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Whistler’s Americans weigh in on the U.S. election

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Six days after this paper comes out, the United States of American will have a new president.  

Even from the snow-capped mountaintops of Whistler, it has been almost impossible to avoid the reality-TV U.S. election show. To the left, we have Barack Obama standing skinny, youthful and full of energy next to subdued but clever Joe Biden. To the right we see a very old John McCain, with a well-dressed hockey mom at his side.

The show begins 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4. The world will be watching.

The fact that I voted for Obama is no secret. I come from a long line of proud Democrats, and moving to Canada has only enhanced my liberal view. Filling in the bubble next to Obama’s name earlier this month, I felt a pang of hope that change will finally come to the U.S. government. But I was also wary that if he does not win, my country would continue along with its current ultra-conservative policies.

Of course, I’m not the only American in town that mailed an absentee ballot to the states this year.

While there are no hard statistics on the number of Americans in Whistler, Rod Rohda, president of American Friends of Whistler, estimates the number of American homeowners rests around 1,000. And according to Statistics Canada, about 4.6 per cent of British Columbia’s population is composed of immigrates from the U.S.

Which begs the question: What do other Whistler Americans think about the U.S. election?

“I hope my vote made a difference,” said Mayor Ken Melamed from his office last week. “It is hard to imagine that with over 300 million voting.”

Melamed, who also holds Canadian citizenship, first moved to Montreal with his family when he was 13. The move was sparked by his parents’ active opposition to the Vietnam War.

Now in British Columbia, Melamed said Whistler’s journey to sustainability has altered his view of world politics, and he evaluates everything through a “sustainability” lens.

It was interesting to watch the Democratic nomination battle, he added, and know that both candidates moved away from “Old Boys Club” politics.

“That already is reason for hope. And McCain provides the alterative worldview. Now we are into the final stretch. Both candidates are strong, and they are both holding their own. We’ll see how the country decides,” said the Philly Boy.

Another Yankee in town, Whistler Public Library’s director, Lauren Stara, moved to Whistler by choice two years ago and has now obtained her Canadian permanent residency.

She said she is thankful that she is not being bombarded by the U.S. election 24/7, like her fellow countrymen. She said she hasn’t been following the election closely, and most of her information comes from CBC or her sister, who is in the states.

“I have never been a member of a party,” said Stara. “I have always been independent and I tend to vote my conscious. I will say I thought the last election was a travesty and that is why it was so important to me that I vote in this one.”

Stara said it is fascinating to compare the U.S. election to the recent Canadian federal election.

Of course not all Americans, or half-Americans, in Whistler still exercise their right to vote. Paul Mathews, born in Colorado, said he did not cast a ballot this year.

“I have been in Whistler for 35 years. I don’t even think about the American election,” said Mathews, whose main source of election coverage comes from Saturday Night Live.

But despite his non-interest, Mathews did say that it is pretty amazing to see that the Democratic Party’s two top candidates were a black man and a white woman.

“This I was not sure I would ever see in my lifetime in America,” he said. “And I thought Palin, the woman with McCain, was a brilliant stroke. To be honest with you, she is the only one of them that talks like a normal person.”

Regardless of whether the majority of Whistler’s Americans still hold ties to the U.S., it is fair to say that our numbers will likely be strengthened in the next few months.

After the 2004 U.S. election, Immigration Canada saw a large spike in the number of Americans wanting to settle up north. This year’s election does not seem to be much different. And as the 2008 candidates flex their muscles and enter the final sprint to the White House, many an American is already joking about escaping to Canada.

Which makes me wonder: What do Canadians think of the American election inrush?

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