5 ways the U.S. election result could impact Canada


The fallout from an American election touches countries around the world — starting with its neighbours next door.

And on some issues with clear implications for Canada, Joe Biden and Donald Trump offer contrasting positions.

The CBC has explored a few of these topics, in stories summarized here with links to a deeper dive on each.

Here are five areas where the Nov. 3 presidential election might affect Canada.

Energy and the environment

Biden says he’d cancel the Keystone XL pipeline and invest massively in clean energy. Construction is just barely underway on the pipeline, which would carry a sizeable fraction of Canada’s oil exports to the U.S. (Alex Panetta/The Canadian Press)

There are striking differences between the candidates. Trump promises more oil drilling, more pipelines — and less regulation. Joe Biden, on the other hand, says he’d cancel Trump’s permit for the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.

Biden wants to invest massively in clean energy; rejoin the Paris Accord; and, finally, name, shame and potentially punish countries with green tariffs if they fail to cut emissions.

International trade

Canadian and American flags fly near the Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge, a major trade link between the two countries. (Rob/Gurdebeke)

Some irritants would remain no matter who wins. For instance, Biden promises more Buy American policies and perennial disputes like softwood lumber would not disappear. But Biden says he’d drop some of Trump’s most aggressive moves against allies, like the steel and aluminum tariffs based on alleged national-security grounds. He has also hinted he might, eventually, try negotiating U.S. re-entry into the pan-Pacific trade pact now known as CPTPP.

Trump’s administration prides itself on a hard-nosed, transformative trade policy that includes lots of tariffs and duties, and has essentially paralyzed the World Trade Organization’s dispute system. His trade team says it has a long-term plan; its critics say the results so far offer more chaos than benefits.


Controllers aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in Virginia await instructions from NORAD on Sept. 12, 2001. (Corey Lewis/Reuters)

Canadian defence policy has long rested on the assumption of an unshakeable partnership with the United States. Yet old alliances suddenly seem less sturdy. Trump has rattled old assumptions, repeatedly criticizing NATO allies for under-spending on their military. Past administrations have made similar complaints. But under a barrage of demands from Trump, allies have, in fact, upped their spending. Some defence analysts, and a top former aide to Trump, still fear he might withdraw from NATO in a second term. That uncertainty lingers over a deployment of Canadian troops in Eastern Europe.

Biden is a staunch NATO advocate, and under his watch, Canada could face a different challenge: conversations about NATO’s future role and missions. One major issue continues to hover over the continent: whether Canada will wind up spending billions to install new radar over the Arctic.


Significant tension between China and the U.S. will persist whoever is president – and Canadians have witnessed the spillover effect that could have. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

When the globe’s two superpowers clash, Canada risks getting sideswiped. Just ask the Canadians in Chinese jail cells and the canola, pork and beef farmers punished by Beijing after Canada executed a U.S. arrest warrant against a high-profile Chinese telecom exec. China-U.S. tensions now loom over myriad global issues, touching the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, agriculture, educational exchanges, journalism, new technologies and sanctioned goods. Trump made these issues top priorities. And they’re not going away.

Biden, however, says he wants to approach things differently — for starters, by working more closely with allies. He plans to host a summit of democracies to discuss ways governments and private-sector companies like banks and social media platforms might push back against global authoritarianism. One thing Trump has not clearly articulated — and it’s something Biden would be pressed to offer — is a sense of the long-term goal: How does the U.S. intend to coexist with China?


Trump has indicated that for a second term, he would carry on with some of the more restrictive temporary work visa programs he established during his first term. Just recently, for example, he announced a major overhaul for H1-B visas. He is also seeking to end the temporary humanitarian protection of thousands of migrants who face threats back home, and decrease the overall number of refugees who come to the U.S. All this could put pressure on Canadian borders. 

Meanwhile, Biden has said he would reverse Trump’s H1-B visa freeze, review the decision to end humanitarian protection for migrants, repeal Trump’s travel ban and increase the number of refugees coming into the U.S. to 125,000.