Romney is a tough sell for many Canadians

Gov. Mitt Romney addressing the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. Photo: WACP, CC some rights reserved

The onslaught of political news for the pending U.S. election shows up abroad too. The world is curious – who will lead America for the next 4 years? Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?

Upon moving to Canada in 1999, I seldom heard Canadians speak highly of President Bush. The more frequent comment was disbelief he got elected – and then re-elected.

Oh, absolutely, some Canadians liked Bush. But it was pretty unpopular to admit that very minority viewpoint.

Heading into the ’08 election, I was surprised how many Canadians told me – flat out told me – there is far too much racial prejudice ingrained in U.S. culture for Obama (or any person of color) to be elected president. Maybe that step would come, down the road. But not now, not yet.

For what it’s worth, I heard that most from older Canadians, the over-50 crowd. Younger Canadians seemed pretty caught up in the excitement of new possibilities in that regard.

Leaving aside the question of was Obama the better candidate, or if he has been a good president, I must say it gave me considerable pride to see that my fellow Americans were indeed ready to move beyond old limits – and prove so many naysayers wrong.

Post-Obama there was even a bit of soul searching in Canada along those lines: where are the Canadian Obamas? Could an Obama succeed to that degree in Canada, or is Canadian political culture still too homogeneous?

And now comes the 2012 election – which Canada watches with bemused curiosity.

The spectrum of main political parties in Canada ranges from what the U.S. would call Socialist (NDP) to Democrat (Liberals) and Republican (Conservatives).

But even Canada’s Conservative Party – now firmly in control – backs single-payer health care, won’t re-enter the abortion debate and stands behind same-sex marriage, which became legal across Canada in 2005. (The Conservative Party would, however, like to see the Keystone pipeline project get completed, ASAP.)

Anyway, here’s a column in which the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson asks: Is there a Canadian case for Mitt Romney as president? Ibbitson says it has the look of a tough sell.

The Republican candidate is wildly unpopular in this country. A poll last May showed that only 9 per cent of Canadians would vote for him, if they could. Fully 65 per cent said they would vote for President Barack Obama.

On the other hand, Ibbitson says Romney knows Canada (parts of it, anyway) quite well. Romeny has a number of qualities and positions that could favor Canadian interests.  Even after listing those, though, Ibbitson still doubts the average Canadian would favor his candidacy.

It is true that Canadian politics is polarizing between left and right. It is also true that even most conservative Canadians are appalled at what the Republican Party has become under the baleful influence of the Tea Party.

Obviously, voters in national elections should elect the candidate they like best to run their own country. So in that respect, Canadians rate little more than interested party/observer status.

But Canada is watching – and does care. Because what happens in the U.S. doesn’t just stay in the U.S.

All comments are welcome but in this instance I’m especially curious to hear from Canadians: what are you seeing or thinking while watching this election churn toward decision day?



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13 Comments on “Romney is a tough sell for many Canadians”

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  1. “O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. ” Rob’t Burns

    Of course to the Tea Party crowd Canadians are infidels so they don’t want to see themselves as you do.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Happy to hear the Canadians would prefer Obama.

  3. Love Canada and their rational socioeconomic model, don’t like Mitt Romney and can’t stand how much he’s pandering to ignorance but… Canadians don’t get to vote in our elections so it really doesn’t matter whether they like him or not.

    I’m sure if we pontificated on the merits of the Tories vs the NDP (I think the Liberals are still around but it’s hard to tell)… they would rightly tell us to shut up…

  4. mervel says:

    I think it is interesting to know how Canadians feel.

    As our largest trading partner in the world, what they think is important. We spend a lot of time thinking and worrying and talking about China and India, yet Canada is our largest partner we should probably pay more attention.

    I find Canadian politics really really interesting. OK we had Bush, but they had Chretien, who I always liked although I think he was kind of crazy.

  5. mervel says:

    Also as we move to a fully bi-lingual country, whether we like it or not; we can look at the lessons’ learned from the Canadian experience at bi-lingual integration or lack there of.

  6. jeff says:

    I listen to Canadian radio occasionally as it easily reaches to route 11, even the French language version. I think Romney would make a good Canadian.

    Given all the immigrants to Canada from Vietnam, China, India and so many other places, could you enlighten us on the nationality mixture of their parliment and goverment cabinet? Any Iniut too in other than representative positions? How about women in either?

  7. Lucy Martin says:

    This has to be a quick reply – and it won’t be comprehensive.

    Also let’s just get it out of the way that counting people by gender and race is fraught with problems and carries considerable political baggage. Yet (for good or ill) we still ask and keep statistics in that manner.

    So, to Jeff’s question, here’s something from the Huffington Post Canada discussing demographics of the 41st Parliament (the current one).

    Quoting from that article:

    “Canadians also elected a higher number of women and visible minorities than in the previous Parliament. There are 76 female MPs — the most in history — meaning women are roughly a quarter of Parliament. Much of this is thanks to the NDP, whose caucus is 39 per cent female (the Liberals is 18 per cent and the Conservatives’ 17 per cent).

    This Parliament is also home to a record number of visible minority MPs, with 29 or just over 9 per cent of Parliament. Again, the NDP is behind this increase, with nearly double the number of visible minority MPs than the other two national parties.”

    The Hon. Leona Aglukkaq is an MP from Nunavut. According to Wikipedia) “Aglukkaq was named the Minister of Health on October 30, 2008, and is the first Inuk in Canadian history to be appointed to the Cabinet of Canada.”

  8. Newt says:

    Interesting to read about the opinions of a people whose opinions in a Presidential election count even less than those of U.S. non-swing-state voters.

    I’ve written on here before, but our Revolution drove out a large number of the more reasonable and decent colonial population, leaving in charge the bible-thumping, land-grabbing, Indian-killing, and slave-holding element. We see the results every day, and more and more so as time goes by, it seems. Witness this election. FWIW, living in America, and fighting the good fight, seems to me to be much more interesting and stimulating than living in Canada, where decency and common sense prevails 99% of the time.

  9. Pete Klein says:

    I really doubt the United States will ever become a “fully bi-lingual country.”
    English, especially the American version, is probably the most “living language” in the world today. It takes what it likes from every language and makes it its own.
    Another advantage it has comes from the worldwide dissemination of English by the entertainment media, especially music and movies.
    If there is anything I don’t like about Canada, it is the French Canadians who like to pretend they can’t speak or understand English when it suits their purpose.

  10. mervel says:

    Pete, yeah I think more homogeneous regions such as the North Country will likely be English only for some time to come. However broad swaths of the American Southwest and Midwest will move to 30-50% Spanish speaking within 40-50 years.

    Right now for example several of our largest cities in the US are fully bi-lingual.

  11. mervel says:


    Freedom has its costs. Canada has some great points, they are much less diverse than the US, much smaller and don’t face the same issues we face, they are just different. We go from swamps to desert to vast farmlands.

    We were no more or less murderous in our settlement and dealings with Native people’s than the British were in what is now Canada.

    Thank God we have religious freedom so we can “bible thump” not everyone can handle free speech.

  12. Newt says:

    I went on tear about this once or twice before, with citations, and stuff, so I won’t again, but, while you are correct about not facing the same issues, I am not sure about being less diverse (smaller % of blacks and Hispanics, of course, but probably larger % aboriginal ( like American Indian) and Asian, not to mention the language thing.

    I have looked into it, and can find no example of a post-War of 1812 (when we stopped invading Canada and causing problems) Canadian-Aboriginal War, or massacre. They used the Mounties to fairly settle white-Aboriginal disputes, and it must have mostly worked. Sarah Vowell wrote about this in “The Partly Cloudy Patriot”.

    They had a class-based civil insurrection around 1840 that took a couple of dozen lives and led to a pretty successful series of reforms, we had a Civil War that killed 600,000 to end slavery but not begin to resolve racial injustice.

    America was settled by some pretty rough customers, and we never really lost that edge. That is why we have most of the nice parts of North America. We’d have all of them, had Canada not been backed by Mother England. We bit off half of Mexico with hardly a thought.

    But our Revolution inspired people around the world, we finally did end slavery at great cost, we created a model for industrial growth like no other, produced several times more important inventions than the rest of the world put together, and saved the world from Nazi and Communist tyranny. Among other things. We have done a lot of evil, but a lot more good, IMHO. But we might as well face up to the whole package.

    And I’m all for Bible thumping and any other kind of religious expression as long as it leaves me and mine alone.

    Sorry Lucy, I will try not to do this again.

  13. jeff says:

    Thanks Lucy.

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