'Truth hurts': Sask. Trump supporters say deep down you like him too

A new poll by CBC Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan suggests one in five people in this province agree with the values of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Almost 1 in 5 people surveyed agree with Trump's values: University of Saskatchewan survey

A survey of Saskatchewan residents indicates more than 19 per cent of Saskatchewan residents agree with U.S. President Donald Trump — to varying extents. (CBC News Graphics)

Mitchell Nutting's team stands out among the bustle of a slo-pitch tournament at a crowded Radisson, Sask., ball diamond.

Some of the team's players wear bright, red caps embroidered with a familiar white typeface, making a statement not often worn so boldly in this central province. They are Donald Trump supporters.

"Trump is … making it easier for people to do business, he's getting industry back into the States, even though it's tough — we get some tariffs put on us," says Mitchell Nutting, who lives in Calgary but grew up in Radisson.  

"And [tariffs], by the way, could have been managed a lot different and nothing would have happened."

Sask. support for Trump

In a new poll conducted by CBC Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan Social Science Research Lab, more than 19 per cent of respondents in this province said they agreed with the U.S. president's values.

The poll asked Saskatchewanians, "Overall, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the values that Donald Trump holds as President of the United States?"

Of the 401 respondents, 14.6 per cent said they somewhat agree, while 4.8 per cent said they strongly agree.

Almost 1 in 5 respondents agreed with Donald Trump's presidential values. More than half of those surveyed strongly disagreed. (CBC News Graphics)

Those who said they oppose Trump's approach far outweighed those who support him.

A total of 53.5 per cent strongly disagreed. A further 19.4 per cent said they somewhat disagree, while 2.9 per cent did not know and 4.7 per cent refused to answer. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.

But there are people in this province who would like to see the U.S. president's approach to issues, including business and immigration, emulated in Canada.

While members of the Nutting family, many of whom now live in the U.S., wear their support proudly with their red caps, many Trump supporters in Saskatchewan are not as easily identified.

Saskatoon resident and former city councillor Myles Heidt, who likes the way the U.S. president operates, said he believes there are more Trump supporters in Saskatchewan than are willing to say it out loud.

"It's so easy to jump on the bandwagon and all that, 'Trump this, Trump that' and yet deep down they like a lot of things that he's doing," he said.

"Anybody that invests in the stock market, they've never had it so good. I like bugging guys in the investment world ... they're making their clients rich and it's Trump [that's] doing it."

Trump supporters who spoke with CBC all said their views have made waves. Trump support has sparked discussion in their families, at the gym and among their friend groups.

The supporters said Trump was good for the economy in his home country and either defended, forgave or denied criticisms of his actions and character.

For them, being a Trump supporter in Saskatchewan means being steadfast in your beliefs, no matter what the reaction.

Perceptions in Canada vs. U.S.

The Nutting family returns every year to play in a slo-pitch tournament in their hometown of Radisson and march in the annual fair parade.

This year, they marched in pirate hats and vests, throwing candy from a pirate ship float to the tune of The Last Saskatchewan Pirate.

Stewart Nutting stood at the helm in a red hat with the slogan "Make the Radisson Fair Great Again."

The hats started as a way to rally fair spirit in the Nutting family, but they are also a signal of the political beliefs held by some family members.  

He's doing what he feels is best for his people and that's what we should be doing in Canada.- Jake Wall, Prairie Freedom Alliance

Stewart spent 30 years in Canada before moving to the U.S. for his work as a heart surgeon about 30 years ago. 

"The information that the people get up here is very filtered," Stewart said. "The majority of the news they get is anti-Trump." 

His daughters Brittany and Victoria, who are dual Canadian-American citizens, said they feel the difference when they move between the U.S. and Saskatchewan.  

Brittany Nutting, who recently lived in Canada for two years after moving from Texas to Calgary, said people react negatively if she shares her political views north of the border.

"When I moved to Canada, in Calgary even which is fairly conservative, they still would have pushback and then as soon as they found out I was American they want to do the whole smear campaigns of 'Oh, bless your heart, you've got Donald,' " she said.

