Canadians don't like President Bush. That seems to be the consensus in a country that some are calling a nation of Michael Moores. The contempt from the north is prominent all over. It can be heard in coffee shops and seen in bookstores, where the writings of Moore and those alike are displayed in windows and on front tables.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has gone as far as asking Canadians to "clam up" on their opinions of President Bush so as not to complicate Canada-U.S. relations. That request came after a speech in which a Canadian Parliament member for the Liberal party, Carolyn Parrish, called Americans "bastards" and Bush "an idiot." This kind of open contempt might not be the neighborly way to approach things, but if Martin, as the leader of a nation, doesn't have the balls to stand up for what his country thinks, then the people have no choice but to do it themselves.
A recent Time magazine survey found that 64 percent of Canadians would have voted for Sen. John Kerry if given the opportunity. I think, however, that number reflects more on the self-righteousness of Canadians than on how they personally feel toward Bush or Kerry. Canadians haven't felt much impact from terrorist attacks on the U.S., and many, therefore, view Bush's war on Iraq as an overreaction. And although I am one of those who would have voted against Bush, I can honestly say that we Canucks do tend to see the world through rose-tinted glasses as we engage in fence-sitting policies and hide beneath blankets of snow. The world has changed since 9/11, and as National Post reporter Stewart Bell says, "Canadians cannot grasp the threats posed by Al Qaeda–style terrorism." Even though Toronto is only a day's drive from New York City.
This does not, however, justify Bush's war mongering. Yes, Canadians have little to fear other than avalanches and bear attacks, but we have empathy for the rest of the world and the many who, at this moment, are being forced from their homes, torn from their mothers, and tortured in prison cells. Not to mention sympathy for the families of the obscene number of young soldiers who have died not for freedom but for George W. Bush. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age we cannot find a more humane and intelligent way to a resolution.
I am proud, as a Canadian, that our previous prime minister, Jean Chrétien, stood up to our closest trading partner and said that he would not commit troops to Iraq—aggravating relations or not.
Voter turnout in Canada's last election was only 60 percent and, according to Bell's research, 42 percent of Canadians think the U.S. election will have more impact on Canada than Canada's own federal election last June. Maybe this is because Canadian politics are so boring that we need to focus elsewhere to experience any passion.
How this U.S. election will impact Canada, no one seems to know. Maybe Kerry would reopen U.S. borders to Canadian beef in an attempt to get our flu vaccines. What I do know is that Bush and his administration have a negative impact on peace and security in the world. Canada might be in good standing globally, but we care about the other countries that live in fear, especially our closest neighbors. Canadians admire and respect the American people and want to see safety and privacy and freedom restored next door. True, Kerry might not provide us with as many laughs as Bush with words such as "misunderestimate," but he would hopefully bring about the changes that are imperative to calming a world on edge.
Kristi Gjerdrum, a Seattle Weekly intern, is a student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary.