Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Canadians hope for new U.S. president

October 20, 2004

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— Measured by shared boundaries and trade, no foreign country has a larger stake in the U.S. presidential election than Canada. Its citizens, by an overwhelming margin, hope for President Bush's defeat, but its government -- unsure of the Nov. 2 outcome -- is trying to keep bilateral tensions from escalating.

Many Canadians have intently followed the campaign, watching the TV debates and writing impassioned letters to newspapers. Two recent polls showed Democrat John Kerry favored by more than 2-to-1 across Canada; in French-speaking Quebec, Bush's support was only 11 percent.

Bush's decision to invade Iraq has been a major factor. After the invasion last year, Montreal Canadiens fans began booing during the U.S. national anthem, and anti-war protesters even jeered a Massachusetts youth hockey team at a tournament.

"Canadians have become leading Bushophobes," said Gil Troy, a New York City native who teaches history at Montreal's McGill University. "The fundamental U.S.-Canada relationship remains incredibly strong. ... but there's an extreme demonization of Bush, a notion of him as an uncultured cowboy."

Pierre Martin, a University of Montreal political science professor, said many Canadians dislike Bush because of their perception that he is too beholden to conservative Christians and too willing to mix religion with politics. In Canada, religious groups have relatively little political influence, abortion is less controversial than in the United States, and gay marriage is on the way to becoming legal nationwide.

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