A donkey representing the Republican Party and an elephant representing the Democratic Party are head to head on top of the map of Canada.Graphic by Esra Rakab / Production Coordinator

Although we live in Canada, this election will have a huge impact on Canadian students

By: Saad Ahmed, Contributor

In 1969, the late Pierre Trudeau told Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, “Living next to [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” 

Now more than ever, this phrase resonates with Canadians — particularly students. With a high-stakes American presidential election around the corner, Canadian students should be concerned about its implications.

Up and down the ticket there are stark differences in political ideologies, governing styles and personalities. Many issues have clear implications for Canadians, as candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden offer some strikingly different policy positions.  

With carbon pricing, a progressive Pan-Canadian Framework and billions of dollars invested in green infrastructure, Canada has become a global leader in the fight against climate change. However, because the US produces such a large share of global greenhouse gas emissions, regression in their climate policy could have more of an impact on Canada than Canada’s own climate policies. 

With a high-stakes American presidential election around the corner, Canadian students should be concerned about its implications.

Recently, many Canadians in British Columbia felt the harsh effects of the smoke from the Oregon and Washington wildfires — a reminder of the inextricable climate link between Canada and the United States. Trump pledged to expand oil drilling, increase pipelines and decrease environmental regulations. On the other hand, Biden planned to invest heavily in clean energy, rejoin the Paris Agreement, implement green tariffs on countries that fail to cut emissions and even “transition from the oil industry” — a statement from the last debate that was met with plenty of controversy.

Besides personal changes to mitigate climate change, civic engagement and policy support by Canadian students are effective in bringing light to climate consequences, even if these policies aren’t Canadian.

In terms of trade, platforms from both candidates are mostly unfavourable to Canadians. Biden promises to increase “Buy American” policies and continue disputes regarding commodities like softwood lumber. However, he has said that he would consider dropping Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs that Premier Doug Ford notably called a “slap in the face” to Canadians.

Recently, right as Canada was about to unveil plans for retaliation with $3.6 billion in tariffs of its own, Trump walked back the 10 per cent tariff. However, he has indicated that he may “reimpose the tariff” as early as the end of this year. Overall, the Trump plan promises a more aggressive trade policy that includes more tariffs and duties if he wins the upcoming election — a move that is sure to cause continued chaos

With Ontario as a major supplier of steel and automobiles and Quebec as a key supplier of aluminum, Canada is the largest exporter of both commodities to the US. Thus, Canadian output is affected by these tariffs, having an effect on economic activity, jobs and consumer price inflation. For Canadian students, the economic implications of these trade policies will be felt as they enter the job market — and for years to come — making it all the more important to care about this election. 

For Canadian students, the economic implications of these trade policies will be felt as they enter the job market — and for years to come — making it all the more important to care about this election.

Between the two candidates, immigration is one of the more polarizing topics of discussion. If Trump wins, he has pledged to continue restrictive temporary work programs like the recent overhaul of H1-B visas. The H1-B visa allows foreign workers, including Canadians, to work in specialized roles in American companies. Overhauling this visa will cut off Canadians from the American job market, even if they have excellent job qualifications. 

Trump’s immigration policies have also resulted in an influx of international students to Canada. From the election of Trump in 2016 to now, the number of study permits issued to international students by Canada jumped up by a whopping 50 per cent. According to Reuters, this is a major economic plus, as foreign students contribute approximately $21 billion annually to Canada’s gross domestic product. 

On the other hand, Biden has promised to reverse Trump’s H1-B visa freeze, meaning that the prospect of working in a specialized job in the United States when it is reopened to Canadian students and those looking for work. However, this means that Canada could potentially lose some of the international students and skilled foreign workers it attracted. Though, this also means less competition for Canadian students applying for these competitive positions – something to keep in mind.

For American students studying in Canada, voting is imperative. Given the United States’ role as a global superpower, the policies and decisions that are made by American leaders — such as the travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries — can have devastating international impacts.

While issues such as controlling the current pandemic and cooperating on a COVID-19 vaccine become increasingly discussed in the international world, Americans abroad are getting more involved. Steve Nardi, the chair of Democrats Abroad Canada, stated that membership in Democrats Abroad Canada has grown by 73 per cent since 2016, with 35 per cent of this growth occurring in the seven-month leadup to this election. Canadians that volunteer with this organization help out with digital canvassing — using their social networks to make sure that Americans and dual citizens in their communities vote from abroad.

To get more involved, students at McMaster can strengthen their knowledge of U.S. politics and history by enrolling in classes like POLSCI 3I03: Topics in American Politics, HISTORY 4JJ3: U.S. Foreign Relations, HISTORY 2RR3: U.S. History Since the Civil War and HISTORY 2IS3: Scandal and Intrigue in American Political and Social History. 

Joining politically-affiliated organizations on campus like Democrats Abroad can offer students a chance to meet and discuss issues with others that share their views and help with voter outreach. Clubs and local political organization chapters also engage in activities to get out the vote for each election cycle. With the number of Americans living in Canada, voter outreach efforts can genuinely make the numerical difference for victory in close down-ballot races. 

With the number of Americans living in Canada, voter outreach efforts can genuinely make the numerical difference for victory in close down-ballot races.

Fewer than 80,000 voters in three swing states decided the U.S. election in 2016 and it is becoming increasingly apparent that this election will again come down to only tens of thousands of votes. Outside the United States, Canada has the most Americans eligible to vote — 620,000 — which is more eligible voters than in Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming or the District of Columbia. However, data from the 2016 election indicated that only about five per cent of these 620,000 voters in Canada exercised their civic duty. 

The implications of the American election extend far beyond domestic issues. As the leaders of tomorrow in a neighbouring country, Canadian students should do their part in staying informed regarding policy in the United States. Undoubtedly, much of it will affect us in the long run.

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