Posted:  |  Updated: 11/06/12 EST

Which U.S. Candidate Is Best for Canada?

election

We Canadians care about the U.S. election -- we just can't help it. Yes, it's partly because of our inferiority complex (token Canadian self-deprecation!), but it's also because the results are consequential to our country.

We do massive trade with the U.S., the country is one of our most crucial energy partners, our environmental interests are tied by a potential pipeline, and the well-being of the world's largest economy certainly affects us.

So on election day, it's prudent to ask not only which man will best govern the U.S., but who will be best for Canada?

Alexander J. Szikla, a columnist for the Prince Arthur Herald, argues Obama's policies on topics such as the environment and foreign affairs have Canada's best interests in mind. Not if Canadians care foremost about the economy, argues Simon Fraser University professor Alexander Moens, who thinks Mitt is more likely to talk America off the fiscal cliff.

So which is it Canada: harmonious values or a balanced budget? Read what our debaters have to say and then cast your vote.

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Alexander J. Szikla Columnist, The Prince Arthur Herald

Despite miniscule policy skirmishes, there is no doubt that paramount to a leader's policies is the voracity of one's values. Canadians respect the progressive ideals characterized by the Obama administration and that is why I believe that a second term for President Obama would be beneficial to Canada.

Whether those ideals are manifested by legislation aimed at strengthening the middle-class and providing Americans of every creed an equal opportunity viewed from the individual's perspective or whether they be providing Americans with a clean environment and a high standard of living from a collective standpoint. Obama's policies are in line with Canada's best interest.

Canadians are blessed with such abundant access to a vast collection of natural resources. However, Canada has been able to lead its own commercial expansion while remaining environmentally sustainable. More importantly however, the Canadian narrative has afforded its citizens much of the promises made by the American dream of yesteryear.

Republican ideology stands in defiance to those values. From an environmental standpoint alone, it is clear that Governor Romney would support off-shore drilling and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The implications of which could be disastrous for the Alaskan environment should even a moderately sized oil-spill take place.

On the subject of oil, perhaps the greatest issue facing American-Canadian relations from an economic perspective concerns the issues surrounding the Keystone pipeline, which President Obama originally halted. As a result of such economic encumbrance, anti-American sentiment rose throughout Canada.

However, the examples pointing towards American impediments of Canadian furtherance, best characterized by the Keystone pipeline dispute, are miniscule in comparison to the one-sided nature of diplomatic dialogue that would arise between the two nations under Romney's White House.

A GOP Presidential victory would certainly result in saber-rattling within an international context which would stand in stark contrast to the quiet dialogue undertaken by President Obama to face pressing issues such as an Iranian nuclear threat. Domestically, as well, Governor Romney would implement policies effectively leading to the status quo in healthcare by repealing the Affordable Health Act, by increasing the retirement age for Social Security and by turning Medicare into a voucher program thus eliminating the concept of a social safety net and crippling the already struggling middle-class.

Concurrently, Governor Mitt Romney has taken on numerous stances which Canadians would view unfavorably, such as his claims that he would designate China as a currency manipulator, despite the fact that he lacks that authority to do so. On a domestic front, Governor Romney would have allowed U.S. auto manufacturers to go bankrupt, which would have certainly cost both Canada and the US thousands of jobs while affording foreign competitors the opportunity to encroach into our markets.

Canada has also stepped out from under the shadow of the United States with respect to autonomous foreign policy, progress that would be threatened under a Romney presidency. The government of Canada chose not to commit troops to the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a few years later hosting a G20 conference in Toronto all the while developing warm relations with China effectively bolstering joint economic interests. With a Romney presidency, it will be more difficult for Canada to distinguish itself as the United States risk returning to the more intrusive policies seen during the George W. Bush years.

Most importantly, though, are the values shared by Canadian political leaders and President Obama. The progress that those values will create, will lead to a future of shared prosperity among both nations. That is why President Obama's re-election will be beneficial to all Canadians.

