A right-wing protester armed with an AR-15 style rifle looks at Black Lives Matter counter-protesters who are across the street in front of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. Canadians are watching in fear today as their American neighbours vote in earnest, capping a campaign marked by rising voter intimidation, threats of postelection violence, and the potential breakdown of democracy itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andrew Selsky

A right-wing protester armed with an AR-15 style rifle looks at Black Lives Matter counter-protesters who are across the street in front of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. Canadians are watching in fear today as their American neighbours vote in earnest, capping a campaign marked by rising voter intimidation, threats of postelection violence, and the potential breakdown of democracy itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andrew Selsky

Canadians await U.S. election in fear, as poll reveals anxieties about aftermath

The Leger poll left no doubt who Canadians want to win the White House

Canadians are watching in fear today as their American neighbours vote, capping a campaign marked by voter intimidation, threats of postelection violence, and concern about the potential breakdown of democracy itself.

That view is reflected in a new poll from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies that found a clear majority of Canadians surveyed worry that the United States will suffer a breakdown of its system marked by “social chaos” if no clear winner emerges.

That fear is being driven by the assumption that U.S. President Donald Trump won’t accept defeat if he is in fact defeated, or may prematurely declare victory on election night before all votes, including mail-in ballots, can be legally counted.

Canadians are not oblivious to a chaotic final weekend of campaigning that saw Republican supporters block highways, including surrounding a Joe Biden campaign bus on a Texas interstate, as gun sales soared, businesses boarded up in cities across the country, and Republican lawyers stood ready to contest the results.

“It’s a bit like watching your neighbour’s roof catch fire,” said Perrin Beatty, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“You’re both fascinated and horrified.”

The Leger poll found that three-quarters of those surveyed in Canada are worried about the U.S. election, and 68 per cent worry that there will be a “complete breakdown of the political system in the U.S. leading to a period of social chaos.”

“Who would have ever thought we would ever ask the question? But that’s where we are,” said pollster Christian Bourque.

Four out of five respondents said they were concerned that increased racial tension would lead to protests and violence.

The survey of 1,516 Canadians selected from an online panel was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1. Polls conducted this way do not come with a margin of error, since they are not considered random.

The survey delved deeper into Canadians’ anxiety: The possibility of “significant civil unrest or violence” in the streets on election day or the following days worried 77 per cent of respondents; 72 per cent were concerned that Trump wouldn’t accept the election result if he lost; 62 per cent were worried about a stock market crash.

Beatty, who was a cabinet minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney recalled the words of former Liberal prime minister John Turner, who died last month, and whom Mulroney defeated in 1984: “The people have decided, and the people are always right.”

“That’s what a democrat does,” Beatty said, and “that will be the test” for the United States tonight.

READ MORE In an unforgettable year, Americans brace for impact as a seismic election day looms

Georganne Burke, an Ontario-based dual Canadian-American citizen who has campaigned for Trump in the U.S., blamed the Democrats for stoking fears of unrest and violence.

“The Democrats have a cohort of people that are very violent, and don’t have any problems about rioting and looting,” Burke said.

“The Republicans have a cohort of people who talk about their guns, but what they’re going to do is just retreat — move away from participation in American society. And I don’t know which is worse.”

Burke is deeply troubled by the chaos she is viewing from abroad, and said the only comparison in her lifetime is the race riots in the late 1960s.

“Cities were burned down and had to rebuild, and some of them never really recovered,” she said.

Burke said it was “hype” that Trump would refuse to accept a defeat.

“That’s garbage. Will he be unhappy? Sure, he’ll be unhappy. Will he say outrageous things? Probably. But he’ll leave.”

But if Trump wins, that will just embolden Democrats to spend four more years trying to undermine his presidency, she said.

The Leger poll left no doubt who Canadians want to win the White House — 80 per cent favoured Biden.

Colin Robertson, a retired diplomat who served in multiple U.S. postings, said Canadians have every reason to be concerned about what’s unfolding south of the border, but now is not the time to take sides.

“Despite Trump, the U.S. is still the leader of the free world, so any internal turmoil inevitably has collateral damage to the western alliance,” said Robertson

“What can we do? Keep calm, consult with the allies and, as (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau said, prepare for all contingencies.”

Like Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole would not pick sides in the U.S. contest, saying a Canadian prime minister has to work with whomever the Americans choose to lead them.

O’Toole would not weigh in Tuesday morning on the fears the results will be contested or lead to violence or chaos south of the border.

“We will all be watching with great interest the United States elect a president, practise their democracy,” he said. “We share those principles and we are here to work with whomever the next president will be.”

Sarah Goldfeder, now an Ottawa-based consultant and former U.S. diplomat under two American ambassadors, said Canadians must be vigilant to guard against the ideological infiltration of extreme, divisive politics into Canada.

“Literally, stores are boarded up across America right now, in anticipation of civil unrest in the streets. And that’s not good for anybody that has a has to do business with the U.S.”

Bruce Heyman, who was Barack Obama’s second ambassador to Canada, said Americans are equally worried but only a “handful” of the 330 million of them are troublemakers.

“Canadians should sit back and take note that the United States-Canada relationship is our most important relationship. But Donald Trump has done damage to the trust part of that relationship,” Heyman said.

“We have a chance to turn the ship around and head in the direction we were progressing along, regardless of party, Republican or Democrat,” he added.

“I hope that we can put this in the dustbin of failed presidencies and bad periods.”

ALSO READ: Canadian ‘Billionaire Donald’ rooting for Trump to win again, COVID to lose

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Donald TrumpelectionJoe BidenUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

Katrine Conroy’s swearing in ceremony. Photo: Kootenay West Katrine Conroy Facebook
Forestry Minister West Kootenay MLA Katrine Conroy talks about her new role

Conroy will also oversee Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Treaty

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

Seven Deers carved Shinning Raven Woman out of Labradorite harvested from the Canadian Shield. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Sculpture by Indigenous artist to be erected in Grand Forks

Civic leaders have rallied behind the project by Grand Forks’ David Seven Deers

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Most Read