Quebecers help choose new American president

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Photo: Scott French

A cutout of Barack Obama graces a no-parking sign alongside the wall of the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church in Place-Royale.

Regardless of whom they chose as their new president on November 4, Americans were bound to make history. Either Democratic candidate Barack Obama would become the first black president of a country haunted by a history of racial conflict, or Republican Governor Sarah Palin would break through yet another glass ceiling, becoming the first female vice-president. Still, many Americans living in Quebec City were focused less on identity politics and more on policy.
“From my point, it is a historic election but not because of who’s running,” said Anessa Kimball, a professor of international relations and American foreign policy at Université Laval.

The former native of New York indicated Democrat Barack Obama did everything in his power during the campaign to shift the focus from politics to policy. “What’s important is that there are so many things on the table.”
From a foreign policy perspective, there are a number of important items that the new American president will address, according to Kimball: an arms treaty with Russia, the possibility of signing the Kyoto Protocol, and a strategy for the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After attending a conference in Ottawa on Canada-US relations, Kimball indicated Obama’s positions were generally favoured over Republican candidate John McCain’s, except for one – the possibility of renegotiating NAFTA.
Of all the Americans living in Quebec that the QCT interviewed for this story, none were supporters of Republican candidate John McCain.

Other Americans living in Quebec City, like former Oklahoma native Stephen Clarke, are hoping Obama can bring change for America domestically as well. “I’m really hoping he will make some fundamental changes. Civil liberties have been eroded by the Patriot Act. The laws are what protect us from our own government.”

A lawyer by profession, Clarke travelled back to Oklahoma to ensure he and his wife were registered to vote despite their move to Quebec last year. “It’s so important to exercise your vote,” he stated.

Janet Pomerleau, president of the American Colony of Quebec, was less enthusiastic about this year’s election. “I thought [Hillary Clinton] was the right person. She had the experience.” She placed her vote in Gloucester,Massachusetts for Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden, instead.

Throughout the divisive campaign, analysts predicted an unusually high voter turnout. “If trends continue based on what we’re seeing now, it would be great for American democracy,” Kimball explained just prior to the vote. “[Voter turnout] upwards of 75 per cent would be fantastic.”

“It’s really got out the vote. My family and friends have been interested since the primaries,” Isabel Sullivan said. Sullivan has lived with her family in Quebec City for the last 40 years.  
As a dual citizen living in the provincial riding of Jean Talon, Sullivan will have voted in four separate elections this fall if Jean Charest calls a provincial election, as expected, December 8.

Despite the prospect of heading to the polls three times and mailing an absentee ballot to her hometown in Worcester, Massachusetts, Sullivan said she is not feeling any “voter fatigue.” “Voting is a privilege,” she corrected.