We don’t know yet whether Americans will pick John McCain or Barack Obama as their next president, but if Canadians were voting in the United States election, most would prefer an Obama administration.
This is not surprising, as historically Canadians have favoured Democrats in the Oval office.
“I think that Canada is just in many respects a much more liberal country than the United States, or to put it the other way around the United States is just a much more conservative country than Canada,” said Graham Dodds, who teaches United States politics at Concordia. “So in terms of issues, it’s not surprising Canadians would tend to favour Democratic approaches to Republican approaches.”
But Canadians’ choice this year may also have to do with McCain’s association with current President George W. Bush. A recent Harris/Decima survey shows that 66 per cent of those polled would vote for Obama, while only 13 per cent would vote for McCain.
“The survey reveals that an extensive disapproval of the Bush administration is hurting McCain in Canada,” said Bruce Anderson, president of Harris/Decima.
According to Dodds, an American citizen who moved to Canada four years ago to teach at Concordia, support for Democrats is not just a Canadian thing.
“It’s not just Canadians, it’s people around the globe. In poll after poll, election after election, more often than not people around the globe favour the Democratic candidate,” he said.
“Canadians prefer Obama over McCain because for eight long years, we have been waiting to get George W. Bush out of the White House,” said Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute on International Affairs, an independent left-leaning think tank and advocacy group based in Ottawa.
“McCain, despite his efforts, still carries the Bush stigma through their shared party. Obama is not only a Democrat, but a leader who personifies a break from the past, and new hope for the future,” he said.
However, Staples does have some concerns about Obama. The Rideau Institute recently released a report called
“Canada After Bush – How the Next U.S. President Could Affect Our Country,” which points to Obama’s plan to increase the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan by 50,000, which the Institute warns could affect Ottawa’s promise to leave the country by 2011.
An Obama victory could also have effects on trade between Canada and the United States.
“The Democrats are, broadly speaking, more protectionist, less in favour of free trade and Democrats are also often more in favour of strong government environmental regulation. So just those two points alone might have some implications for free trade,” said Dodds.
“Say an Obama administration pushes through international agreements on greenhouse gas emissions, this can have obvious implications on the Alberta oil sands,” he said.
With Senator Obama continuing to lead Senator McCain in the polls many Canadians will be watching the results but Dodds said it would also be interesting to see how Canadians react, especially in the wake of Stephen Harper’s reelection.
“For most of the last couple decades, generations, there’s been a more or less centre-left Canada atop a more or less centre-right America. In other words Canada has typically been a much more liberal, progressive, compassionate country, compared to a much more conservative United States,” he said.
“That may change [Tuesday]. I very much will be interested to see what Canadians feel like when all of a sudden they are living in a much more conservative, much less progressive country. That would sort of turn the historic relationship on its head,” he said.