Will another four years of Obama be good for Canada?
Well that was nasty. And expensive.
President Barack Obama won the presidential election, but the pricey campaign’s grim tone — reflective of the prevailing mood in the United States — was a stark contrast to his past messages of hope, inspiration and “Yes we can.”
It’s been a brutal four years in the United States and whatever Obama’s campaign generals learned in their detailed post-mortem of the 2008 campaign, it clearly wasn’t pretty.
In the end, even the most influential endorsements for President Obama’s re-election were grudging. The Economist magazine, for example, supported him but noted pointedly that “America could do better than Barack Obama.”
The election outcome may have been uncertain as U.S. voters went to the polls, but Canadians were broadly supportive of Obama’s re-election. Public opinion research firm Ipsos Reid indicated 90 per cent believed Obama would prevail and 86 per cent declared they would vote for him, given the chance.
One of the main reasons for such enthusiasm is the perception by 82 per cent of those surveyed that Obama’s return was important to the quality of Canada/U.S. relations while 88 per cent felt he would do better than his opponent on economic issues.
Granted, the economic health of our biggest trading partner is an important consideration for Canadian exporters. But the stubborn persistence of the myth that Democrats are more aligned with our interests is staggering.
Democrats have traditionally been the most protectionist party on trade, in part because of their historic power base in the organized labour movement. Over the past four years that’s certainly been apparent in the energy sector, which accounts for 15 per cent of all Canadian exports — 99 per cent of which go to the United States.
The refusal to approve the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline was a major blow to Canadian oil companies, while the low carbon fuel standards under review in the U.S. will effectively discriminate against oil from the oil sands. Recent renewable fuel standards more openly obstruct the export of Canadian hydro-electric power to the U.S.
On a more personal note, Obama has been publicly critical of oil sands development and has questioned Canada’s environmental standards and stewardship.
All of that — along with reduced demand from a depressed U.S. economy — has contributed to a high degree of market uncertainty. For the second year in a row, capital spending in Canada’s oil patch is taking a hit.
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