Published December 24, 2008

Obama’s Victory...For Canada?

Canadians breathlessly watch the campaign race as Barrack Obama rises to victory in the American Election.

 The question is...Why do we care so much?

It was a long and gruelling campaign, and an even longer election day but finally the votes are in, the results have been counted and the new President of the United States of America is Barrack Obama!!!!!

 If you are like me, you have been following this American election pretty closely. It’s history in the making. But now that the election is over, I am wondering why? Why is the American election so interesting to Canadians? Ask any Canadian who Barrack Obama or Sarah Palin or Hilary Clinton is and you will get a correct answer. But how many of them can tell who Jack Layton is, or Michelle Jean? The fact is Canadians know less about Canadian politics and more about the American ones.

 But what is it about our neighbours to the south that attracts us? What makes us interested in their election and not ours? Let’s take a closer look between Canadian and American politics. The Canadian ones are certainly a lot cleaner. Despite Stephen Harper and the Conservatives campaign against Stéphane Dion in what was perhaps one of the dirtiest campaigns in Canadian history, Canadian politics are in general tame compared to the American ones. So does this mean that Canadians, who are famous for being excessively polite, simply enjoy watching a mud-slinging election campaign where the candidates bad-mouth each other?

 Or it could be just that American politics are simply more publicized. The entire campaign of ’08 has been front page in the news since it began. There was a Canadian election during the U.S. one too. How many Americans know the name of the Canadian Prime Minister? That definitely does not make the front page in America. Even the entertainment news was about presidential candidates. There are Hollywood stars endorsing and lending their support to candidates. Everyone knows that Oprah Winfrey supports Barrack Obama. That definitely affects how the public views the election. Obviously people are going to be interested in the election that celebrities are talking about.

 Maybe Canadians take an interest in American politics because we know they affect us. Due to our close proximity to the U.S. our economy is tied to theirs. The U.S. is our largest trading partner. The result of the American election will undoubtedly affect Canada as well. But if this is the case, then shouldn’t Canadians care about the results of Canadian elections as well? After all that affects Canada as well.

 The recent Canadian election had the lowest voter turnout ever. Clearly, Canadians either did not care about the results of their election, or they simply weren’t paying enough attention to the campaign to make a decision about who to vote for. The American election on the other hand had one of the largest voter turnouts ever. Maybe the real reason for the huge interest in the American election is simply because it really is history in the making. Barrack Obama is now the first African-American President of America. People want to be a part of this historic moment. They want to do their part and they want to remember it. 

 Or perhaps one of the reasons for the low voter turnout in Canada was because of the general futility of our election, especially when compared to the American one. There was nothing new in the campaigns, nothing to capture the public interest, nothing that said anything would change. On the other hand the American election was all about change. The word ‘Change’ was part of Obama’s campaign slogan. He promised America change, a new reformed country. And after eight years of a Bush government, Americans were more than ready for change. So it’s no surprise they all turned up at the polls, ready to cast their vote and see the change.

 In a recent survey by the Toronto Sun, 64% of Canadians said that they thought the American presidential election was more interesting than the recent Canadian one. The victory celebrations held across Canada when Obama was declared President was pretty much a shout out to Canadian politicians that Canadians listen to election talk, they just don’t like what’s being said on the Canadian side of the border.

 Canadians found this American election far more interesting than their own, for whatever reason. There was even a group in Vancouver calling itself ‘Canadians for Obama.’ Canadians do expect the changes from Obama’s victory to reach Canada and they expect that our next election will hopefully reflect that.

Now if only politicians could take a hint.