Which U.S. Candidate Is Best for Canada?

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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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Who makes the better argument?

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 9 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 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 (.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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