Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remained tight-lipped about the uncertainty clouding the U.S. election today, saying his government will watch the results “carefully”.
“As everyone knows, there is an electoral process underway in the United States,” Trudeau told reporters gathered outside West Block Wednesday.
“We, of course, are following it carefully and we’ll continue to as the day and the days unfold.”
“Are you worried?” one reporter asked in French — but by that point Trudeau was already headed inside.
Later in question period, Trudeau said the Liberal government is focused on a possible presidential transition if former U.S. vice-president Biden topples U.S. President Donald Trump. For weeks, Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland have said Ottawa is prepared for all eventualities.
“As always, we will seek to make sure we’re able to defend Canadian interests and Canadians as the Americans make an important decision about the next steps forward,” Trudeau said.
While Trudeau has stayed neutral in this race, the Liberal government had a close working relationship with Biden on foreign affairs and climate change policy in 2015-16.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole offered a similarly cautious message heading into a caucus meeting Wednesday, telling reporters in French, “We will wait to see the result.”
Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election count has spilled into Wednesday without a call for either President Trump or his Democratic opponent, Biden.
A number of key states, including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, are too close to call and millions of ballots may remain uncounted at this point.
As of 4:42 p.m. ET today, Trump has secured 213 of the electoral college votes needed to win, while Biden sits at 253.
Trump outperformed some of the polling averages that were published before election day and easily cruised to victory in Florida and Texas early in the night, despite some surveys suggesting the races there would be much closer.
In the industrial midwest states of Wisconsin and Michigan, Biden improved on past Democratic results. CBC News called both states for the Democratic candidate by midday — key Biden pick-ups that narrowed Trump’s possible path to victory.
In the wee hours of the morning, Trump said he would take the election to the U.S. Supreme Court to launch an unspecified legal challenge even as thousands of outstanding votes in several swing states had not yet been tallied.
“We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. Okay? It’s a very sad moment,” he said.
“This is a fraud on the American public,” Trump told supporters in the East Room of the White House. “This is an embarrassment to our country. Frankly, we did win this election.”
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Trump questioned changing vote counts as some state tallies shifted dramatically with the addition of mail-in and early in-person votes which skewed Democratic. State officials have said there is nothing untoward about the results and all ballots received before election day will be counted.
“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled,” Trump said “They started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!”
Biden’s campaign responded to Trump’s claims, calling them “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who urged Americans to back Biden ahead of Tuesday’s vote, said many Canadians woke up this morning “worried and afraid” with the results hanging in the balance.
Rather than disparage those who lined up behind Trump, Singh said politicians need to be more sensitive to the “desperation” and “frustration” that so many working people feel in North America.
“I think, more than ever, we have to get really serious about why this has happened. Despite all the obvious glaring problems — massive problems — and the abject failure of leadership of President Trump, people still voted for him,” Singh said.
While Trump might not actually win this race when all the votes are counted, the president racked up one of the highest popular vote counts in U.S. history. Despite that impressive showing, Biden is on track to best him in the popular vote by millions of ballots.
Singh suggested income and economic stratification in the U.S. — with the richest Americans holding an ever greater share of the country’s wealth — is a source of the anxiety among some Trump voters.
“I think we have an opportunity now to say there are legitimate frustrations. People are angry and upset for good reason, but the reason is because the system is designed this way. It’s designed to allow the wealthiest to have tax loopholes, to get away with not paying their fair share,” he said.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said there will be time in the coming hours — or days — for Trudeau to react, but he agreed it was prudent to reserve judgment until there’s a clear result.
“Whatever our preferences might be, we have the obligation to respect and to stay away from internal American affairs, even if we have the opportunity to provide opinions, which I can do quite freely because I do not think I will be prime minister of Canada in the coming years, and I might think that it will take a little more than four years before Quebec becomes independent,” Blanchet said.
Before the election, Trudeau and O’Toole both said they were prepared to work with whoever was elected.
Trudeau said Canada is “well-positioned and ready” to work with the American people and the U.S. government, regardless of the outcome.
Trudeau said Canada has been able to work with Trump over the last four years, despite ongoing trade and tariff hostilities, and he’s prepared to do so again if the U.S. president is re-elected.
O’Toole said he’d also work to find common ground with whoever Americans choose to be their president on issues that are important to Canada.
“If I was an American, I would be a Democrat, and if I were a Democrat, I would be asking myself, what did we do wrong?” Blanchet said today.
“How come the American people support so much a man who openly lies, avoids paying his taxes, carries and shares prejudices against so many people? Why do the American people still support so strongly that man is a question that he does not have to ask himself — he’s faring pretty well. But the Democrats, the media, the institutions should ask themselves this troubling question.”
Derek Burney, who served as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1989 to 1993, said that if Biden is able to secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, there will be a period of uncertainty that could prove disruptive to Canada-U.S. relations.
“I think they have prepared for either outcome,” Burney said.
While Biden appears to have the edge in the electoral college, American voters didn’t return enough Democratic senators to the U.S. Senate to flip the balance of power from the Republicans. The executive-legislative split will make it difficult for Biden to advance his agenda through Congress.
And while Biden likely would be friendlier to Canada than Trump ever was, Burney said his tenure could still be a “mixed bag” for Canada.
Biden supports Canada’s climate change policy push and multilateral institutions like NATO and the UN that are important to middle power countries, he said — but the Democrat also would be hostile to Western Canadian interests. Trump has been a strong defender of the oil and gas industry and has backed TC Energy’s long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, which would move oil from Alberta to refineries in the U.S.
Biden has vowed to cancel Trump’s presidential permit allowing cross-border construction, a decision that would imperil a project that has the financial backing of the Alberta government.
“It will not be good news for Western Canada,” Burney said of a Biden victory.
He also said Canada benefited from the strong pre-COVID-19 economy in the U.S. under Trump, something that could be derailed by Biden’s proposed tax and regulatory changes.