Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump provides a glimmer of possibility and relief following four years of uncertainty and tension… and I am just talking about the Canada-US relationship. The often-overwhelming influence of American politics and media on Canada distorts how Canadians view the world. Canadians may just think about how the US election will affect Americans and whether we will want to go there on vacation, but the reality is that Canada and the US are each other’s most important trading partners. However, we have been cut off from our American neighbours for most of this year, despite Trump wishing to reopen the Canada-US Border. Once Joe Biden takes charge there will be changes that will affect people here in the north. I will go over some of the ones we are anticipating below.
Over the last four years, the US has waged multiple trade wars, some lasting years, others lasting days. With the recent economic downturn caused by COVID-19, these trade wars have diminished. Following the last great recession in 2008, Canada and the United States teamed up on several economic projects to kickstart growth, most notably the joint purchase of General Motors. Deals like these have often benefited the US more; for example, General Motors largely left Canada, and expanded in the US. The question as Biden takes office is which industries he will try and support, will they be joint ventures with Canada, and what will be the respective rate of return?
The US-Canada border is still largely closed, with only essential travel being permitted into Canada for non-residents and the same restrictions at the land border to the US although there is a seemingly large loophole that allows entry to the US by Canadians if they fly down. Anyone returning to Canada even for the briefest of moments from our southern neighbour is subject to a mandatory two-week period of isolation. These restrictions may increase again as US COVID-19 cases surge and a new lockdown is implemented. British Columbia’s tourism industry is reliant on US business. After missing the summer and winter seasons, we are likely to see many tourist-focused businesses close if more is not done to support them. Biden has made a commitment to get COVID-19 under control; this would allow the important tourist industry on both sides of the border to restart.
Another travel issue between the countries is the legality of cannabis. This disparity of policies on each side of the border has led to more Canadians being rejected for entry and facing searches. With the broadening of legalization in the US, Canadians can expect a reduction in these practices at the border. That said, Canadians could see longer waits, as Biden will be forced to make budget cuts in the aftermath of COVID-19, possibly to Homeland Security.
Biden has pledged to institute a mandatory mask order and a three-month national lockdown to get COVID-19 under control once he takes office. Forty-five of the fifty contiguous states in the US are currently facing uncontrolled spread of the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci said the earliest mass inoculation with a COVID-19 Vaccine would be in April although recent news indicates there will be some vaccinations available by December or early January. Canadians should hope that Biden taking over improves the US situation so that competition for the COVID-19 vaccine does not ruin our countries’ friendship. While Canada has secured the most vaccine doses per capita, if Trump retained power, his “America First!” focus could have caused issues like those we experienced with PPE at the beginning of the pandemic. Moderna has already come out to say that Canada, because of its early order, will get some of their vaccine when it is approved so without the interference of Donald Trump, Canada should see vaccine available not far behind the US.
Joe Biden will immediately re-join the Paris Climate Accord when he comes to office. He has also pledged to support a multi-billion-dollar national green energy and infrastructure program to kick start the US economy and fight climate change. One of his major promises was to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline, a major disappointment for Alberta and Saskatchewan. In Canada, Biden’s climate policies could either push the oil industry further into its current weakness or finally force an adaptation. However, there is a real risk for BC, as this cancellation could create a push for more cross provincial pipeline projects to help get Canadian oil to market.
The Trump administration has used the COVID-19 crisis to further restrict the ability of people who are not US citizens to live, work and study in the US. Those barriers created by Trump are anticipated to disappear with Biden as President. In addition, many joint US- Canadian citizens will be eligible for free public college tuition in the US if Biden’s education plan passes.
Biden has said that he will not ban TikTok. However, social media will see a lot more scrutiny. He is expected to appoint SEC and FEC commissioners who will vigorously combat illicit online practices. Even though we are in Canada, what the US does on the internet often dictates the way the rest of the world moves.
When it comes right down to it, the average Canadian will probably not experience that great of a change in their immediate life from the shift in the Presidency of our southern neighbour. The biggest change will probably be in the contents of our newsfeed.
Jonah van Driesum is the senior editor of Link, and co-host of our the MicroLink podcast!