INDEPTH: US ELECTION 2004|
Issues of interest to Canadians
CBC News Online | October 19, 2004
Prescription drugs, beef and Toronto trash. They're among the obvious issues in the American presidential election that could affect more than 30 million people who can't cast ballots on Nov. 2: Canadians.
There are notable differences between President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry on some issues that clearly concern Canada especially prescription drugs and trade.
Kerry has made it clear that should he move into the White House in January, Americans will have easier access to lower cost prescription drugs from Canada.
Kerry's campaign has been fond of pointing out that under Bush, drug prices have increased by three times the rate of inflation. In his campaign ads and during the debates, Kerry has charged: "For the last four years, one man has stood between America and lower cost prescription drugs: George Bush."
Bush has argued that it's a matter of safety. He maintains that his prescription drug plan would open the U.S. border to the importation of drugs from Canada but only those that can be certified as safe. However, he says, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been unable to guarantee prescription drugs bought from Canada are safe.
Convoys of American seniors heading north to buy cheaper drugs in Canada haven't altered Bush's position or bought his argument.
A coalition of Canadian groups, meanwhile, is urging Ottawa to ban the export of prescription drugs to the U.S. The Canadian Treatment Action Council and Best Medicines Coalition says if Americans are allowed to buy drugs en masse from Canadian sources, there will be a drug shortage in Canada.
The Bush administration's concern about the safety of Canadian drugs may not extend to other medical needs: it's considering Ottawa's offer to ship excess doses of flu vaccine south of the border to help ease an American shortage.
Bush and Kerry also show significant differences when it comes to cross-border trade. Kerry is seen as far more protectionist that Bush. In Michigan, Kerry has emphasized that American jobs are flowing to places like Canada. Kerry has argued that the rising cost of health care in the U.S. means it costs $1,700 more to make a car in Michigan than in Ontario.
Kerry also takes aim at Bush for not doing enough to enforce trade agreements. He has said that the Bush administration has filed only 12 cases against major trading partners while 32 have been brought against the United States. Among those 32 are eight launched by Canada including the ongoing softwood lumber dispute, in which the U.S. has argued that Canada unfairly subsidizes its softwood lumber industry, damaging American producers. So far, a NAFTA panel has ruled against the U.S. three times in that case.
Some analysts suggest trade disputes between Canada and the U.S. may be more frequent under a President Kerry than a freer-trading President Bush.
Both candidates could potentially cause problems for Canada. Bush refuses to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol the administration's position is that more study needs to be carried out into global warming to determine whether it really is a threat. He has preferred market-based measures over legislation aimed at forcing industries to achieve emission-reduction targets.
While Kerry supports Kyoto, he also supports increasing the use of "clean coal" for American energy needs. And he wants to reduce American dependence on OPEC oil by developing new sources of oil from Canada, Russia and non-OPEC countries in Africa. He'd also look at ways of making it easier to ship natural gas from Alaska and Western Canada.
The Kerry camp has recognized that relations with several key allies have deteriorated because of Washington's approach to global affairs. It's not the "war on terrorism" that's to blame, according to Kerry. It's the war Bush outlined in his "axis of evil" speech delivered months after 9/11, a war that he now calls "bringing democracy."
Iraq was the first country in his "axis." Kerry charges more war is inevitable if Bush wins again. Kerry notes Washington's approach has strained diplomatic ties with Canada, Mexico, most of Europe, Russia, China and North Korea.
Bush has vowed to continue on his foreign policy track. He argues that the U.S. is at war with an enemy that wants to kill as many Americans as possible with the deadliest weapons it can obtain. The administration says with such an enemy, "no negotiated peace is possible; no policy of containment or deterrence will prove effective."
The American border has been closed to virtually all Canadian beef since May 2003, when tests confirmed that one Alberta cow had been stricken with mad cow disease. Canada's cattle industry has suffered huge losses, with prices paid to farmers for their cattle plunging.
The increased demand for American beef, on the other hand, hasn't hurt the industry south of the border.
On Oct. 2, 2004, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein predicted a Kerry win wouldn't change the American ban on live Canadian cattle. Kerry signed a letter last April that called for the continuation of that ban.
Kerry has accused Bush of not doing enough to safeguard the American beef supply. The Bush administration has urged patience. In September 2004, U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci told a business audience in Regina that his country's Department of Agriculture is working hard to adopt new rules that will restore full live beef trade between Canada and the U.S. Cellucci said most people in the American cattle industry support an open border but a small vocal minority was having some success delaying things.
"It's time to end Canadian trash dumping in Michigan," John Kerry said in early September. "George W. Bush has let Michigan become Canada's landfill."
Kerry said that if he wins the election he won't allow further shipments until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency starts enforcing a treaty that requires Canada to notify it of each waste shipment. Under the treaty, the EPA can reject shipments for health or environmental reasons.
Currently, the treaty applies only to hazardous waste. Congress would have to expand the treaty for it to apply to the 180 trucks of household waste that head out from Toronto every day. But, with disappearing jobs a big issue in a state like Michigan, turfing a deal between the state and Toronto that produces local jobs might not be a priority.
The garbage issue hasn't appeared as even a blip on the Bush campaign radar screen.
Voting age population (VAP) in 2000:|
Eligible voters (VEP) in 2000:
Voter turnout (% of VEP) in 2000:
Numbers of seats up for election (2004):
House: 435 (all of them)
Senate: 34 (of 100)