Voters in the United States have made history by electing that country’s first black president, Barack Obama. Congratulations, sir. American campaigns are marathon undertakings, lasting two years in the run-up to party nomination and the campaign itself. Then there is the massive amount of money it takes to whisk a candidate back and forth across the country, buy a 30-minute chunk of network television time, and maintain a stable of behind-the-scenes advisors and organizers.
Obama’s election speaks volumes about how unpopular George W. Bush’s administration has become. Bush may be remembered most as the president that led the United States to financial ruin. Americans were more than ready for a change at the top. They got it.
But how will an Obama White House treat Canadians? Are we even on his radar?
Canadian pundits caution that Obama may lead the United States into a new era of protectionism. During his campaign, he said that he would like to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement. The job markets of our two countries are closely linked, so if he proposes changes that cut Canadian jobs, ultimately there will be fewer American jobs as well.
Obama has pledged to reduce American reliance on OPEC oil imports. Canadian oil sands producers have a great opportunity to fill the gap. They will have to find a way to do it while allowing him to deliver on another election promise, that of protecting the environment.
If Obama and his team can find a way to turn the American economy around in the near term, they would be doing the mineral industry a great good. We have seen that as goes the American economy, so goes the global economy. If a recession lingers in the United States, demand for metals will continue to shrink and we will see more mining operations suspended.
I wish Obama well. He has one of the world’s toughest jobs before him. Every aspect of his policies and his personal life will be scrutinized. Privacy goes out the window. Many Southerners dislike him intensely, and the Secret Service has already examined two potential threats to his life.
For the next four years, Canadians will have to find a way to make change in the U.S. a good thing for Canada, too.