Response to Katrina dims Canadians' view of U.S.

Jane Taber reports in the Globe and Mail that the disturbing images of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina that exposed poverty and race issues have negatively affected the way some Canadians view the United States, according to a new Strategic Counsel poll.( Are you surprised by this? Not me. Indeed I would have been surprised if the results had been otherwise.)

At least one-third of Canadians, or 33 per cent of those polled, said their impressions of U.S. society have changed as a result of the Bush government's response to the New Orleans flooding.

And 85 per cent of those respondents say their impression has "worsened."

"They saw the underbelly of America that is traditionally hidden," said The Strategic Counsel's Allan Gregg. "An underbelly that is not only rife with poverty, that is so very much along race lines."

Mr. Gregg's findings for The Globe and Mail/CTV poll are based on telephone interviews of 1,000 Canadians. The poll was conducted between Sept. 7 and 13.

The poll also finds that a majority of Canadians, or 54 per cent, believe the Paul Martin government's response to a disaster similar to the one on the U.S. Gulf Coast would have been better than that of the Bush administration to hurricane Katrina.

"What it shows is that, for whatever doubts Canadians have about the efficacy about their own government, they believe certainly that in contrast to Americans, that we would do at least as good if not a better job than they did," he said.

And that is not the only issue on which the countries differ. Mr. Gregg says that despite the tragic events of 9/11 Canadians have not grown closer to their U.S. neighbours.

"Although, what we've seen really since Sept. 11, against all the conventional wisdom, is far from a greater bond in the sense of commonness, is a growing sense of differentness," he said.

"Overwhelmingly, Canadians believe that we view the world differently if not in opposite terms than Americans. So there is a little bit of sabre-rattling out there that we haven't seen historically, a truculence on the part of Canadians vis-à-vis America that probably isn't reflected in our business or political leadership in this country."

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