Ottawa

Border cities express relief, optimism at U.S. election results

The communities of both Kingston, Ont., and Cornwall, Ont., are both expressing cautious optimism about the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.

Kingston, Cornwall both watched the results come in with anticipation

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris greet supporters in this photo from August. The mayors of two eastern Ontario border cities, Cornwall and Kingston, say they're cautiously optimistic about the future Biden-Harris administration. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

Two cities in eastern Ontario that share a border with the United States are expressing relief and cautious optimism at the election of Joe Biden as that country's next president.

After days of anticipation, the election was called Saturday in favour of Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, who will become first Black woman to serve as vice-president.

Bernadette Clement, the mayor of Cornwall, Ont., said the results brought tears to her eyes.

"On a personal level, they were tears of joy because, you know, I get to see the first woman vice-president of the U.S. and I get to see that it's a Black woman, a biracial woman. And so I feel very, very connected to her and very proud of her," said Clement, believed to be the first Black woman to serve as mayor of an Ontario municipality.

"Representation is so important. We need to see ourselves in the people that we elect."

As for Cornwall's residents and businesses, they've been paying close attention because the outcome will have real effects on the local economy, Clement said — even if they've mostly been keeping their opinions to themselves.

"People have been paying attention, but have been very quiet about any kind of allegiance," she said. 

"What I'm hearing is that people want to make sure that this is going to be a peaceful, quiet transition. So there are concerns about that, about the instability that may occur in the next few months."

Cornwall, Ont., Mayor Bernadette Clement says the results of the U.S. election — particularly the the fact Kamala Harris will be the first Black woman to be vice-president — brought tears to her eyes. (Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada)

'Sigh of relief'

The last four years of unpredictability under Donald Trump and his threats of tariffs have been difficult for local businesses, said Greg Pietersma, executive director of the city's chamber of commerce.

A Biden presidency doesn't mean U.S.-Canada trade negotiations won't be tough, Pietersma said, but he does hope they'll be more diplomatic.

"[People] are going to collectively issue a sigh of relief that, you know, we can go back to a more normal relationship with our with our southern neighbours," Pietersma said Saturday afternoon.

"I mean, we've maintained good relations with our immediate neighbours, but just the overarching sense of chaos and and unpredictability that came from the government was something that we all had to deal with."

Kingston, Ont., Mayor Bryan Paterson says the COVID-19 situation needs to be brought under control before the U.S.-Canada border can reopen, regardless of who is in the White House. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Biden's approach 'encouraging'

The election's results were also closely watched in Kingston, Ont., which in a normal, non-pandemic year would see lots of cross-border traffic to and from upstate New York, said Mayor Bryan Paterson.

Even though there's been a change in government, Paterson said he doesn't expect the border to open any time soon.

The Biden administration will need to get the country's COVID-19 situation under control, he said, before that happens.

"The issue is really what the difference in the infection rates [is] and the difference in risk," he said. "It's really less about who's in the White House and more about what the spread of COVID looks like."

Paterson said he's optimistic about a Biden presidency, particularly the fact he's spoken about healing political divisions in the U.S. between Democrats and Republicans.

"For us as Canadians, you know, the U.S. is our biggest trading partner. They are a really important relationship for us," he said.  "And so I think to see those signs in those words, I think is encouraging."

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