Cross Country Checkup·Ask Me Anything

Former ambassador Bruce Heyman on what's at stake for Canada in the U.S. election

As part of Cross Country Checkup’s regular Ask Me Anything series, former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman answered callers’ questions about what’s at stake for U.S.-Canada relations as the Nov. 3 election approaches.

If Donald Trump is re-elected, U.S.-Canada relations 'will be much more difficult', he says

Bruce Heyman was the United States ambassador to Canada from 2014 to 2017. He took calls from Cross Country Checkup listeners ahead of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election. (CBC)

Bruce Heyman is "anxiously optimistic" about Tuesday's U.S. election results.

Heyman is a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, nominated for the role in 2013 by then-president Barack Obama, and has been vocal about his support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

As part of Cross Country Checkup's regular Ask Me Anything series, Heyman spoke with host Ian Hanomansing and answered callers' questions about what's at stake for U.S.-Canada relations as the Nov. 3 election approaches.

Here are some of the highlights.

Ian Hanomansing: How should Canada approach the United States if U.S. President Donald Trump is re-elected? 

I actually think of any leadership around the world, the Canadian government has been able to handle Donald Trump as well as anybody else out there — even in light of all of his protestations and name calling and threats and et cetera. I think that you handled that well without getting overly emotional and excited. 

But I think this next go round, if he is president for a second term, will be much more difficult. 

And why do I say that? You see, I was with Sen. John McCain in Halifax at the Halifax Security Forum just after the election of Donald Trump — but before the swearing in, in that transition period. He was also very concerned about Donald Trump and his behaviours. But he was confident that the people coming in around him would be protecting the realm — people like [former Secretary of Defense] James Mattis at the defence department, et cetera. 

What we found now is that all those initial people that John was confident would protect the room are gone, and we have now a whole set of enablers around him. And those people that aren't performing at Donald Trump level of loyalty, those will be gone, too, in a second term. 

So we will have no guardrails. He has taken on the justice department as his own level of protection and [with] no guardrails, no re-election prospect, he will be the extreme of himself. So I'm deeply concerned about that.

On Tuesday, many American voters will cast their ballot in the presidential election. (Elise Amendola/The Associated Press)

Andrew Valpy in Hamilton, Ont., asks: The Trump administration obviously seems eager to open the border up, but Canada has naturally been taking a safety first approach. How do we think the upcoming results of the election would affect our current border closures, and do we know what direction a Biden administration would likely take? 

The number one thing that Joe Biden and his team need to focus on is this pandemic. It is out of control in the United States. The spread is virulent, and we have uneven following of the protocols that have been established by [Dr. Anthony] Fauci and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and others, primarily because the president has been directing so many people into an entirely different direction.

For me, as ambassador, one of the things I recognized when travelling your country, the number one thing that people brought up to me was the border. How do we make that border much thinner, more effective, open to free travel for people who are safe to our two countries but yet stopping people who are a threat to our two countries?

I believe Joe Biden wants to have a standard for this virus. He will listen to medical advice and the scientists. But those standards also need to be established between our two countries such that we can ... be comfortable that we're both operating under the same standards. We do that with so many things, right? Airlines, automobile safety, all kinds of things. 

We should be working together to set standards between our two countries on this pandemic so that people can willingly, freely travel but safely.

Public safety minister outlines what must change before Canada can open its southern border with the U.S.

2 years ago
Duration 2:05
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, along with other ministers, outlined new regulations to allow for family reunification and travel to Canada for compassionate reasons.

Ian Hanomansing: If elected, Joe Biden says he'll end the Keystone XL pipeline, which could hurt Canada's oil industry, including Indigenous communities. We spoke to Stephen Buffalo, president and chief executive officer of the Indian Resource Council of Canada, about the potential loss of the pipeline and here's what he had to say. 

Buffalo, clip: If this plays out that Biden is elected and he does decide to cancel the Keystone expansion, our communities that utilize the oil and gas revenue, that revenue subsidises the lack of federal funding our communities receive. And it subsidizes housing — the shortage of housing — subsidizes the education that communities would utilize. When we see a higher price of oil, we see a definite benefit for the community for the economic development opportunities. So having this resource kind of stopped in its tracks and taken away really can hurt our communities in that fact. 

Should Canadians be concerned, particularly those in the oil and gas industry, about a Biden presidency? 

Just to be clear for everybody, I am not his policy person nor am I speaking for him specifically on this. So take my words as my own. But I was in the investment business for a long time, and I do understand supply and demand and understand some of these factors. 

First, the United States has done a lot of exploration over these last four, five, six, 10 years, and our needs for foreign oil are low — very low. Our number one supplier for foreign oil is Canada, but we are now getting to be near a net exporter of carbon-based fuel. 

Second, we are moving very quickly — and I know the vice president, if he becomes president, will move much more — toward tackling climate change and reducing our carbon footprint and promoting electrification of automobiles, which is already underway with many of the major automobile manufacturers. So our need for additional large amounts of oil is not there right now and it may not be there going forward. 

Lastly, on the comment that was made by the person that you just recorded and presented to me, one of those comments was the high price of oil really is good for them. Well, adding a whole additional flow of oil into the United States would not keep the price high. 

But let me just say the following: the United States has been buying oil from Canada, and I anticipate that will continue for many, many, many years into the future — that our needs for oil will still be there and Canada will still be an important supplier. 


Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Kirthana Sasitharan. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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