I find it embarrassing that many Canadians know more about the American political system and landscape than their own. Even worse, and what makes me mad, is that many – maybe most – Canadians apply American politics to their own country. They associate certain Canadian parties or candidates with American parties or candidates they like or dislike and, based on a perceived similarity, choose who or what to support accordingly. They don’t think in terms of Canada, and what’s good for it. They don’t think about what we are or what we need. They assume a direct correlation and don’t stop to think that we are a completely different country with different political problems to solve, different priorities, and a different outlook.
This is influenced by, among other things, the fact that we are at different stages of development, or political and economic maturity. The U.S. is at its zenith. They are the only superpower in the world, at the moment. Canada is still in its ascendancy, or adolescence. Obviously, a superpower at its zenith and an up and comer have different needs, outlooks, and priorities. For one thing, when you’re on top it can seem that the only way is down, so you act to prevent or delay the inevitable downfall. You tend to look at the world in terms of perceived threats. You look over your shoulder. Right now, China’s ascendancy is looking like a threat to American dominance. By contrast, when you’re growing and developing you tend to look to the future, and new goals and opportunities. This outlook could be seen by a superpower as not being in line with their interests, especially if you happen to share a continent with them. By assuming and applying American views, we often work against our own ambitions.
The U.S. became independent about ninety years before us and in a completely different manner. They fought a revolution, striking out on their own immediately. Canadian independence came in stages, starting with Confederation in 1867, then our first independent declaration of war in WW1, then the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the first Canadian passports in the 1940s, and repatriation of the Constitution in the 1980s. The final step of letting go of the apron strings and ending the symbolic relationship with the British monarchy to establish a Canadian republic – specifically, a secular republic – is one I’m looking forward to.
Here again, however, perceptions of American parallels interfere with true perceptions of Canadian realities. Historically, any movement in Canada for full independence has been called a republican movement because the result will be a Canadian republic. Unfortunately, when most Canadians hear the word ‘republican’, they think they hear ‘Republican’. They apply American politics to Canadian politics and think a movement for a fully independent Canada would lead to Prime Minister George W. Bush - or something like that. Most Canadians tend to dislike the American Republican party and its policies. That probably explains why the American right wing media often portrays us negatively. Those same Canadians tend to associate the Conservative party with American Republicans. However, it is the Conservatives who are most commited to maintaining the links with the monarchy. So, Canadians’ perceptions of the possibilities for their own country, and desirability of them, are skewed by inappropriate and inaccurate application of American models to Canada.
Canada is not at its zenith. At times, though, it seems like we’re not even trying to get there. We aren’t planning for our own future success. No one seems to have a vision for the future beyond selling raw materials to the Americans and, now, the Chinese. If we’re going to think like Americans, why don’t we think about building our own successful nation? Why don’t we become a powerhouse? If, as a certain book store chain said, the world needs more Canada, shouldn’t we let it know we’re here? To do that, shouldn’t we be a bit more proactive? Wouldn’t we then stand a better chance of having a positive influence in the world?
How’s this for a start – if the world needs more Canada, doesn’t it need more Canadians? Then we’ll be a bigger market. Bigger markets can produce bigger companies. Bigger companies are more visible and have a better chance of expanding to other countries rather than being acquired by foreign companies. They can become global players, creating wealth at home and spreading Canadian values abroad.
We need leaders who are bold enough to move us forward. That may mean choosing a more difficult path. It may mean standing up to those who may think our own path is not in their interest. Unfortunately, our political leaders follow public opinion and tell people what they think they want to hear, regardless of whether the public’s opinion is an informed one or not. I haven’t heard of a really fresh idea in Ottawa in about forty years. And, where do the public get their opinions? Very often from American media. Just as unfortunate is the fact that our business leaders tend to be market followers rather than market makers. The easy money is in exporting logs and oil and metals - let the Americans do the hard part. Leaders are supposed to lead.
American socio-political models just don’t apply to Canada. They debate whether to have a national healthcare system. We’ve had one for decades. Yet, many Canadians vote for the Canadian party they associate with the American struggle to get what we already have, when what we really need is a few of those big companies that keep buying us up.
We won’t realize our full potential until we stop applying current American views to current Canadian situations and Canadian goals. We have to start thinking of, for, and about ourselves.
Tags: 1867, 1931, British monarchy, Canadian history, Canadian independence, Canadian republic, Canadian values, China, Confederation, Conservative party, George W. Bush, global players, globalism, healthcare, history, independence, leadership, market followers, market makers, national healthcare system, Ottawa, policies, political debate, Prime Minister, public opinion, repatriation of Canada's constitution, republican, Republican party, republicanism, revolution, secular republic, Statute of Westminster, superpower, the monarchy, the world needs more Canada, U.S., USA, WW1, WWI