People across Canada and around the world gathered Tuesday in front of television and computer screens to watch the season finale of the ultimate political reality TV show: the U.S. presidential election.
For hours, they held their collective breaths as the tallies from the nail-biting race came in, with Democrat Hillary Clinton winning some states, while her bitter rival, Republican Donald Trump, nudged ahead by winning others.
“Maybe at other places they’re treating it as a hockey game,” said Jacqueline Swartz, at an event hosted by Democrats Abroad in Toronto.
“Here we take it more seriously. It affects us more deeply and more personally.”
At a pub in downtown Montreal, where Nasty Woman and Bad Hombre shots were on special, Kaylie Mitchell was dressed in red and supporting Trump while her friend, Brandy Przepiora, wore a blue “Hillary” label. Both said the politics wouldn’t affect their friendship as the race headed to the wire.
“I’m nervous,” Przepiora said.
In Halifax, at a north-end pub where live results were projected on big screens inside and outside, Laura Neals said she wanted to get together with friends to take in an evening she called “historic.”
Neals said she was especially excited at the possibility Hillary Clinton could become the first female president in the U.S., which would become the 60th country — including Canada — to have had a woman in charge.
“It’s a moment that is important for America but I think it’s important for every woman in the world,” Neals, 29, said as she sipped on a beer. “It feels like a new frontier and I’m excited to see it in real life, in real time.”
One Toronto hotel, which dubbed the election campaign “braggattrocious,” was already packed as the first polling stations south of the border closed and a large television set screened the incoming numbers.
On hand was Elizabeth Littlejohn, a communications and new media professor, who had two sets of Kleenex with her:
“This little one is for if Hillary wins, and this big one is for if Trump wins,” Littlejohn said.
Nearby, another crammed hotel pub selling $10-themed cocktails – Locker Room Talk and My Own Private Emails – was scrambling to accommodate everyone looking to watch.
Anne Leathers, a New Yorker in Toronto for work, said it blew her mind how many people were talking about the election in Canada.
“It’s a bit like a reality TV show for everyone outside of America,” Leathers said. “I work for a British company and it’s very much like that for them.”
Attendees at a packed bash thrown by Democrats Abroad in Calgary, cheered each time there was good news for Clinton, while one man wore a “no more gun-free zones” T-shirt and a “Make America great again” cap.
Jim Davis, who moved to Canada for family reasons, dismissed the idea that many Americans would flee to Canada if Trump’s lead held.
“Every election year there’s always this talk about folks wanting to escape if this or that person wins, but I think in the end Americans, no matter who wins, are going to stay and fight the good fight.”
A more sedate affair was a semi-closed event at an east-end Toronto venue hosted by the U.S. Consulate itself, where Consulate General Juan Alsace and a handful of officials were watching along with guests – many outfitted in red white and blue hats – who passed 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 said.
Heather Bennett, 40, was among dozens of Americans and Australians at an Irish pub in Canberra, Australia, where she said the distance gave her a different view of U.S.
“In the U.S., you feel like you’re in your own little bubble,” Bennett said.
In the African country of Senegal, more than 100 people posed next to life-size cutouts of the two main candidates and mingled, holding glasses of ginger, bissap and baobab juice in the gardens of the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Dakar.
“Never did we think a black man would become the head of the United States, and now, we have the same hopes for a woman,” said journalist Matel Bocoum, 37. “If a woman becomes the head of the United States, it’s a beautiful lesson for women all over.”
With files from Aly Thomson in Halifax, Nicole Thompson in Toronto, Bill Graveland in Calgary, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and The Associated Press.