Last week, the outcome of the American election resulting in a future Trump presidency, shocked the world. With only a few months’ time separating the world from Trump’s future policy agenda, many, including politicians from across the Columbia Valley, are waiting for what this may mean for the local area and Canada.
“I think to be honest, I was surprised,” Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft said. “I guess, watching from a distance of course, it’s been difficult to take his candidacy as serious with some of his controversial remarks. I think there was an element of it that always seemed like more of a circus or joke than real.”
That joke became real, late Tuesday evening when Trump surpassed the 270 Electoral College votes needed to defeat Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton. In the end, Trump claimed the presidency with 290 electoral college votes despite trailing Clinton in the popular vote by approximately 233,000 votes.
Taft, who is also the NDP candidate for the Columbia River Revelstoke riding in the upcoming provincial election, said that one of the biggest differences he sees between the American election is that the American election carried over nearly two years, including the primary elections, which produced a stronger media following and personalities. He said one of the impacts that this election could have on politics in the future is that people are becoming less concerned about issues and policies and more concerned about the personalities leading the party.
“I think the scary part about this is that it’s maybe proving that issues don’t matter or it’s at least having that question come up,” he said. “Maybe the boring campaigns could become a thing of the past, in that with the attention span that people have right now, and the lack of engagement and interest on issues, the scary part is that it can become more about personalities and about media attention and less about issues.”
Doug Clovechok, B.C. Liberal candidate for the Columbia River Revelstoke riding in the upcoming provincial election, said that he doesn’t think this result has any impact on politics in the future.
“Democracy is about the voice of people,” he said. “The American people voted and they have a new President. Simple as that.”
In regards to the American election’s impact on Canada, it’s closest trading partner and international ally, the rhetoric is mixed as to whether or not Canadians will notice a difference.
Kent Kebe, manager of the Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce said he does not see any drastic changes coming to the Columbia Valley stemming from the election, even with a slight devaluation in the Canadian dollar.
Susan Clovechok, executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, said that although it’s still quite early, she can see the election having some residual effects on businesses in the Columbia Valley.
“What we do know is that if the US dollar remains high, Columbia Valley tourism benefits,” she said. “Furthermore if Canadians decide that they would prefer not to travel to the US for their vacations we may realize the benefit in tourism and second home acquisition.”
“Also, we don’t know where President-elect Trump stands on the softwood lumber issue which would impact our forestry sector. Also the Keystone XL pipeline could be revived with the election of Donald Trump and a supportive Republican Congress.”
One thing that both Doug Clovechok and Gerry Taft were in agreement on however was the reliability of polling in future elections both north and south of the 49th parallel.
“I would suggest you ask Adrian Dix about the reliability of polls,” Doug Clovechok said in regards to Dix losing the 2013 Premiership despite being projected to win. “Elections are not won by pollsters. They are won with strong values, measurable results in terms of policy and achievement, committed volunteers and a candidate that can demonstrate that he or she has never wavered from the values and principles that they believe in and represent.”
Gerry Taft said that the unreliability of polling could create more unpredictable elections in the future.
“It just definitely opens a lot of questions around that and to some degree also means that future elections will be more uncertain because if we know that the polling data is not necessarily true and know that anything can happen in an election, that means that future elections may be more interesting because they are actually more unpredictable.”
Only a week after the news with months still to come before Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, both Susan Clovechok and Gerry Taft said it’s still too early to tell what exactly this all means.