Mitchell, Brittany, Victoria and Stewart Nutting at the Radisson Fair slo-pitch tournament in August. Although their family is split between Canada and the U.S., all four support Donald Trump. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

Brittany said fear of judgment deters Donald Trump supporters in Saskatchewan from speaking publicly.

In September 2017, the president of the Saskatchewan Roughriders fundraising lottery stirred backlash when he said he agreed with Trump's stance against football players kneeling as an act of protest during the national anthem.

The U.S. president said in a tweet that all players should stand for the national anthem and, "If not, YOU'RE FIRED."

Tom Shepherd, who served as club president of the CFL team from 1987 to 1989, was called a "clown" and a "fossil" after he referred to Donald Trump as his "man."

The club distanced itself from Shepherd's comments about Trump.  Shepherd declined to comment for this story.

Trump no 'phoney': Sask. supporter

Former Saskatoon councillor Heidt said he admires Trump's propensity to speak his mind.

He said the president's confrontational approach is a price he's willing to pay for a politician that isn't "phoney."  

"A lot of people don't like hearing the truth, because the truth hurts," said Heidt.

"The pendulum had swung too far and now it's flying … maybe he's went to the extreme but none of us are used to that. Are you used to hearing a politician tell you the truth?"   

Some members of the Nutting family wear their support for Trump proudly, others would rather not be associated with the U.S. president. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

Heidt said many of the criticisms lobbed at Trump are unwarranted.

When it comes to controversial topics like the separation of families trying to access the U.S. at the Mexican border, Heidt said we should consider social problems in our own backyard before "throwing stones."

He said a harder stance in dealings with Russia would be unwise because of the potential for retaliation and that talk of extra-marital affairs should not be any surprise to the people who voted him into power.

Heidt said Trump's approach to business, industry and regulatory reform is bringing prosperity to the U.S. and would like to see a similar approach in Canada.

His only criticism was about Trump's abrupt and sometimes confrontational method of communication.

Several supporters had similar concerns, although they otherwise aligned themselves with many of his values.

People don't quite get this but Canada's policies are much more conservative in many respects than those of the United States.- Frank Buckley,  speech writer for Donald Trump campaign 

Simon Stokalko, who lives in Saskatoon, said he believes the U.S. president's actions are sometimes "idiotic," but that he would rather have Trump leading Canada than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Stokalko said he feels disillusioned by the behaviour of most politicians.

"It doesn't matter which party it is, they're all basically the same, nothing really changes," he said.

"It's all just wording that they change and they make it seem like they're doing something and it never seems to progress very well."

Stokalko said Trump is delivering on a promise to "drain the swamp." He also said Trump's approach has been good for the U.S. economy.  

In the U of S survey, 26.2 per cent of urban participants agreed with Trump's values, compared to 11.9 per cent in rural areas.

Male participants were also more likely to agree (25.6 per cent) than female participants (14.1 per cent).

Do Canadians care too much?

Colton Mitchell, a Swift Current, Sask., resident who splits his time between an electrical business and farming, said he probably would have voted for Donald Trump if he lived in the U.S.

He thought Trump had good ideas and said he appeared to be on the side of small businesses and the working class.  

Although Trump's tariffs have hit Mitchell's electrical business, they helped him on the farming side.

Mitchell said that ultimately, he cannot understand why Canadians whose lives are not affected directly by Trump's decisions follow him so closely.

"I think people in Canada care way too much about what he's doing," said Mitchell.

"They talk about all the tweets that he sends out and I just tell them it sounds like the same story all the time."

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Frank Buckley, a Saskatchewan-born law professor at George Mason University, helped write speeches for Donald Trump.

He said Canada's fascination with Trump is partly due to him being a "shock to the system" who is unlike any politician in Ottawa.  

"To succeed on Parliament Hill you've got to have certain talents that aren't necessary for a presidential politician," said Buckley.  

