US vote night bashes planned across Canada


TORONTO – From the chilly, isolated North to the hot bustling pubs of big city Toronto and windy Cape Breton, people across Canada will be gathering Tuesday night to take in the results of what may be the zaniest, most divisive U.S. presidential election ever.

The cross-country communal interest — the kind more usually seen during Game 7 of a Stanley Cup — is indicative of a must-watch or crawl-back-under-your-rock event.

“Don’t miss it or you’ll regret it bigly,” one Toronto cafe hosting an election shindig says. “Bring your basket of deplorables for a night that, hopefully, won’t make us all cry out loud.”

Another bar in the city is similarly promising live TV viewing and, of course, plenty of suds to celebrate or drown sorrows as what “certainly feels like the longest, most tedious, and dare we say, braggattrocious, campaign in American history is finally coming to a close.”

Haligonians are being urged to dress warmly for a big-screen outdoors event at a local brewer set to last well into the early hours of Wednesday, while Cape Bretoners can take in an event doubling as a fundraiser at a brewery in Sydney. Proceeds are destined for a group that helps Syrian refugees in the area, and ABC News was planning to stream part of the happening, according to local radio host Rob Calabrese.

“Cape Breton’s particular interest in this race has interested them,” said Calabrese, who was inundated with questions from Americans about moving to Canada after he set up a website earlier this year called “Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins.”

While most eyes will be on the television coverage of a vote that will see either Democrat Hillary Clinton or the Republicans’ Donald Trump ascend the highest elected office in the United States, for some, that won’t be an option.

Outside Churchill, Man., Jim Halfpenny will head to the dining room of the Churchill Northern Studies centre, where there is no TV, and take in the results via computer while making sure the group of Americans he is shepherding on a study course on polar bears and the environment don’t get into a political brawl.

“If something starts and the conversation starts to get heavy, I say, ‘No, this is a neutral trip, we don’t go into that stuff.’ I try to keep it neutral, especially this year. It’s hot,” Halfpenny said. “I’m scared about the outcome and more scared than I’ve been for the last six elections. I’m going to be chewing my nails and watching.”

The edge-of-your-seat interest is especially acute among Americans in Canada for whom the outcome goes well beyond spectator spectacle.

Ryan Phillips, a defensive back with the CFL’s B.C. Lions, said he normally pays close attention to his homeland’s politics but this election is special and “for sure” he’ll be watching.

“To me it can either go up or down. I don’t think there’s going to a happy medium,” Phillips said. “Regardless of who gets elected, the aftermath is going to be something to be reckoned with. The chaos that might break out: I can only imagine what it might turn into.”

One downtown Montreal pub has devised a plan to deal with a quintessentially Canadian dilemma: screen the election or the Habs going up against arch-rival Boston Bruins. McLean’s will cater to both audiences, showing hockey on the main floor and hosting an election-viewing party upstairs, said general manager Stuart Ashton.

Nearby, Democrats Abroad were planning to take over a three-storey bar, hoping to watch Clinton — who will be on hand in the form of a life-size cardboard cutout for selfies — kick her rival’s butt.

No matter who wins, said Maria Rajanayagam with the American Chamber of Commerce in Vancouver, the vote is worth celebrating as history in the making.

“This is such a momentous occasion of either having the first woman president elected or having a very independent person elected,” said Rajanayagam, who will be joining a few hundred Canadians and Americans at a downtown hotel to watch.

“It’s the most talked about election for a very long time and it’s one that definitely needed to be celebrated, so here we are.”

What promises to be a somewhat more sedate — if no less intense — affair is a semi-closed event at an east-end Toronto venue hosted by the U.S. Consulate, where Consulate General Juan Alsace and a handful of officials will be watching along with guests, who will have to pass security screening to get in.

“This is less of a ‘drink and yell at the big screen’ viewing party and more a ‘sit down and watch’ with a politics-loving crowd,” the consulate says.

— With files from Bob Weber in Edmonton, Geordon Omand and Joshua Clipperton in Vancouver, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal, and Rob Roberts and Michael MacDonald in Halifax.