The Current

Why a Canadian who fled the U.S. after Trump's election says Canada isn't perfect either

A Canadian man who moved home from Alabama after U.S. President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 warns Canada is susceptible to the same kind of populism that propelled Trump into the White House.

Don Sawyer says he sees similarities in populist sentiment in Canada and the U.S.

Dual citizen Don Sawyer moved back to Canada from Alabama in 2016, after three years of living in the United States. He says U.S. President Donald Trump's election was the catalyst to his decision. (Courtesy of Don Sawyer)

Read Story Transcript

A Canadian man who moved home from Alabama after U.S. President Donald Trump's election in 2016 warns Canada is susceptible to the same kind of populism that propelled Trump into the White House.

"In the last Ontario election ... we saw a government elected with no coherent platform. But we did see slogans like 'for the people' or 'help is on the way,'" said Don Sawyer, a dual citizen who spent three years living in the U.S. before his return to Canada.

He told The Current's guest host Michelle Shephard he thinks people are more likely to trust in leaders with "easy answers to very difficult questions" when they're feeling insecure about the world around them, because it appeals to their emotions.

'The last straw'

Sawyer originally spoke with The Current in 2016. At the time, he said it was difficult living in America's Deep South, "where racism and bigotry and misogyny is just below the surface."

For him, Trump's election was "the last straw" propelling him to leave the U.S.

President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he speaks during a campaign rally on Nov. 5, 2018, in Cape Girardeau, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

Sawyer admits Canada is no utopia.

Since moving to St. Catharines, Ont., he's seen some of the country's problems in his own backyard — namely the opioid crisis.

What gives Sawyer hope is Canada's unique history and traditions, he said.

"We really do have a tradition of helping one another. We have a tradition of accepting differences and valuing and celebrating our differences," said Sawyer.

"So my message is … let's really work at not screwing it up."

Click 'listen' near the top of the page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Ines Colabrese.

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