Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waded gently — very gently — into the divisive U.S. presidential election Thursday, while strongly suggesting he would rather talk about how Canadians are faring amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we are certainly all hoping for a smooth transition or a clear result from the election, like many people are around the world,” he told reporters at an Ottawa event, when asked about the race between Republican U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

“If it is less clear, there may be some disruptions and we need to be ready for any outcomes. I think that’s what Canadians would expect of their governments and we’re certainly reflecting on that.”

Earlier: Jagmeet Singh calls Trudeau a ‘bystander’ to Trump’s racist aggression

 

The prime minister said he did not watch Wednesday’s vice-presidential debate between U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and Democratic candidate Kamala Harris, nor did he watch last week’s chaotic clash between Trump and Biden. 

“I saw clips from both of them, but my focus right now needs to be on keeping Canadians safe and working with premiers across this country to engage in everything we need to do to control the second wave,” he said.

The prime minister would not divulge what he thought of either events, saying that, as a matter of course, he doesn’t “comment or weigh in on American political processes.”

Earlier, Trudeau said “we’re all watching” the U.S. election closely because of its potential impact on the Canadian economy and the lives of people on this side of the border. 

He also suggested there is a contrast to be drawn between how political leaders of different stripes are conducting themselves in Canada compared to its neighbour. 

“In Canada, we are extremely lucky to have different orders of government, whether it’s (Ontario) Premier Ford, (Quebec) Premier Legault or other premiers across the country, who have all worked well together and with the federal government to be there to support Canadians and not bring overly political elements into our response,” he said.

“As we watch the American election unfold, we are of course going to prepare for various eventualities but we are certainly hopeful that all will proceed smoothly.”

Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford jointly announced Thursday that both levels of government will each invest more than $250 million to mass produce electric vehicles. Ford spoke at the Ford Motor Co.’s plant in Oakville, Ont.

The prime minister and premier were both asked about their fruitful working relationship, despite both having sharply criticized each other during previous election campaigns.

“Governments across the country of whatever political stripe all want the same thing: to keep people safe, to bring our economy back as quickly as possible and support these communities into the future,” Trudeau said. “On that, Premier Ford and I find great common ground.”

Ford likewise said he appreciated the relationship he and Trudeau have built, along with premiers across the country. “We will come back and we will come back stronger than ever before when we stay united,” Ford said.

Hours before last week’s debate between Trump and Biden — in which the president would not commit to a peaceful transfer of power, should he lose, and baselessly attempted to delegitimize mail-in voting — Trudeau was asked by a reporter if he is concerned about a possible contested presidential election.

“Canada is, of course, fully respectful of the processes underway in the United States. We will not be interfering or engaging in any way in their electoral processes, and that includes commenting on their electoral processes,” he said during a joint press conference with United Nations Secretary General António Guterres. 

The prime minister added the Canadian government must “defend Canadian interests while working with elected leaders around the world and we will continue to do that.”

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The question of what will happen after Nov. 3 — U.S. election day  — also surfaced in this week’s vice-presidential debate. 

Moderator Susan Page noted Wednesday night that Trump has, in several instances, refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power after the vote. She asked both Harris and Pence what they would do if Trump loses but refuses to accept that result.

Harris avoided specifics but touted the support the Democratic ticket has received from prominent Republicans and encouraged Americans to vote, saying “we will not let anyone subvert our democracy.” 

Pence ducked the question by saying he believes Trump will be re-elected, before pivoting into his own attempt to undermine mail-in voting and falsely claiming, as his boss has done repeatedly, that the administration of former U.S. president Barack Obama “spied” on the 2016 Trump campaign.

Rather than press for an answer, the moderator moved on to a question from an eighth grader about civility in politics.

On Thursday, Trump, who is recovering from COVID-19, said he would not participate in another debate set for next week after organizers revealed it would be held virtually “to protect the health and safety of all involved.”

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