By David Lublin, Professor in the Department of Government at American University
I traveled to Canada at the invitation of the State Department from September 21-28. During this visit, I participated in the Banff Forum—a conference of young Canadian leaders—in Collingwood, Ontario followed by programs organized by the American Consulates in Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary. Throughout my visit, I conducted presentations for Canadians on the upcoming U.S. presidential and congressional elections. Canadians are extremely interested in the American elections. Unsurprisingly, they are an unusually well informed audience due to access to American media and extensive coverage and commentary on the elections in the Canadian media.
Beyond the obvious question of who will win the presidential election, Canadians repeatedly expressed interest in a number of topics. I was regularly asked about the increasing polarization of the American political system and increased difficulties in addressing America’s problems. Several Canadians asked about efforts to expand voter identification laws in the U.S. Even in Alberta, no one asked questions about the Keystone Pipeline, apparently taking it in stride that this issue would eventually be resolved.
The strong friendship between the two countries was apparent throughout my visit. While Canadians are occasionally critical of the U.S. and its government, the comments I heard were not outside the norm of what one might hear in the U.S. These feelings appeared perhaps surprisingly consistent across the three very different cities in this diverse country. From my perspective, Canadians understand well that the relationship will remain close regardless of who wins the American presidential election. Canadians seemed to appreciate my interest in Canadian politics and appreciation for the importance of Canadian-American relations to the American economy and security.
My strong impression of is that Canada, despite its strong regional differences and stresses, is doing very well economically. Perhaps this was stressed by the higher value of the loonie than the greenback—a change from previous visits. But also appeared in a high level of confidence in Canada’s future, though inevitably expressed mildly. The rise of Alberta, and specifically Calgary, also impressed upon. Calgary appears poised, if it has not already done so, to take its place with Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver as a leading city of Canada.
Like the U.S., Canada has enormous diversity, not just in its diverse linguistic heritage, but also due to past and ongoing immigration. Though in Canada, it felt to me that this has more of an Asian and Haitian accent than a Latino one. Politically, Canada also appears to be shifting, though the change from center-left government under the Liberals to a center-right government under the Conservatives strikes this American as a more moderate divide than the one faced at home.