The Canadian and American flags are seen on top of the Peace Arch is at the Canada/USA border in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. A new online poll suggests COVID-19 has damaged the trust Canadians have in their American neighbours, while U.S. residents have more faith in their northern counterparts than they do in themselves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Canadian and American flags are seen on top of the Peace Arch is at the Canada/USA border in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. A new online poll suggests COVID-19 has damaged the trust Canadians have in their American neighbours, while U.S. residents have more faith in their northern counterparts than they do in themselves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadians come together online to ring in U.S. election with cross-border stakes

American-Canadians of all political stripes are welcome to tune in to a virtual Q-and-A hosted by the U.S. Embassy

In 2008, avid politico Daniel Roukema was moved to tears while watching the U.S. election at an Ottawa pub, the elated crowd around him breaking into cheers, when the newscaster announced that Barack Obama had been elected the first Black president of the United States.

As Obama’s two-term tenure drew to a close, Roukema, who is Black, expected American voters would build on that progress by making his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the first woman to lead the White House.

The polls backed up his optimism, projecting that the Democratic candidate would defeat businessman-turned-Republican nominee Donald Trump in a landslide.

And on Nov. 8, 2016, as Roukema gathered his friends in his living room to share in the heady excitement as they watched history unfold — just not in the way he was expecting.

As one swing state after the next turned red, Roukema likened the mood in the room to watching the Toronto Maple Leafs bungle an all-but-certain bid for the Stanley Cup.

“It goes from excitement and jubilation, to probably having a few too many beers, to you can hear a pin drop in the house,” he said. “People just want to go home. They don’t want to be there.”

Now, Roukema is hoping for a communal catharsis as former Democratic vice-president Joe Biden tries to unseat Trump from the Oval Office.

While the COVID-19 pandemic will preclude in-person festivities for the U.S. election in much of Canada, Canadian political junkies and American expatriates are finding new waysto come together next Tuesday, as the cross-border consequences of the presidential race seemas stark as ever.

Roukema won’t be having an election party at his home in Burlington, Ont., where COVID-19 cases have been surging in recent weeks. Instead, the communications specialist is trying to keep the civic discourse alive by hosting informal political forums on his Facebook page.

Over the course of the campaign, he said, these “political jibber-jabber” posts have attracted hundreds of comments, and he expects to see even more chatter come voting day.

While his aim is to educate people about the American electoral process, Roukema said the online discussions can turn into collective venting sessions.

“One of the things that is really important to me is validating people’s feelings,” Roukema said. “Because even though the United States is another country, people recognize the impact on a global level.”

Aidan Link and Wiley De Paiva, who are among the student leaders of Western University’s Political Science Association, are also turning to digital platforms to discuss with their peers what the U.S. election means to them.

The association’s virtual voting-day lineup includes a series of Zoom debates featuring commentators from an ideological array of student groups. As moderators, Link and De Paiva said they welcome the spirited exchange of views, but they’re prepared to step in if disagreements run afoul of decorum.

Professors will pop in to provide context as the night unfolds, and attendees will have a chance to weigh in through interactive polls and a live chat over Zoom.

Link said the event has garnered more interest than the association’s previous functions. But he suspects that may have as much to do with student engagement as it does the listlessness of university life under lockdown.

“A lot of it’s probably just convenience,” said Link. “Now that we don’t have as much to do with extracurriculars at school, a lot of people are willing to take two to three hours and come to an election party.”

Meanwhile, left-leaning U.S. citizens living in Canada don’t need to bereminded that the impacts of a second Trump term won’t stop at the 49th parallel, said Dianna English, the Canadian spokeswoman for Democrats Abroad, an international offshoot of the American political party.

Normally, English said, the organization’s election-day festivities would consist of a series of small gatherings hosted by local chapters across the country.

This cycle, however, English said the rise of online organizing has allowed for unprecedented countrywide mobilization to get out the mail-in vote over the past few weeks.

She said members plan to celebrate the fruits of their efforts with a Zoom bashthat will be capped off with a DJed virtual dance party.

The group’s conservative counterpart, Republicans Overseas, has opted out of hosting election-night events this year, said Canadian chairman Mark Feigenbaum.

However, American-Canadians of all political stripes are welcome to tune in to a virtual Q-and-A hosted by the U.S. Embassy.

In parts of Canada with laxer lockdown restrictions, a few in-person election-night events are going forward.

Kevin Warner, a manager at the Unicorn in Calgary, said masked patrons are welcome to participate in a mock election, and find out if they predicted the winner correctly over food and drinks.

“With how crazy everything’s been, people just want an outlet, and they still want to have some kind of fun,” said Warner.

“Hopefully, nobody’s politically charged and getting angry. We just want it light and fun.”

Melissa Haussman, a political science professor at Carleton University, saidthe gravity of next week’s vote may be hard to ignore given all the Canada-related issues on the ballot.

From the partial closure of our shared border and the global race to secure the first viable COVID-19 vaccines, Haussman said the pandemic has highlighted the extent to which our two countries’fates are interconnected.

But whichever way the vote swings next Tuesday, Haussman said Canadians can likely count on the losing candidate’s adherents threatening to immigrate north, as per electoral tradition.

“We know that within 24 hours of the election result in 2016, the Canadian (immigration) site crashed,” said Haussman. “There is a misconception that it wouldn’t be such a big deal to move to another country.”

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaelectionUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

(PQB News file photo)
Some frustrated Parksville Qualicum Beach residents now tossing recyclables in garbage

Option is driving to collection centres in Nanaimo and Courtenay

Mike Garland, fundraising member of the Oceanside Community Track committee, visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: Mike Garland’s group wants an updated running track in Parksville

Podcast: Talk includes fundraising, plans to upgrade aging facility and more

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

An active transportation initiative is being planned for Electoral Area G of the Regional District of Nanaimo. (PQB News file photo)
RDN: Active transportation planning sought for French Creek area

Consultant to be hired to undertake $85,000 project

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read