Election-watching parties in Toronto, and how U.S. expats are reacting,
Serious or not, more people talking about move to Canada than in previous elections
The final day of the U.S. election campaign brought feelings of excitement and anticipation for one American expat. For another, tension and unease.
After more than a year, the world will finally know whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is the next president of the United States, putting an end to what was an extraordinarily divisive election campaign.
Despite the many differences Trump and Clinton supporters have with one another, by now they share common ground in their relief the election campaign is finally over.
“Maybe, maybe, we can start getting sleep again,” said Ed Ungar of Democrats Abroad Canada. “The polls have been looking pretty good so far, but frankly we’re all very, very on edge.”
Mark Feigenbaum, chairman of Republicans Overseas Canada, thinks Trump could surprise.
“This is entertaining, if nothing else,” he said. “A lot of media in Canada’s reported how one-sided it will be and how no one will vote for Trump. We’re seeing now that it’s actually going to be a much closer election than anyone’s expected. . . . It’s going to be, at least in the popular vote, very close.”
Ungar isn’t taking Trump lightly. Despite his view that Clinton is the only viable candidate, he knows her opponent stands a chance. He said he’d be “devastated” if Trump wins.
“Because Trump is the leader of one of the two major parties, he has a reasonable chance of getting elected and that means that, if he wins, there is also a reasonable chance that Canada could be the last remaining ma- ture democracy on the continent,” Ungar said. “His candidacy is a threat to the whole idea of democracy.”
Ungar, a Philadelphia native, said Trump has succeeded by “blaming other people for their legitimate problems.”
Feigenbaum said he doesn’t share Trump’s social values, but reconciles himself to this because he agrees with his fiscal views.
“The party does have to band behind their flag-bearer,” Feigenbaum said.
“There’s nobody that wholesale believes100 per cent of everything . . . If I were a Democrat, I could listen to all of (Clinton’s) speeches and say I’m not sure I, 100 per cent, believe that either.”
Feigenbaum said it wouldn’t be the end of the world to him if Clinton defeats Trump, nor should it be that way for others if Trump were to win.
“I also really doubt that there’d be hoards of people moving to Canada,” he said. “I really doubt it would be that drastic.”
Whether in seriousness or hyperbole, many have made such a declaration throughout the campaign. But despite the unique factors of this election, the threat of moving to Canada is something that comes up almost every four-year cycle, according to Michael Niren, a Toronto immigration lawyer.
“It’s a little bit more active this round than I would say last,” Niren said. “I think they think they’re serious. It’s an emotional thing, so it’s driven by anxiety more than a well- thought out decision to move countries across borders. It’s more reactive, and, when the dust settles, often, we don’t hear from them again.”
But Alan Regan of Moving2Canada.com, a recruitment agency that helps people plan their move to Canada, said the organization’s website has seen a consistent bump in traffic from Americans this year compared to 2015, especially in October, which had a 65-per-cent increase.
“A lot of people who write in say they don’t care who wins,” said Rob Calabrese, who launched cbiftrumpwins.com, a website devoted to helping disgruntled Americans move to Cape Breton Island if Trump wins. “They seem to be, and, maybe justifiably so, just angry, and feel that their country is going in a wrong direction. It’s the social climate, the political climate that they are getting tired of.”
Feigenbaum, who voted in California, said he’s curious to see if future elections reflect the atmosphere felt in 2016 or if it was simply “an aberration.”
“I think that’s going to be one of the most fascinating things that comes out of the election is to see how the next election goes,” he said.
Ungar fervently hopes the election turns out the way he would like.
“With Obama, especially in 2008, there was a feeling of hope. Here, there is a feeling of dread, especially if he actually wins,” he said. “In order to, frankly, defend the basic United States’ 240-year experiment in democracy, we must defeat him (Trump).”
Ed Ungar, left, of Democrats Abroad Canada in Toronto, and Mark Feigenbaum, chairman of Republicans Overseas, are relieved the elections are ending.