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For a Canadian, sometimes the hardest thing about talking to Americans is keeping a straight face.
Canadian TV linkman Rick Mercer keeps trying not to grin or giggle as he travels the States asking those astute Americans very simple questions about their neighbor up north.
“Excuse me, ma’am, ” Mercer says, holding out a microphone in San Francisco, “do you have a minute for Canadian television?”
“You have a TV station in Canada?” the woman asks politely and seriously.
Fact: Canada has four major television networks and dozens of stations in a county of more than 31 million people.
Mercer walks up to an unsuspecting Ivy League student in Boston and asks: “Do you think Canada should join North America? It’s a big story up north. Care to comment?”
The university student, who says he is studying politics, looks deeply into the camera and answers, seriously, that he is not quite sure.
Fact: Canada obviously is a part --- a very large part --- of the North American continent.
Another American, another question: “Should Canada outlaw the slaughter of polar bears in Toronto?”
Fact: There are no polar bears on the loose in this bustling, urban city on a lake. Polar bears roam in the Arctic, about 1,500 miles north of Toronto.
O Canada! How little Americans know thee. The United Sates’ biggest trading partner, the only country with which it shares a long, unguarded border. Yet somehow that large landmass to the north was always cut off the maps that hung in U.S. classrooms.
Mercer said, “Canadians have an identity crisis. We look like Americans. We sound like Americans. We know everything about Americans. They know nothing about us. We find that funny.”
Mercer was standing in front of the Capitol one day two years ago. And out of nowhere, a politician walked by. Mercer stopped him: ‘ Excuse me, sir, did you know Canada’s new Prime Minister, Ralph Benmergui, is visiting Washington for a summit with president Clinton?”
Immediately the politician began rambling on how happy he was that “Prime Minister Benmergui” was in Washington. Never mind that the Prime Minister is Jean Chretien.
Later, Mercer caught up with George W Bush, then a presidential candidate, “A question from Canada!” Mercer shouted at a Bush campaign stop. Mercer told Mr. Bush that “Prime Minister Poutine” was supporting the Bush candidacy.
Mr. Bush, on camera, said: “I appreciate his strong statement. He understands Canadians are strong and we’ll work closely together.”
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