How the U.S. midterm elections might change the conversation between Ottawa and Washington


While the U.S. midterm elections may change the political panorama in Washington, specialists say they’re unlikely to have a lot of an affect on Canada-U.S. relations — though they might shift the dialogue on some key points.

The midterms elect one-third of the U.S. Senate and the complete House of Representatives, each of that are presently below Democratic management.

Election forecasters view Republicans as overwhelming favourites to win again the House of Representatives and, progressively, as slight favourites for regaining the Senate.

But regardless of which celebration holds the steadiness of energy in Congress after the votes are counted, any shift in energy can have little affect on relations between Washington and Ottawa.

“There actually is not a partisan divide on Canada,” mentioned Chris Sands, head of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based assume tank.

“The want for good relations with Canada and to work issues out and to sometimes have a severe conversation … is fairly constant and … the composition of the Congress will not doubtless change that.”

Maryscott Greenwood, head of the Canadian-American Business Council, identified that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement commerce pact, referred to in Canada as CUSMA, was ratified with a Republican in the White House and a House of Representatives managed by Democrats.

“No matter what occurs, there will likely be a whole lot of new faces in Congress and it is incumbent upon Canada … to introduce the Canadian American relationship to those new members,” Greenwood mentioned.

But each Sands and Greenwood mentioned a variety of important points will likely be the focus of the Canada-U.S. relationship going ahead — no matter which celebration has management of Congress.

Inflation and the economic system

Like Canada, the U.S. has been grappling with record-high inflation over the previous 12 months. Polls have cited the price of dwelling as a high precedence for American voters.

Central banks in each international locations have hiked rates of interest in current months in an try to get inflation below management. But these hikes even have been slowing financial exercise, main many economists to envision a recession someday in 2023.

Due to the ties between the U.S. and Canadian economies, collaboration on financial points will likely be essential in the coming years, Greenwood mentioned.

“How will we guarantee that inflation would not go bananas? How will we guarantee that individuals are employed? And that’s not a straightforward process,” she mentioned. “There are methods for Canada [and] the United States to collaborate on the economic system that might assist soften the blow.”

The U.S. lately handed the Inflation Reduction Act, which incorporates a whole bunch of tens of millions of {dollars} to jump-start a brand new home trade manufacturing parts for electric-vehicle batteries.

But the trade would require entry to some important minerals, which may appeal to funding in Canada’s mining sector.

Ottawa dedicated $3.8 billion in final spring’s finances to develop a important mineral technique. Greenwood mentioned progress on that technique has been gradual.

“If Canada can transfer extra shortly on its important mineral technique, that might be one instance of the way it may collaborate with the United States, participate in the bonanza of spending that’s coming,” Greenwood mentioned.

Sands additionally urged that the U.S and Canada may collaborate to supply simpler entry to enterprise permits to spice up financial exercise on each side of the border.

“I believe there’s a whole lot of potential for bipartisan help in that space and that might be a web optimistic for Canada for certain,” he mentioned.


Another huge piece of the Inflation Reduction Act is the $369 billion the U.S. is investing in local weather change applications over the subsequent decade — together with clean-energy incentives that Ottawa sees as a menace to future funding in Canada.

The Canadian authorities responded with a plan to match a few of these incentives in final week’s fall financial assertion.

Sands mentioned that if Republicans acquire extra affect in Congress, they will doubtless push for adjustments to the act.

“I do not assume the whole lot in that bill goes to get thrown out. I believe it’ll need to be re-branded so Republicans can take some credit score,” he mentioned.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed his signature local weather bill into legislation on Tuesday, Aug. 16. The so-called Inflation Reduction Act is a finances bill affecting clear vitality, prescription drug costs and company taxes. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Following the act’s passing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau downplayed warnings that Canada is falling behind the U.S. on local weather motion — partly by pointing to Canada’s carbon tax.

But Sands mentioned that though a nationwide carbon tax is a “sleeper problem” in the U.S., he would not be shocked if it turned a part of the conversation.

“If the U.S. is even pondering of shifting in that route, that might be a sizzling button problem for Canada,” he mentioned.


Another sizzling button problem between Washington and Ottawa in recent times has been cross-border pipelines.

Biden basically killed the Keystone XL pipeline — which might have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to the U.S. — when he revoked a presidential allow on his first day in workplace.

Even if the Republicans — who’re largely in favour of the venture — take management of the House of Representatives, Greenwood mentioned they doubtless will not be capable of revive Keystone.

“As lengthy as the Biden administration is in the White House … you are not going to have a return of the Keystone XL pipeline,” she mentioned.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued an govt order cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada on his first day in workplace. Seen listed below are bits of unused pipe saved in 2015 at a yard in Gascoyne, ND. (Alexander Panetta/The Canadian Press)

But Sands mentioned a Republican-controlled House may shift the conversation towards re-evaluating how pipelines and different infrastructure tasks get authorised in the U.S.

He additionally pointed to Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline — which runs by Michigan from the Wisconsin metropolis of Superior to Sarnia, Ont. — for example of the United States’ sophisticated allow system for such tasks.

In 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer revoked the easement that had allowed the line to function since 1953. Enbridge has been combating Michigan in courtroom and the Canadian authorities has entered into talks with Washington to maintain the pipeline working.

While Sands mentioned Washington doubtless will need to have the closing say over Line 5, the involvement of the state authorities makes the state of affairs sophisticated.

“It’s an indication that in a extra basic approach, we’re not doing a great job of getting cross-border infrastructure going,” he mentioned.

“So I believe there’s time for a reboot of that conversation and to consider how we allow and evaluation infrastructure. That’s one thing that I believe has bipartisan help.”


One sticky problem that is prone to linger no matter which celebration results in management of Congress has to do with cross-border journey — particularly, the NEXUS program that eases the move of individuals throughout the Canada-U.S. border.

Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Congress members despatched a letter to their Canadian counterparts on the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group asking for his or her “help navigating a problem of mutual concern: the NEXUS backlog and continued closure of Canadian service centres.”

NEXUS centres south of the border reopened in April after a pandemic-related pause.

Canada, nevertheless, hasn’t accomplished the similar with its enrolment centres due to issues about extending authorized protections to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working on Canadian soil — protections that those self same officers already get pleasure from at pre-clearance websites at Canada’s airports.

The NEXUS problem is a “main irritant,” Greenwood mentioned. “Democrats and Republicans are apprehensive about it.

“NEXUS is definitely hanging by a thread. Canada must be fairly apprehensive about the way forward for that program if it would not give you a path ahead.”

The federal authorities hasn’t mentioned when — if ever — these Canadian workplaces will likely be operational once more, however Trudeau mentioned late final month he is “desirous to get it rolling.”


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