BUCKHORN , ONTARIO — Outside Dave and Ann Bowen’s cottage at Six Foot Bay, Buckhorn Lake shimmers in the early morning sunlight. It has rained so hard in the past four days that some of the docks — in front of each of the 16 cottages that line the shore — are immersed.
The Bowens have just finished celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday alongside their adult children and nine grandchildren — all spread out between three adjacent cottages. Dave is a recently retired school teacher and principal, and Ann is a recently retired nurse.
Although they love their country deeply, they are worried about its movement to the left. Interestingly, they admire the direction of the United States under President Trump.
“You cannot deny he is a force of nature. He may be unorthodox, he may get himself in a pinch with his words, but he certainly reminds you that he is always coming from a position of strength,” said Ann as she took a moment from packing up the cottage to head back home to Peterborough, Ontario.
They are cautious when asking Americans if they approve of their new president, like the folks on vacation from the US who stayed in the cottage next door. When the Bowens found out their visitors supported Trump, they were relieved.
“We didn’t want to upset or offend anyone,” Dave said.
It is fascinating to listen to their impressions of the US president. Given the coverage of him throughout Ontario and America — you would think any Canadian would conclude the opposite. The Bowens are well versed in the policy entanglements Trump faces with health care and tax reform and are aware of every House special election since January that’s happened in Kansas, Montana and Georgia.
They are also very pragmatic about his approach.
“The man has his weaknesses, that is for sure, but voters knew that going in, and he has as much admitted he is not a groomed politician. Any problem he has faced has mostly come from his use of social media, but his policies are spot-on,” said Dave.
While many Americans point to the universal health care enjoyed by our northern neighbors as a point of envy, Dave says his countryfolk have reason to admire the US — especially on the issue of immigration.
Last January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to social media and declared, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
According to the latest statistics, more than 15,000 people have made a claim for asylum in Canada during the first five months of 2017 — almost double the number of the same period last year. That number doesn’t include fast-tracked refugees from Syria, more than 45,000 of whom have been admitted since November 2015.
Contrast those statistics with the US: In the last three months of Barack Obama’s presidency, the number of refugees admitted to the US hit just over 25,000, but that number dropped to 13,000 in the first three months of Trump administration, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
As a result of Trump’s policies, asylum-seekers of African and Middle Eastern origin are flooding into Canada, and our friends in the north aren’t entirely happy about it. According to the most recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released in March, 48 percent of Canadians support the deportation of these illegal border crossers.
Dave is one of the Canadians who feel his nation’s welcome has been overextended. “We are really going in the way of Europe when it comes to governing and outlook,” he said. “I am not sure that is the best direction.”
As a result, the Bowens are not big fans of their prime minister either — and they’re not alone. A survey conducted by Forum Research in April found only 42 percent of Canadians approved of how Trudeau was leading the country — his lowest approval rating since taking office in November 2015.
Ann just shrugs and shakes her head, but her criticism is unfailingly polite. “It is just overboard. But we did really like his father, Pierre,” she said of the elder Trudeau, who served twice as prime minister, from 1968 to 1979 and 1980 to 1984.
Trump is a breath of fresh air, said Dave, and he hopes Canada gets a little shake-up, too. “I was watching election night, and I can tell you I have never been so excited for another country’s outcome as I was that night.
“Perhaps if some local elections stirred things up, the bigger politicians might pay attention,” he added.
Canadians. Turns out a lot of them are divided and dissatisfied — just like us.
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