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Election 2012: Talking with the Americans (who are actually Canadian)

Penny Stamp, with her two-year-old son Charlie Burgess, take a walk in her neighbourhood in Orlando, Fla. Ms. Stamp was born in Regina and raised in Toronto.

Roberto Gonzalez/The Globe and Mail

For Penny Stamp – indeed her real name, as she likes to tell people – the Great Recession in the United States has meant watching the value of her home get battered to the point that it is now worth less than half of what she bought it for before the housing crisis. But today, on Independence Day, this Canadian's faith in the American dream is not shaken.

"The American dream may have to be altered, but it still exists in many of the Americans I know," says the Orlando graphic artist who was born in Regina and raised in Toronto. Ms. Stamp, 38, followed her "snowbird" parents to Florida after graduating from York University in 1996 and became a U.S. citizen in 2000.

Ms. Stamp's abiding hope in the United States runs through a dozen detailed interviews from more than 400 Canadian expats who answered The Globe's call to reflect on life and politics south of the border, and to contribute to our ongoing coverage of the presidential election.

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This is part of our U.S. Election 2012:Canadians in America series - expats talking about life and politics south of the border.

Immersed in U.S. society but with continuing links to the country where they were born – and where some harbour hopes of one day returning – Canadian expats in the United States offer a unique perspective through which to view politics in a pivotal election year.

They are all in the business of constantly explaining Canada to Americans and the United States to Canadians. But translating U.S. politics and key election themes for a Canadian audience is just one part of what makes these expats unique.

It is also their ability to psychologically step back from the polarized and volatile scene that is American politics today, suspend their judgment – which, as one expat in Arizona put it, is never easy and sometimes akin to biting one's tongue – and enter an ongoing conversation. It is that conversation we want to explore in coming months.

According to the 2010 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 798,649 residents reported being born in Canada – with large concentrations of Canadian-born U.S. residents in California, Florida and New York. They are acutely aware of the joblessness and the choppy economic recovery that affects their communities. A few have opposed President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul and the delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and with it, the jobs that it would create on both sides of the border.

But from Silicon Valley to Wall Street to the Rust Belt to the American South, similar themes are echoed by the expats: they still have hope in America and they think the country can rebuild its economy.

"The economy is bad? Well, the economy's been bad before," says 30-year-old Republican Keith Vincent, who was born in Newfoundland and has lived in Ohio, Tennessee and now Florida. "Americans have always figured out a way to support each other and always rebound after a recession."

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A look at the stories of the Canadians who responded to our initial online call shows that many moved to the United States to pursue an education, a career opportunity or a relationship. Their American roots run deep and they are very aware of – and even involved in – the political debates that consume their adopted country. As we discovered, political identities follow along mainstream lines with Canadian expats who support either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.

But then there are people like Ms. Stamp, who is a registered Libertarian Party member and has a long-term dream for American politics – a three-party system similar to Canada's. A viable third-party presidential candidate, however, has yet to emerge in 2012.

Come voting day in the hotly contested swing state of Florida, Ms. Stamp says she may have to choose between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Right now, she leans to Mr. Obama, whom she voted for in 2008. But that could easily change, she says. "I'm going to keep my mind open until the very last minute."

Have a question for our expats? Please fill out our form, email us or leave a comment below.

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About the Authors

Affan Chowdhry is the Globe's multimedia reporter specializing in foreign news. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked at the BBC World Service in London creating international news and current affairs programs and online content for a global audience. More

Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More


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