Toronto is becoming a sanctuary city for U.S. politicians

Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Melania Trump are all coming to town, and that’s no accident. To them and others, our city must seem like an oasis from U.S. culture wars.

Hillary Clinton is coming to town and she will fall in love with Toronto.

When you live here, it’s easy to get lost in the daily grind, easy to forget just how enchanting and hospitable this city can feel to visitors. It’s clean. It’s safe. It’s friendly. Toronto is a big city, but not so big that it can’t amp up the small-town charm and dazzle passersby.

It is a place where daily irritants such as cost of living or traffic gridlock — by the way, what genius decided to tear up every road at the same time this summer? — remain invisible to travellers. They are too busy staring up at the CN Tower and basking in a sentiment the rest of us take for granted: Toronto can make anyone feel welcome.

So when Clinton’s motorcade pulls into the Enercare Centre on Thursday, the latest stop in her wildly lucrative What Happened book tour, it will feel like she just entered a haven, a refuge, a Xanadu, a sanctuary city in which her demons are banned and her ego is tickled.

Clinton will be greeted with thundering ovations and, amid a sea of moist eyes and sensible pantsuits, no one will address her as “Crooked.” There will be no spitting chorus of “Lock her up!” There will just be sustained applause.

Compared to life in her homeland, where to millions “Hillary Rodham Clinton” remains the long way of saying “Satan,” this will be a revelation. She will be so struck by the love, she will tell everyone she knows.

And this is why the city should brace for an influx of polarizing luminaries.

It’s no coincidence, I’d argue, that Melania Trump chose Toronto this past weekend for her first solo trip as the U.S. First Lady. Similar in vibe to her beloved New York City, Toronto allowed Mrs. Trump to breathe freely for a change.

What’s interesting about the pictures of Melania in Toronto is how relaxed she looked. She was smiling, but not in the startled gazelle manner we are used to seeing when she flanks her husband at a deranged rally or disaster zone. This time, her painted-on grin did not crack at the seams. Her eyes did not blink out mayday.

For one weekend, Toronto liberated Melania Trump from the worst parts of her life.

A few days later, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle selected Nathan Phillips Square as the backdrop for their first public appearance as a couple and detonated global pandemonium. That they, too, chose Toronto says much about the city’s ability to soothe jangled nerves while smothering the fears famous people secretly harbour elsewhere in the world.

And you know who else is coming to town this week? That would be former U.S. president Barack Obama. He will deliver a lunchtime speech about global citizenship on Friday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Then next week, Bill Clinton swings by to soak up the admiration — at a $5,000-per-table dinner at the Royal York Hotel.

The pattern is clear: as America becomes increasingly polarized, Toronto will become more attractive to those yearning for a break from the madness. The culture wars south of the border show no signs of ending and this poisonous atmosphere will be a boon to Toronto’s standing as a safe zone.

When someone like Roy Moore wins an election in Alabama, suddenly Toronto seems like an all-inclusive resort, an oasis of sanity in a churning sea of chaos. Moore wants to live in biblical times. If you listen to his views on immigration, gender equality, gay marriage or reproductive rights — and then swap out his Christianity for, say, Islam — Moore is basically a jihadist.

It’s hard to find this grade of religious extremism in Toronto, which is just one more reason battle-scarred former politicians will flock here in the months ahead. In Toronto, even as visitors, people can be who they want to be without the constant threat of being told who and what they are.

This should be a future tourism campaign: Give us your huddled masses of political refugees who are rich, less powerful than before and feeling under siege. Let Toronto be your sanctuary.

via The Toronto Star

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