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

Just Posted

The 24/7 Integrated Response Hub and emergency shelter have been in the Civic Building since November 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin revokes use of Civic Building as homeless shelter

The 24/7 Integrated Response Hub has been in the Civic Building since November 2020.

Photo/ Marlene Alberts
Millet Community Garden of Hope proves popular in its first year

The Town of Millet’s first community garden is completed and proving popular… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

(Historica Canada)
VIDEO: Heritage Minute marks 100th anniversary of work to discover insulin

Video centres on Leonard Thompson, 13, the first patient to receive successful injections for Type 1 diabetes

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

The historic Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne in southern Alberta is up for sale

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
Alberta RCMP investigating possible threat to police after Mirror rally

Online images show RCMP members, vehicles in crosshairs of a rifle

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

Most Read