"You really can't have the kind of thin skin that Trump has, you have to be good on your feet … and if you go through American politicians and you ask who could have survived in a parliamentary system, there aren't many."

According to Buckley, the U.S. government under Trump has aligned some of its policies with those of Canada.

He cited Trump's reduction of the corporate tax rate, which was 35 per cent prior to a reduction in 2017, bringing it closer to the Canadian rate. This change, he said, has helped to bring the economy "roaring back."

Buckley also referred to Trump's support for the RAISE Act, which was developed after consulting the Canadian point system.

Finally, he said the regulatory web in the U.S. is also far deeper than in Canada.  

"People don't quite get this but Canada's policies are much more conservative in many respects than those of the United States," said Buckley.

"People think of the States as some kind of right-wing paradise or horrible place but in fact it's an extraordinarily liberal place in many, many respects."

Buckley said Canada's social and financial mobility, along with the public's trust in the government, contribute to the political differences at this time.

"If however Canada went through a period of great government spending and great unemployment, then wait for a Trump," he said.

Trump represents 'worst elements' of U.S.: professor

Greg Poelzer, a political science professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said he was surprised by how opposed to Trump the survey found Saskatchewan to be.

"He embodies, I think for a lot of Canadians and people in Saskatchewan, all the worst elements that exist in the United States," said Poelzer.

"That bombasticness, the complete rudeness."

Greg Poelzer is a professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Poelzer did not anticipate that the level of support for Trump would be higher in urban areas than in rural areas.

He said he suspects trade issues and tariffs would lessen Trump's popularity with farmers whose livelihoods are influenced by global markets.  

Poelzer said the president's demeanour could also be a factor in how rural residents perceive him.

"How you conduct yourself when you live in small communities where everybody knows everybody, is with a high degree of civility and there is a strong culture of politeness,"

"Those kind of values which obviously are about 180 from how President Trump conducts himself."

But Poelzer said he has heard open, vocal support for Donald Trump everywhere from rural Saskatchewan to Indigenous communities.

The reasons why

Poelzer said Trump's image of being anti-politically correct is a major draw for his supporters.

"A lot of mainstream parties won't talk about fundamental issues like immigration, especially between election cycles, in the way that we need to actually have a more open discussion about these issues — open but respectful," said Poelzer.

"People are afraid to actually even talk about many of these issues because they're afraid,  you know, somebody may be called a racist or whatever. Trump does not care."

A frustration with bureaucracy and the political system is also driving support for Trump, added Poelzer.

The Prairie Freedom Alliance is a group that wants to see the western provinces separate from the rest of Canada.

The group is currently collecting signatures to start a political party to push for independence in the next election.

Founder Jake Wall, who is based in Saskatoon, said any negative trade impacts being felt in Saskatchewan should be attributed more to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He said there are lessons to be learnt from Donald Trump.  

"He's doing what he feels is best for his people and that's what we should be doing in Canada," said Wall.

"We should be looking after Saskatchewan people first, Canadian people first, before we go traipsing off across the world and giving money all over the place."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, greets U.S. President Donald Trump during the official welcoming ceremony at the G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Que., in June. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

For Canadians like Mitchell Nutting, with interests and family in the United States, it's impossible not to compare and contrast the leadership in the two countries.

"We have a Prime Minister who is doing nothing other than organizing a good gay parade or something and, you know, he's just spending our money frivolously, not around to look after important issues," said Nutting.

"Trump is not getting a paycheck, he's working for the good of the country, Trudeau is working for the good of Trudeau."

Trump can be polarizing even within one family. Not everyone in the Nutting family agrees with the values of Donald Trump. Some are staunchly opposed.

Talk about politics has been banned from the family group chat in some instances. While there was laughter about that, one family member wanted it made clear that not all Nuttings support Trump. 

When it comes to Trump opponents in the wider public, Nutting thinks that with time, he can change their minds.

"When I talk to those people and they make fun of Trump, and I explain to them what he is doing, versus what our leader is doing, the story just turns around," said Nutting.

"Because facts, are facts."


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