Wednesday, June 23

Canada Hasn’t Slept Well Since the U.S. Election


TORONTO — It was Robin Williams, of all people, who coined the phrase that I’ve heard repeatedly in Toronto over the past few weeks.

“You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab,” he said during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in 2013.

I’ve read it on Twitter. I’ve heard it while standing in a socially distanced line on the street. And most recently, it kicked off the main editorial in one of Canada’s national newspapers, The Globe and Mail.

It’s been hard to concentrate up here, with all the noise on the other side of the border. First, the coronavirus got way out of control down there. Then there were the Black Lives Matter protests and the counterprotests. Now, do I have to say it?

But, this isn’t about policies. It’s about President Trump. Canadians really don’t like him — his confidence rating among Canadians plummeted to the lowest point of any American president over the past 20 years.

But as the predicted blue wave failed to materialize, and Canadians hunkered down into their couches for another day of watching Americans — many of them maskless — protest outside vote counting centers, many came to the sobering realization that Mr. Trump is not an aberration. With a deep well of support in the United States, he is a reflection of many of their American neighbors. Whether or not he wins, some 70 million people voted for him — roughly double the total population of Canada.

“Beyond despondent,” one reader wrote in a haiku competition hosted by The Toronto Star. “That so many support his bigotry and hate.”

Even political analysts, who study the nuanced dynamics of voting, said Mr. Trump’s widespread support signaled a worrying cleavage in the American identity.

“He’s tapped into something real — a sense of disillusion and hopelessness,” said Lori Turnbull, the director of the School of Public Administration and an associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

“Whether he gets to 270 or not,” she said, “the challenge will be: Is America able to restore the integrity of its institutions and it’s mythology and belief in an American dream?”

Canada shares the longest border in the world with the United States. Before, Canadians crossed it regularly — for vacations or family reunions or lunch. We haven’t done that since March, when the pandemic arrived and the border was closed, like a long garage door. Despite the painful economic and personal ramifications, an overwhelming majority of Canadians want that border to stay closed until our American neighbors have contained the spread of the virus, which this week, reached record case numbers two days in a row.

Given this election, few of us think we’ll be seeing our American brothers and sisters anytime soon.

“We’ve had different administrations,” said Mike Bradley, who since 1988 has been the mayor of Sarnia, an industrial city across the river from Michigan.





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