Alexander Moens Political Science Professor, Simon Fraser University

In trying to determine which U.S. presidential candidate -- Barack Obama or Mitt Romney -- would be better for Canada's national interests, one could build a balance sheet of the "pros" and "cons"' for each candidate's policies on various issues such as border management, trade promotion, and energy policy.

But that obscures the question. To fully understand how the outcome of this election will affect Canada, we must cut to the heart of the matter and focus on the single largest issue at stake for us, namely, the state of affairs and prospects of the American economy.

The bread and butter of the Canadian economy is still derived from our close commercial relationship with the United States. True, as a share of Canada's total export trade, the United States has declined to 74 per cent in 2011 from 87 per cent in 2001, but that has more to do with increasing trade with other countries as opposed to less trade with the U.S. The first question a Canadian must ask about any American election is which policies are most likely to benefit the commercial exchange (worth $549 billion in 2011) between buyers and sellers on either side of the border.

The weaknesses of the Obama administration's policies are shown in their inability to help renew confidence in the American economy. In comparison to previous economic downturns and recessions, the pace of American growth is quite low.

For example, the GDP losses in 2008-9 are similar to the losses in 1981-2. However, the recovery that followed in the 1980s showed growth at an average of five per cent per year, while the recovery rate of the past three years has hovered around two per cent.

The moribund economic recovery and the continuing high levels of unemployment are in turn the result of two fundamental problems on which the Obama administration has failed to make progress. First, Obama was unable to reach a "deal" with Congress on controlling the run-away debt and deficit, and barely secured agreement to increase the debt ceiling in 2011.

Currently the United States is borrowing $4 billion per day to bridge the gap between revenues and expenditures. When one includes both public federal debt and debt in government accounts, the federal debt exceeds 100 per cent of U.S. GDP ($16.1 trillion).

Second, Obama has twice failed to reach an agreement with Congress on how to deal with the Bush tax cuts which expire on December 31. Across-the-board government cut backs are set to take effect on January 1, 2013. Adding to the fiscal instability is the administration's new health insurance plan, unofficially referred to as "Obamacare," as various costs will begin to build up in coming years.

American consumers and investors have responded to this policy uncertainty in a predictable way: they held back from buying and investing. Net business investment as a percentage of GDP, which was on average 3.5 per cent during the Reagan years and more than four per cent during the Clinton years, has recently hovered around one per cent. A recent economic analysis shows that very high levels of policy uncertainty such as that seen in the past two years directly correlates to a slowing down of economic growth.

The question of which candidate should be preferred by Canada thus comes down to this: Which candidate is more likely to reverse the trend of stifling federal debt and resolve the stalemate in fiscal policy? Success on these two issues will lower the high level of policy uncertainty and generate more private economic growth.

Obama has tried twice to cut a deal with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives but failed. The chances of him reaching an accord should he be re-elected and should the House remain controlled by Republicans (the latter is highly probable) appear slim. Canadians are bound to be disappointed if they pin their hopes on the notion that another Obama term will unlock the policy deadlock.

At the same time, Romney has no guarantees that he would be able to bring the fiscal conservatives in the House to a compromise or that he would be able to convince a Democratic-controlled Senate (again highly likely) to go along with reforms. Keep in mind that with debt exceeding 100 per cent of GDP, these fiscal conservatives are not grasping at a straw man.

But Romney has two assets that may give him better odds. First, he is a Republican and can thus exert more leverage, both positive and negative, on Republicans in the House. Second, he is a "turn-around specialist." His career as corporate and organizational (Salt Lake City's 2002 Winter Olympics) "fixer" gives him the better tools to unlock Congressional gridlock and in so doing, reduce the policy angst that is stifling American economic growth.

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  • Here's a look at the issues he and other Canada-U.S. watchers feel will land on the big desk in the Oval Office in the months and years to come. <strong><em>With files from CBC</em></strong>

  • Energy Policy

    Wilkins puts energy policy at the top of the list of Canadian issues facing the next U.S. president. "It is a huge part of our trade relationship and obviously the controversial issue right now is the approval of the Keystone pipeline," said Wilkins. "I think that has the most immediate and profound impact on the relationship of the two countries. It can mean thousands of jobs in the U.S. It can mean more Canadian energy flowing to the U.S. and would give us a little more energy independence from some of the other countries that we depend on that don't necessarily like us, like Venezuela." Romney has said he will approve Keystone XL, a 1,900-kilometre project that would carry oilsands crude from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Obama initially welcomed TransCanada Corp.'s $7.6-billion plan, but put it temporarily on hold late last year, asking the State Department to take another look at a new route that would bypass the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area in Nebraska. Keystone XL has faced significant opposition from environmentalists, who both oppose oilsands development and view the pipeline itself as an ecological disaster waiting to happen. Don Abelson, director of the Canada-U.S. Institute at Western University in London, Ont., says energy policy is a critical cross-border issue that's not going to go away. "Both Obama and Romney are very well aware of what's going on in Western Canada and how the United States could benefit from that, so there's been a lot of discussion about North American energy independence and lessening their dependence on the Middle East."

  • Trade

    In his view, Abelson says "first and foremost" among the Canadian issues facing the next U.S. president is "our concern about trade and the border." "It's always a concern that not only the next president but the next Congress looks favourably upon the importance of the trade relationship between the two countries and that as committed as both countries are to maintaining a secure border, that they don't lose sight of the importance of allowing for the unfettered movement of goods and services." In the past four years, there have been some protectionist tendencies on the U.S. side, including Buy America clauses in bills, one of which, restricting public works projects to U.S.-made steel and manufactured goods, was passed by Congress "I think there was some expectation that when Barack Obama became president in 2008 that he would not be as committed to thickening the border," says Abelson. But "clearly he has been." Wilkins, a Republican, also feels that Buy America clauses are protectionist and not helpful. "I'm hopeful that they won't come up again, but I think if you have an Obama administration the likelihood is higher than if you have a Romney administration."

  • Border Security

    Late last year, Canada and the U.S. signed a new perimeter security and trade agreement that aimed to make everything from travel to cross-border business easier. But the deal came with negotiations to ease American security concerns and means the two countries will share information about who enters and exits the country. Canada will adopt two U.S. screening measures: an electronic travel authorization for visitors who don't need visas to travel to Canada, and a system to deny boarding to inadmissible passengers before they get on the plane. Security at the border is another "huge" Canadian issue for the next U.S. president, but Abelson doesn't think it will necessarily become harder for people crossing from one country to another. "I think we'll continue to see co-operation between both countries in terms of sharing intelligence and information," he says, adding that more is also going to have to be done when it comes to border infrastructure such as bridges and roads.

  • Foreign Policy

    Abelson says Canada should be concerned about the foreign policy direction of the next U.S. administration. "I don't think Canadians have the appetite or the stomach for going back to a time where the United States was putting pressure on us to become involved in military conflicts," he says, adding "the issue that's going to be on the agenda of the next president will be Iran and possibly Syria. "From a Canadian perspective, we want to be very careful that regardless of who's occupying the Oval Office, that we are not under pressure or put under intense pressure to become involved in future military conflicts unless our direct national security interests are at stake." And then there's China. Canada's navy played a key role this summer in the world's largest international naval exercise, which has as a main worry the possibility of a less-than-friendly China. The U.S. was a big player in the exercise, and it came about six months after Obama signalled a foreign policy "pivot," pointing to the Pacific rather than keeping the longstanding focus on the Middle East and Europe. With Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government also signalling great interest in selling resources like oil to China, Canada could find itself in a rather sensitive spot reconciling those sometimes differing perspectives.

  • The Economy

    Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., told reporters earlier this month that one of the most important issues for Canada in the U.S. election will be whether the winner can avoid sending the U.S. economy over the so-called "fiscal cliff." Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress have been deadlocked over the U.S. budget and face a Jan. 1 deadline for a deal. If there isn't one, a series of pre-set spending cuts and tax increases kick in and could have the effect of slowing an already fragile U.S. economic recovery. Doer wouldn't say which candidate or party he feels is best equipped to break the budget impasse in Congress. But no matter who wins an election that in the U.S. has focused primarily on the economy, Abelson sees a huge challenge getting the agreement needed on Capital Hill to sort out the looming budget and debt questions. "I agree with Gary Doer that of course the economy is the most important issue, but as we saw during the discussion over the debt crisis, how bad do things have to become for both sides to work together?" Every country in the world, Canada included, is affected by how the U.S. economy plays out, suggests Abelson. "Our trade relationship, the spillover effect into our own country, of course, that's one of the reasons we need to pay very close attention to what's going on in Washington."

