V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer
Canucks split on vote

McCain struggling to hold on to narrow lead in his traditionally Republican state

Published in The Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, Nov. 3, 2008

Phoenix., Ariz – Paul Dziedzic is the envy of many Canadians.

Tomorrow, the dual U.S.-Canadian citizen will cast a vote in one of the most historic political events of our time, an opportunity coveted  by his envious Canuck cousins and American election junkies all over the world.

Dziedzic is hoping his vote for Sen. John McCain will help bring him back from the brink of a projected defeat, in what’s turned out to be a battle to the finish, even in the Arizona senator’s home state.

“I’m a steadfast Republican,” Dziedzic said in his sprawling, southwestern home in Phoenix. “But I don’t hold out a lot of hope.”

After serving Arizona for 25 years in Congress, McCain is struggling to hold on to a narrow lead in the traditionally Republican state. According to the latest CNN polls, McCain is leading Sen. Barack Obama by a slim margin of four percentage points.

Reliably-red state Montana has also shifted in Obama’s favour over the past few days.

But in a spring to the finish, McCain hit swing states like Virginia, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania yesterday and was in fighting spirit, telling crowds “the Mac is back.”

Meanwhile, like the whole of America, the Dziedzic family is split along political allegiances.

Paul, a technology auditor who’s been living in Phoenix for 15 years and has three U.S.-born sons, shares his mother’s conservative values. Realtor Mark, the younger Dziedzic and recent transplant from Toronto, is an Obama supporter and rejects McCain because of President George W. Bush. Dziedzic  Sr., his dad, is on the fence. Paul is the only family member eligible to vote.

Family gatherings, the brothers agree, can get raucous.

“It gets heated but we always hug each other in the end,” Paul said with a laugh.

He believes in the pillars of America: Capitalism, deregulation and leaving things up to market forces. He left Canada, he says, because of its socialist leanings and mounting national debt.

“And here we are now, $500 billion in debt,” Paul said. “That’s going to equal future taxes and lower standards of living.”

Edmonton-native Terry Jones, 58, is a victim himself of the spiraling American economic crisis – the worst since the Great Depression. He was laid off from his job as a lineman two weeks ago and is one of the 760,000 Americans who lost their jobs this year.

“I was blindsided,” said the dual citizen. “There was no notice.”

He worked at the same job for 14 years in Phoenix before he was given the pink slip, but said he still considers himself better off than other Americans.

“We aren’t like others, one month away from foreclosure.”

He and his realtor wife, Alma, voted for Obama by mail, and are anxious for a Democrat win.

“I think McCain is too much like Bush,” Alma said. “We need some new blood.”

The Jones and Dziedzics are two of 85,000 Canadians who live in Arizona permanently, and that number is rising quickly.

On Mark’s street, he has two Canadian neighbours, one of whom is an Orangeville, Ont. resident who bought a house from him at a rock-bottom price.

Mark has been selling properties exclusively to Canadians, mostly because they’re the only buyers in this struggling market, through his website arizonaforcanadians.com. In the second quarter of this year, Arizona posted the country’s third highest state foreclosure rate. One in every 70 households in Arizona received a foreclosure filing, up nearly four times the number reported in the same period last year.

When the dollar was at parity with the greenback, Canadians snapped up luxurious wintering properties in Arizona for as low as 30 per cent of their value, sometimes engaging in bidding wars against other Canadians.  In one gated community, for example, a beautiful, 2,295 square-foot, 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home with a pool spa sold for $277,900.

“Canadians are really helping the situation from getting worse,” he said.

Windsor lawyer Jeffrey Slopen recently set a record this year when he bought a 10,000-square-foot mansion for 14 million – and paid cash.

Apart from For Sale signs on front yards, there’s a noticeable absence of lawn signs in residential neighbourhoods.

“In last elections there were a lot of signs,” Paul said. “But I think people are so passionate about the election, they’re afraid of having their property damaged.”

Unlikely Quebecer in Phoenix

Phoenix – Hockey talk in Canada is rarely lost in translation, former Montreal Canadien Claude Lemieux said.

Oftentimes, he’ll talk sports with his friends back in Canada and they’ll both be on the same page, the current Phoenix resident and real estate developer said. But when it comes to politics, Lemieux is a bit of a “maverick” – if you will – compared to the Quebec sensibility. He’s a hard and fast Republican.

“They’ll say, ‘how can we agree on everything else with hockey, but disagree on everything with politics?” Lemieux said. “I say I’ve always liked to be different from everyone else.”

After playing for the Phoenix Coyotes, he decided to live in Arizona for the sun, the warmth and the good traffic. The 43-year-old has been working to make a comeback in hockey and expects to learn of his chances this month.

While he can’t vote, Lemieux said he identifies strongly with the conservative party.

“I’ve always favoured the Republican Party,” he said.

“My wife and I agree. We have the same beliefs in politics.”

The “Americanization” is complete, it seems, once Canadians become Republicans.

Investment banker and founder of the Canadian Arizona Business Council Glenn Williamson also considers himself Americanized and extols the American way.

“The entrepreneurial path to success is substantially larger here than it is in Canada. My story of success couldn’t have happened in Canada,” said the Montreal native. “The system allows you to succeed.”

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