of poll watching to attempt to schedule elections when the numbers seem most favorable to the incumbent. However, it is not just domestic polls Justin Turdeau will be paying attention to, an unpopular President Donald Trump will likely bode far better for Turedau’s approval rating, than a continually unpopular President Joe Biden.

It is not only Canadian politicians who seem to be hedging their bets in part on the American electoral system. Much like its former dominion, the government of the United Kingdom also seems to be tuned into US politics when determining the date of its own upcoming general election. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has recently hinted that Rishi Sunak’s ministry is strongly considering an October date for the upcoming general election.  While an October election plays into Conservative strategies around economic recovery and maximizing Tory voter turnout while minimizing Labour support, the American impact should not be overstated. In a mirror of the Canadian political arrangement, Britain sees an unpopular incumbent Conservative government quite possibly attempting to ensure the next election is before that of their former colonies to avoid having the aftermath of either outcome playing a role in their campaign. Australia’s two 2025 elections may also see their dates impacted by the American campaign, yet regardless, the outcomes of both of these elections, as well as all those of America's allies and opponents abroad, will certainly be impacted by how the US votes this November. There are innumerable factors that will go into each one of these upcoming elections in the 2024 “Super Election” year, as well as all those that will follow in 2025 and onwards. However, the enormous and outsized role that the US will play in the upcoming election in Canada and further abroad, should not be overlooked, it certainly hasn't been by those who will be contesting them. 



Clark Walburger is a junior-year student majoring in Economics and minoring in History. He is a Staff Writer for the Agora.


Image courtesy: Clark Walburger

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