Column: A seat at the ‘Ugly American’ table in Canada

Donald Trump Patchogue

It was an innocent question, I suppose, that I should have expected from someone in another country. Still, I was taken aback two weeks ago when I overheard the blackjack dealer at Casino de Montreal say the name Donald Trump. 

“What did she say about Trump?” I asked the friend seated next to me.

“She asked how we feel about him,” he said.

Believe it or not, I’d managed to get through this entire presidential primary season without being asked about my personal feelings about “The Donald,” who at this point is certainly the most likely Republican candidate in the November general election. Perhaps it’s good old American manners that have spared me that question. Or maybe I just ooze Cruz.

At first I found it a bit ironic that I had to leave the U.S. to have to answer that question, but the more the dealer spoke of Mr. Trump, the more I understood why she asked. She was not a big fan of his, and the spectacle the Republican presidential primary has become is great entertainment for our neighbors to the north. As much as it might embarrass many of us, it’s been great political theater — and in Canada, where the impact of who we elect is minimal, it seems some folks are enjoying the show.

This was my third trip to Montreal in seven years and the first with this particular group of friends. Throughout the weekend, we remarked how we were treated differently than in the past.

When we visited in 2009, we couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was and how much we interacted with people we encountered around the city. This time around, I can’t recall more than a handful of friendly interactions.

Our first morning there, we were seated at what I dubbed the “Ugly American” table for breakfast. It was adjacent to the drafty front door and there was a good 10-table buffer between us and all the locals in prime seating. After we asked to change tables the waitress said, “Sure, and I’ll get you English-language menus, too.”

At a steakhouse the next night, the maitre d’ actually stopped by our table to apologize for its poor location in the dining area.

Now before all you Trump supporters start calling me a dummy, I don’t want you to think I’m naive enough to believe subtle differences in the way we were treated directly relate to this year’s presidential election.

But it does seem somewhat logical that as we’ve even become tired ourselves of our increasingly loud, tabloid-style media and reality TV culture — the foundation Mr. Trump’s candidacy was built on — people in other countries might view us through a more critical lens.

When I got home, I decided to do some more research on how the presidential race is viewed in Canada. I found a BBC story covering this very topic.

“It’s such a remarkable reality-TV like experience, like watching a train wreck in slow motion,” Bob Plamondon, a consultant and author who has written about Canadian history, told the BBC in March. “It’s theatre of the absurd. It’s hard to imagine that a mature, developed democracy of the world’s most important and strongest nation has deteriorated to such nonsense.”

A poll also found that two-thirds of Canadians see the idea of a President Trump as bad for their country, the CBC reported in February.

On the flip side, Politifact noted a report that 17 percent of Twitter users who said they’d leave the U.S. if Trump won would head for Canada and 69 percent for Mexico, where Mr. Trump has proposed building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out. England, Australia, France, Jamaica, Ireland, Sweden and Brazil also made the list.

Maybe the Canadians who treated us rudely last week thought we were border jumpers fleeing a sinking ship for poutine and pints of Labatt. Perhaps it’s time they start building a wall and handing us the bill.

Photo Caption: Donald Trump at a Suffolk County Republican Committee event in Patchogue last month. (Credit: Michael White/

TR1226_Staff_Parpan_C.jpgThe author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected].