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

Stephanie Cadieux, recently re-elected as MLA for Surrey South, has been named BC Liberal Caucus Chair. (contributed photo)
Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux named Liberal caucus chair

Longtime MLA confident BC Liberals will present an effective opposition

The 3D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Mammography machine, new to the Surrey Breast Health Clinic at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. (submitted photo)
New 3D breast-cancer technology in Surrey ‘has already helped so many women’

Digital breast tomosynthesis new to Surrey Breast Health Clinic

Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for ‘immediate’ government help for businesses shut down

‘Don’t punish all businesses for the sins of a few,’ CEO Anita Huberman says

Gurdawara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar in Surrey is warning the public of a possible COVID-19 exposure at the temple between Nov. 18 and 20. (Photo: Google Street View)
Surrey gurdwara warns of possible COVID-19 exposure

Facebook post says individual was at the temple Nov. 18 to 20

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

Most Read