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U.S. midterm elections will have impact on Canadian politics: expert

Last Updated Nov 6, 2018 at 3:45 pm EDT

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2018, file photo, a voter casts their ballot on the first day of early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections in Cincinnati. The Associated Press will debut a new survey of the nation's electorate that aims to more accurately capture the story of how Americans vote and why in midterm elections Tuesday, Nov. 6. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Canadian political watchers are closely monitoring the U.S. midterm elections, with some predicting the results will have an impact not only on trade and security but potentially on the politics of culture north of the border.

“We’ve spent the last year and half talking about renegotiating NAFTA and various conflicts between the U.S. and Canada, so certainly in terms of those specific policy decisions [the results] matter a great deal,” says Steve Weldon, an associate professor of political science at Simon Fraser University.

“But I also think it matters in a second aspect. Trump and the Republican Party have shifted their emphasis increasingly toward a campaign policy focused around vilifying immigrants and minorities. It had long been assumed that such a direct hostile approach toward ‘outsiders’ as well as women would backfire, that it was taboo,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“What we’ve found in the U.S., and to some degree in Europe, is that these types of appeals work better than we thought they would. Maybe better than we hoped they would.”

Weldon believes that that if Trump supporters come out strong today in the U.S. midterm elections, some Canadian politicians might consider taking a page from the US president’s playbook, particularly when it comes to strategies to mobilize Canadian voters.

“If Trump finds success today, and over the next year or so, I don’t think it would be that surprising to see Canadian politics or some actors also take more of a shift to the right, particularly on cultural issues related to immigration.”

Weldon says that to date, Canada has avoided many of the problems associated with other democracies in Europe and the United States, but he believes that could change.
“We’re proudly multicultural but we don’t really know how stable that is.”

Weldon argues that there is reason to suspect that cultural arguments — discussions about national identity and who makes a “good Canadian” — will become more prominent if Trump and the Republicans retain their grip on the U.S. House and Senate.

“Whether it’s direct or it’s ‘dog whistle’ politics, it’s likely we will see some of that,” he says.

“The more that Trump is successful with that message, it does seem to reason that some Canadian parties would adopt such a strategy.”

Trudeau, cabinet closely watching

Over the past few years, Canada’s prime minister says his team has worked closely with both parties in the U.S.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’ll keep pushing for Canadian interests regardless of the results.

“We’ve worked very hard over the past few weeks to work very closely with both parties in the American congress. We will continue to.”


But Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who also heads the cabinet committee on U.S. relations, is going a bit further, saying he’s excited to see what happens

“I think this is a historical and very, very important midterm elections and I think there can be important ramifications.”

Meantime, Infrastructure Minister Francois Philippe Champagne believes the government’s approach will not be changing.

“We’ll be watching, but the point is we’ve been working with both houses and continuing to promote Canadian interests, that’s what we’ll do.”

This vote is considered a referendum on President Donald Trump, and if the Democrats win one of the Houses, or if Republicans maintain control, it will impact the way our government handles our American neighbours.

Canada is pressuring the Trump administration to scrap the tariffs on our steel and aluminum now that the new USMCA has been reached.

-With files from Dean Recksiedler