'Far from perfect,' but Trump backers in Canada see him as the best choice
Supporters say Trump's 'crazy language' got him attention but does not reflect the man inside
They don't always like what they see or hear but Canadians hoping Donald Trump becomes the next U.S. president believe him to be a straight shooter that will bring economic and other benefits to Canada in a world severely circumscribed by political correctness.
A President Trump, they say, would provide a potent antidote to what they view as a march toward self-serving big government whose benefactors are moneyed elites.
"A lot of good honest blue-collar people were really thrown under the bus by the elite donor and political class," said Daniel Erikson, 38, a businessman from Calgary.
Trump would provide a strong counterweight to the Liberal government in Ottawa and the NDP government in Alberta that has pushed the economy "almost to the breaking point," Erikson said.
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In essence, he said, the climate on both sides of the border would shift back to a "more business-oriented approach" under Trump whose improbable run for the White House has turned the American political landscape on its ear.
Inevitably, conversations with Trump supporters in Canada turn to an often palpable hostility toward his Democrat rival, Hillary Clinton.
Andrew Stagg, 31, a Toronto-born Canadian software engineer who lived most of his life in Calgary, said his antipathy toward Clinton stems from his Christian-based opposition to abortion, and the email and other scandals that have dogged her campaign.
Clinton also poses a threat to gun rights, said Stagg, who now lives in the U.S. On the other hand, he said, Trump has committed to appointing Supreme Court justices who favour those rights.
"That is one of the most important liberties that American citizens and residents have, and something that I think is missing in Canada," Stagg said.
Suppressing free speech?
Trump supporters in Canada, according to recent polls, are by far in the minority, with fewer than one in five saying they would cast ballots for him if they could. The vast majority would back Clinton, a position Manny Montenegrino, a one-time adviser to former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, said left him "dumbfounded."
In line with oft-heard criticism denied by the Democrat, Montenegrino said Clinton has indulged in "extreme pay to play" — using her office to enrich herself by tens of millions of dollars — and noted the FBI investigation she has been under over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
"I pride ourselves on our ethics. We have very little money in politics," the retired lawyer said from Ottawa. "America has great corrupt influence and it all seems to be on Hillary's side."
Publicly expressing support for Trump, however, appears to be something many Canadians are loath to do. Erikson called that unsurprising, blaming it on a climate of intimidation he said the left had fostered.
"They understand there could be career and social implications on them if they were to voice that position publicly," Erikson said.
"I find that to be really frightening. That suppression of free speech and free exchange of ideas that we have in Canada is profoundly dangerous."
Boys will be boys
Common among Trump's Canadian supporters is the willingness to overlook or at least rationalize some of his more outrageous behaviour — such as derogatory comments he has made about women and Mexicans — or his more out-there proposals, such as his pledge to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Trump is someone who has lived his life "without cleansing everything through a politician's filter," Erikson said. "The lack of political polish is one of the things that really resonates."
His offensive comments about women might be regrettable but, his supporters say, such private male chatter is not unusual.
"I've heard a lot of really great guys — great judges, great lawyers — say much worse," Montenegrino said. "It doesn't define the nature of the person."
'Trump, I think, is brilliant'
While Trump's well documented problems have tempered his enthusiasm for the Republican, Stagg said, they still haven't shaken his support.
"He's far from perfect but he is, in my opinion, the best choice," Stagg said. "Mr. Trump is the best option of two of what most people would consider less than ideal options."
Win or lose next week, few can argue with the fact that Trump has run a remarkable campaign that catapulted him from a long-shot contender for the Republican nomination to possible president.
Part of that success, supporters said, has been predicated on his willingness to say things that might normally have sunk most anyone else.
"Trump, I think, is brilliant: He drew all the attention to him with his crazy language (but) that's not who the man is in my opinion," Montenegrino said.
"(Still), the more I investigate the Americans, the more I want to drop to my knees and cry and say, 'Thank God I'm a Canadian'."