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  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama stands with singer Bruce Springsteen as he arrives to speak at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama, accompanied by singer Bruce Springsteen, waves as he arrive at a campaign event near the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wis., Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama is greeted by onstage by singer Bruce Springsteen as he arrives to speak at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in downtown Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with singer Bruce Springsteen at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in downtown Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Bruce Springsteen

    Singer Bruce Springsteen performs before the start of a campaign event for President Barack Obama near the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wis., Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Joe Biden

    Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking a campaign rally at Heritage Farm Museum at Claude Moore Park, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Sterling , VA. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 in Castle Rock, Colo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his wife Janna arrive at a campaign event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Castle Rock, Colo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at McArthur High School in Hollywood, Fla. Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Shady Brook Farm, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Morrisville, Pa. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Elizabeth Warren, Bruce Mann

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, left, waves to an audience while standing with her husband, Bruce Mann, at the conclusion of a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Barack Obama,

    President Barack Obama extends his arm and fingers to greet young supporters after speaking at a campaign event at Fifth Third Arena, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters at a Virginia campaign rally at Newport News International Airport, in Newport News, Va., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama arrives to a cheering crowd at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves as fireworks are seen in the distance at a Virginia campaign rally at Newport News International Airport, in Newport News, Va., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama greets a cheering crowd as he arrives at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, left, clasps hands with her husband, Bruce Mann, as U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., center, shakes hands at the conclusion of a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Barack Obama,

    President Barack Obama starts to move to the music of performer Stevie Wonder who was off-stage performing at the end of the campaign event at Fifth Third Arena, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Mitt Romney, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney take the stage at a Pennsylvania campaign rally at Shady Brook Farm, in Morrisville, Pa., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama gives the thumb-up as he finishes speaking at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Women hold up signs spelling "vote" on a stage being prepared for a speech by President Barack Obama at a campaign rally at the Community College of Aurora, in Denver, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Mitt Romney, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney arrive on stage at a Pennsylvania campaign rally at Shady Brook Farm, in Morrisville, Pa., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    United States Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., front, and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, behind left, face reporters before a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • A long line of early voters runs down the block outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections building Sunday evening, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. The women in the front of the line said they had been in line four hours. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, left, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., walk and talk as they arrive at a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Elizabeth Warren

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren addresses an audience during a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. Warren was introduced by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at the rally. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, left, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., right, walk and talk as they arrive at a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, left, addresses an audience during a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., as U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., right, applauds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets the crowd at a Pennsylvania campaign rally at Shady Brook Farm, in Morrisville, Pa., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he speaks at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Joe Biden

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Rushville Middle School, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Lancaster, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Joe Biden

    Supporters cheer as Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Rushville Middle School, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Lancaster, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he leaves the stage after speaking at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Former President Bill Clinton walks through the crowd after speaking at a rally for Barack Obama at Pullen Park in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.The former president has been traveling to several battleground states over the past week to try to stem any Republican tide for Mitt Romney and preserve Obama leads. (AP/Ted Richardson)

  • Former President Bill Clinton, right, arrives at a rally for Barack Obama at Pullen Park in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, after being introduced by former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, left. The former president has been traveling to several battleground states over the past week to try to stem any Republican tide for Mitt Romney and preserve Obama leads. (AP/Ted Richardson)

  • Joe Biden

    A supporter cheers as Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally Terra Community College, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Fremont, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Joe Biden

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally Terra Community College, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Fremont, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a Virginia campaign rally at Newport News International Airport, in Newport News, Va., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., greets supporters during a campaign event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Castle Rock, Colo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Paul Ryan

    Supporters cheer as Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign event, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Mansfield, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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