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Economists mixed on how Obama re-election affects Canadian economy, Keystone XL

TORONTO -- Canadian economists delivered a mixed reaction on Wednesday to the re-election of President Barack Obama and whether the certainty of a leader in the United States would benefit the global economic recovery.

The election results late Tuesday generated another round of questions about whether it was a step towards putting the U.S. fiscal house in order, which would ultimately benefit Canada as the country's biggest trading partner.

Also uncertain is the future of TransCanada's contentious Keystone XL pipeline that would connect oilsands crude to U.S. markets.

"There will be a period of unease as we now turn from the politicking to the heavy lifting," said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer of BMO Asset Management Inc. in a conference call.

"I think the real question is the extent to which the president will be able to reach across the aisle to, in a bipartisan way, deal with the very heavy lifting related to the fiscal cliff."

Concerns are that Obama faces the struggle of drafting an alternative budget plan before the end of the year when a variety of tax hikes and massive budget reductions that come into effect.

If a solution isn't reached, it is possible that the economy could spiral back into a recession, which would certainly have an impact on Canada.

"The Republicans' retention of the House, the Democrats the Senate, means Obama will face the same fractured landscape that impeded legislative progress during the last two years of his term," said CIBC World Markets senior economist Peter Buchanan.

"That leaves markets with significant policy uncertainty leading into the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling discussions."

While a Romney win would have almost certainly ensured the startup of the Keystone pipeline, backed by Calgary-based TransCanada, some observers have suggested that Obama will be more critical on the project, which has already faced pressure from environmental regulators in Nebraska.

However, leaders in the oil and gas industry were confident that Obama won't hold the project down.

TransCanada issued a statement saying that it still believes the project will be approved.

"The facts that support the approval of Keystone XL remain the same -- and the need for this pipeline grows even stronger the longer its approval is delayed," the company said.

Enbridge CEO Al Monaco told investors on a conference call that he doesn't see much of an impact from the outcome of the leadership race.

"If you look at the fundamentals in the U.S. and Canadian market for crude oil, we're seeing a huge expansion in the volume that's coming forth in new production," he said.

"I think it's in everybody's interest to get new infrastructure built. I think that's been the Obama administration's view to this point and I think we'll see that going forward."

David Friend reports for The Canadian Press.

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