Canada and the 2004 United States presidential election
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (January 2014)|
While the entire world paid close attention to the 2004 U.S. presidential election, few countries were doing so more than Canada. Decisions of foreign policy and trade made in the United States affect Canada more than those made in almost any other country due to the close economic relationship between the two nations. Over 75% of Canadian trade is with the United States, and there are close cultural and personal links as well. Moreover, since almost all Canadians have access to and regularly watch American television, they are easily exposed to both election coverage and advertisements.
About half a million people living in Canada were eligible to vote in the American election (either Canadians with dual citizenships or Americans living in Canada). This exceeds the number of eligible voters in several American states. Both parties, but mainly the Democrats, made efforts to win these voters and ensure that they cast ballots. Most notably, John Kerry's sister Diana Kerry visited a number of Canadian cities to bring out the vote.
Canada was overwhelmingly pro-Kerry. A July 2004 poll by Ipsos-Reid found that 60% of Canadians favoured Kerry and only 22% of them George W. Bush. The remainder were either undecided or supporters of third-party candidates. In the winter of 2004 another poll found that only 15% of Canadians felt that Bush was doing a good job as president. Even Canada's most conservative province, Alberta, was 60% in favour of Kerry. The area with the strongest support for Bush were the Atlantic provinces, which only broke 51% for Kerry. Kerry's strongest support was in Quebec where from 69 to 71% of the population picked him over Bush. Only in New Brunswick did Bush lead, with 51%. An international poll of ten nations conducted in September and October again found 60% of Canadians would vote for Kerry with 20% backing Bush. This was the third-highest level of support for John Kerry, behind only France and South Korea.
However, when former U.S. president Ronald Reagan died in June, The Toronto Star reported that Reagan's death increased chances that Bush would win re-election. According to the Star, Bush ended up in the same situation Prime Minister Jean Chrétien ended up in when he won an election he called right after the six emotional days in September 2000 that marked the death and state funeral of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. In both cases, the deceased served as a mentor to the incumbent in office.
Campaign issues directly affecting Canadians
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There were few campaign issues that directly affect Canadians. Kerry advocated a program of buying prescription drugs from Canada. This could make Canadian companies a great deal of money, but it could also increase demand and therefore prices in Canada. Kerry advocated more a protectionist trade stance, something that could have hurt Canada. However, by tradition and because of NAFTA, Canada is rarely affected by such moves.
Canada was mentioned three times in the presidential debates. John Edwards first mentioned Canada towards the end of the Vice-Presidential debate saying that the Bush administration "blocked allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada. We're going to allow it." In the second town meeting debate between Bush and Kerry, Bush was directly asked about why he was blocking the importation of Canadian drugs. He responded that "I haven't yet. Just want to make sure they're safe. When a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you... and what my worry is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada, and it might be from a third world." In the final debate the issue was again drugs from Canada, but in a different context with Bush discussing going to Canada for help to aid with the shortage of influenza vaccine in the United States.
Position of the Canadian government and major political parties
The Canadian government had no official position, as is standard protocol. However, it is widely believed that the governing Liberals would have preferred a Kerry victory. The Liberals are far more ideologically similar to the Democrats than to the Republicans. In August 2004, Carolyn Parrish, a Liberal Member of Parliament, referred to the United States and its allies as the "Coalition of Idiots," she later appeared in a television comedic skit stomping on a George Bush doll in parody of her own position. While she was censured for the remarks, her decision to publicly denounce her own political party and Prime Minister Paul Martin over his supposed "right-wing agenda" and to a much lesser extent her constant insults towards the Americans eventually played a role in her being expelled from the party. Her views on the Bush Administration were widely seen as expressing the beliefs of a portion of the Liberal Party. Most cabinet ministers refused to disclose their preferences, but there were some exceptions. Joe Volpe said that "intellectually, I'm attracted to Kerry." Environment Minister and future party leader Stéphane Dion stated his clear support for Kerry, as did former cabinet minister Denis Coderre.
One important reason for the Liberals to have hoped for a Bush victory is the issue of missile defense. Previously Paul Martin had voiced vague support for missile defense, but a concentrated effort by the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois by the Canadian public made that position politically untenable. Missile defense was an important priority for the Bush administration and they would bring pressure to bear to convince Martin to support it. The Liberals were concerned that a victorious Kerry would ask for Canada's help in Iraq, though there were not any voices in the Liberal Party advocating Canadian military involvement in Iraq at that time and practically no support from the Canadian public, due largely on Canada's leading military role in Afghanistan and disapproval of the invasion.
Only weeks after Bush's reelection, on November 30 and December 1, he made an official visit to Canada. Bush's first official visit to the country was seen as an effort to mend relations. On December 5, as announced by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) two days earlier, Paul Martin appeared on CNN with Wolf Blitzer on his Sunday talk show, Late Edition.
In the wake of Bush's reelection some Americans looked to Canada as a more liberal alternative to the United States under the Bush administration. The New York Times reported that the number of Americans seeking to move to Canada tripled after the election, however, these threats were not carried out, as official statistics show fewer people applying to move to Canada in the six months following the 2004 election than before it. A number of people also suggested that the northern blue states should secede and join Canada, mostly in jest. The Jesusland map showing this new geography became widely circulated on the Internet.
- Harper, Tim (June 8, 2004). "Mourning puts focus on Bush". The Toronto Star. p. A1. "There is a Canadian parallel to the situation Bush finds himself in. Pierre Trudeau's death in 2000 came just weeks before then- prime minister Jean Chrétien's election call and the death of the Liberal icon immediately pumped up the party at the polls. Chrétien, in pre-election statements, said the election would shine a light on liberal values and the Trudeau legacy, but the 2000 campaign turned on a number of issues, none of them ultimately associated with the long-serving Liberal prime minister."
- "Canada prepared to supervise Iraq vote, PM says - CTV News". Ctv.ca. 2004-12-06. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- "CNN.com". CNN.
- "Bush dodgers look to Canada: Americans grapple with results of their election." Sudbury Star. Nov 12, 2004. pg. B.13
- Lyman, Rick (February 8, 2005). "Some Bush Foes Vote Yet Again, With Their Feet: Canada or Bust". The New York Times.
- No contest in Canada: Kerry by a landslide - The Globe and Mail (Must pay to see this article)
- Lawrence Martin "Chatty Liberal ministers prefer - drum roll- Kerry" The Globe and Mail October 21, 2004.