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Canada’s U.S. fixation peaks as Americans head to the polls

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Nov 8th, 2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump waits behind his podium as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton makes her way off the stage following the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Americans are finally heading to the polls today — and Canada has a front-row seat.

Even those north of the border with only a passing interest in politics will be watching the final instalment of a jaw-dropping election campaign unmatched in modern American history.

The first wave of polls close at 7 p.m. ET, including Georgia and Virginia, with results from the key states of North Carolina and Ohio after 7:30 p.m.

At 8 p.m., Florida and Pennsylvania — must-wins for Trump — will be among more than a dozen states reporting results, with Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan among several more closing at 9 p.m.

A winner likely won’t emerge until after 11 p.m. ET.

If Clinton can win either Florida or Pennsylvania, she’s almost unstoppable. Trump likely needs Florida, along with Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, and either Michigan or Pennsylvania. Neither of the latter two have voted Republican in decades.

Canada, of course, is far from a disinterested observer.

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant,” the father of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Americans at Washington’s National Press Club in March 1969.

“No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Friendly and even-tempered is not how anyone would describe the 2016 presidential race between Trump, the oh-so-improbable Republican nominee, and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

This thrashing nightmare of an election year has long since alarmed Mexico, Canada’s other partner in the North American free trade bed and a primary target for Trump’s sharp anti-trade, anti-immigration elbows.

But unlike Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has made no secret of his concern about a Trump presidency, Justin Trudeau remains above the fray.

“Any responsible government is looking at what various consequences could be for Canadians, for the Canadian economy, of various measures or various policy positions that the potential next president of the United States — our largest trading partner — might take. That’s simply responsible,” Trudeau said late last week while waving off a question about Tuesday’s outcome.

“I’m going to have faith in the American political process and reassure Canadians that I will work with whomever gets elected to continue to defend Canada’s interests and grow our economy.”

Even so, the stakes are high, said Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“I would like us to be in a position where the discussion is going to be (about) how rapidly and how imaginatively can we deepen our partnership. Instead, what I think what we’ll be looking at is, how do we maintain the progress we’ve been making?”

And it’s not just about whether Clinton or Trump prevails to win the White House.

Tuesday’s voting also will determine the composition of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and of the Senate, which could conceivably see a majority of Democratic senators elected.

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