Apr. 25, 2006

Canadian Politics

PM Harper's government has taken a couple of measures to keep troop casualties off the public radar. The flag on Parliament Hill will no longer fly at half-mast after a death of Canadian soldiers and media will no longer be allowed to photograph the return of the bodies to Trenton base.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that they are playing from the Bush team P.R. playbook. Why not? They're fighting their wars.

And mimicking the US way of doing things is nothing new for this lot. The farce of a non-voting parliamentary hearing for the new Supreme Court appointee; Harper's surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan; his made-in-the-USA crime policy; tax-cuts; opposition to Kyoto even the Conservative proposal for an elected Senate. Notice that all their "reforms" make us more like Americans.

I'm old enough to remember when the Conservatives stood for the British connection and accused the Liberals of wanting to Americanize us. I guess they always shilled for the Empire.

Changing gears a little bit; this brings up the whole hoary topic of Canada-US relations. Something Americans never think about but Canadians agonize over continually. A little history; this country started (at least the English bit) as a conservative revolt against the American revolution. The first English settlers in Ontario came in as United Empire Loyalists, none of that Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness nonsense for us. Pass another cup of that lovely English tea, tax-stamp and all. God save the King.

The Americans tried to wipe us out in 1812. That war is mostly a foot-note in American histories, but for a long while in Canada it was the formative national narrative; a heroic epic of resistance to the republican hordes. I don't know what kind of politically correct treacle passes for Canadian history in schools these days, but when I was but a lad (back when rocks were soft) the main topic on the curriculum was the war of 1812. Which we won. Episodes and names from that conflict were drilled into our impressionable little skulls; Lundy's Lane, Laura Secord, the burning of the White-House.

Note on the last; British regulars came ashore in Chesapeake Bay, marched inland, briefly held the city of Washington and torched the president's house. However, most Canadians to this day seem to believe it was colonial militias who did it.

So what's our attitude toward the Americans today? We need to distinguish first off between the general question and the specific one relating to the present administration. Bush couldn't get elected as ward alderman anywhere in Canada. I doubt he could get a job at Tim Hortons.

On the general question; the best way to understand it is to look at Canadian attitudes toward international sporting events, especially hockey tournaments. There's nothing we like better than soundly trouncing the Americans, it's much more satisfying than beating anyone else. However, and this is worth noting, if the Canadians are eliminated from play, our sympathies switch and we generally root for the Americans against everyone else.

Bush once said that Canadians and Americans were like family. I guess so. They are like the big brother. He plays his stereo too loud, he's a jerk and a dumb jock and he tries to hog all the dessert at dinner. He's always picking fights with the neighbour kids, and besides which we're sick of wearing his hand-me-downs. But he's still our brother. And he does have a cool record collection.

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