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Expats debate: In his second term, I want Obama to be a stronger leader

President Barack Obama holds up a pen as he speaks about the economy and the deficit, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

With the election over and Barack Obama re-elected, the focus shifts from a months-long political campaign to the task of governing.

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

Jason Sidhu, who works in California's Silicon Valley, from Vancouver:

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Personally, I would like to see Barack Obama take a stronger leadership role. What I mean by that is I want more legislation to be drawn up and proposed by the White House and then the President hold meetings with individual Senators and House Representatives to persuade them to vote for it. I want Mr. Obama to negotiate the compromises rather than just giving his direction to Congressional leadership and have them take the lead. He needs to take the lead on the legislation that is important to him. If he did this, I believe we would have a public option or single-payer system in the Affordable Care Act; we don't because he let the Congressional Committees have their way. If after meeting individually with legislators, he feels he can't get the votes he needs, he should go on the road and hold giant rallies in the districts of the representatives he is trying to sway to get them to change their mind. Be tougher, be stronger, and use his position to push through his legislation.

I'd actually like to see him go to Kenya while President. I think that would be pretty awesome, as long as the Secret Service could keep him safe.

Jeff Gebhart, who works in IT in Oak Ridge, Tenn., from rural Saskatchewan and Calgary:

Let's remember here, the President does not control the House of Representatives, and people may have forgotten that the House was elected on Tuesday, just as surely as the President was. That means that they too have a mandate from the voters.

I'm looking forward with less trepidation, to the next two years at least, than I did in 2008. That's because there is a Republican majority in the House to constrain these kinds of overreaches.

Ashley O'Kurley, a financial planner in Miami, from Edmonton:

The big priorities that I'd like to see accomplished:

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  • Tax and spending reform, something along the lines of Simpson-Bowles to eliminate the deficit. I would also support eventually lowering income taxes if a value-added tax was implemented. The success of the GST in Canada proves the efficacy of focussing on the taxing of consumption rather than production/income.
  • Comprehensive immigration reform, including pathways for the undocumented.
  • Another genuine effort at Isreal-Palestine detante. Probably need Ehud Barak to replace Bibi before that can happen, though.
  • Putting fossil fuels in the same category as tobacco. Still allowed, but clearly understood to be bad for us. A sustainable energy plan that puts strong economic incentives for renewables front and center – hey my fellow Albertans, remember the 1986 provincial election when we were all talking about economic diversification in the wake of the last big oil bust? With one out of four jobs in Alberta tied to the oil and gas sector, how’s economic diversification coming along?

Colleen Pendergast, a former school administrator in Nantucket, Mass., from Edmonton:

I'd like to see President Obama really invest in public K-12 education, not just pay it lip service. Our schools should mirror society and offer multiple pathways for kids to get their education. Stop forcing all kids to learn in the same classrooms in the same buildings with the same outdated information and equipment. Let's invest more time, more money, and more people into creating public schools that are already being piloted (but we need more) that offer flexible, various pathways for kids to get their education. Some of those schools are really cool and I'd like to see everyone get a chance to go to those schools.

Ben Wright, a web co-ordinator in Atlanta, Ga., from PEI:

I'd like to see President Obama pursue increased funding for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEM education. Particularly:

  • Increasing NASA’s budget. NASA research and development has a history of producing impactful products and spinoff companies, not to mention the scientific benefits we get from space exploration. NASA’s current budget is 0.5 per cent of the federal budget.
  • A continued commitment to developing renewable energy sources. We’re falling behind the rest of the developed world in energy produced from sources other than fossil fuels and an investment in new technology would both reduce reliance on energy imports and spur job creation at home.
  • Pass legislation making it easier for foreign students who attain degrees in STEM fields to remain in the country after graduation. Several bills have been crafted with this in mind but so far they haven’t been passed. Public money is being spent educating some of the best and brightest minds from around the world and they want to stay here, but the American immigration system makes it much easier for them to return home. There was a time when the brightest scientists in the world flocked to America. They still want to, but the government is turning many of them away.

Carla Swanson, a mother in Big Lake, Minn., from Saskatoon:

Part of what I hope to see during the next four years is a genuine discussion about abortion that honestly faces the suffering involved and does not try to demonize pro-life citizens as anti-women.

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I would like to see recognition of the emotional and physical suffering of the women who have abortions. I also hope President Obama will give recognition and support to the many crisis pregnancy centers who provide counselling, housing, and baby supplies to pregnant teens. It would also be a powerful bridge builder with pro-life Americans if he would show strong support for abortion alternatives.

Jonathan Havercroft, a political science professor in Oklahoma City, from Montreal:

Ideologically I am to the left of Mr. Obama, but I am a realist when it comes to politics. Many of my left-leaning friends expressed great disappointment in his first term, but I had low expectations and he met them. In January 2009 I said all I wanted was an end to the war in Iraq and passage of significant health care reform. Mr. Obama accomplished both goals and I was happy with the results. This time my list is also pretty short:

  • End the war in Afghanistan.
  • Pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
  • Raise taxes (he is the first President to win running on tax increases in my lifetime, so he should do it). This means he should use the significant leverage he has on the “fiscal cliff.” I would hope that he actually allows everything to expire (the Bush tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, and the sequestration) and then asks Congress to pass tax cuts and spending increases as he sees fit, and vetoes those items that he thinks are inappropriate.
  • Respect the will of the voters in Washington and Colorado on the marijuana initiatives, and use it as an opportunity to end the war on drugs and shift national drug policy towards a harm reduction strategy.

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

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