Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Canadians Get Their Country Back

For many of us Americans, Canada is well just...boring. After all, we are mighty America who like Superman is going around the world in a never ending fight for truth, justice, and (of course) the American way!

Why the American way? Many in this country believe in 'American Exceptionalism.' Our country is exceptional; Canada (and presumably every other country) is not!

Perhaps there's no harm to this little bit of self-serving bravado. Or maybe there is! It's easy to get lulled into thinking we are the best at everything we do because we are well...Americans!

But instead of our putting on blinders and refusing to see how other countries do things, we should pay attention to what they do better and perhaps adopt their methods. A great place to start would be our northern neighbor, Canada.

Canada over the last nine plus years had been subjected to the very conservative policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Many Canadians feared that they were being pulled so far to the right that they might become another America where extreme conservatives were making Congress almost totally dysfunctional.

So in the recent Canadian election, they threw the (Conservative) bums out including Harper and replaced him with the Liberal Justin Trudeau, son of the late former PM, Pierre Trudeau.

While Canada certainly has its conservatives, its politics overall skews significantly more liberal than in America. For example, Canada has had a single-payer 'Medicare for all' health insurance system for some time now that has had no serious opposition from the Conservatives. In fact, back in 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Company conducted a nationwide poll of its viewers to determine who deserved the title of The Greatest Canadian. The winner was Tommy Douglas (a social democrat similar to Bernie Sanders) who in Canada is fondly remembered simply as The Father of Medicare.

NYT op-ed columnist Paul Krugman makes this observation in his article Keynes Comes to Canada:
Which brings us to the issue of deficits and public investment. Here’s what the Liberal Party of Canada platform had to say on the subject: “Interest rates are at historic lows, our current infrastructure is aging rapidly, and our economy is stuck in neutral. Now is the time to invest.”
Does that sound reasonable? It should, because it is. We’re living in a world awash with savings that the private sector doesn’t want to invest, and is eager to lend to governments at very low interest rates. It’s obviously a good idea to borrow at those low, low rates, putting those excess savings, not to mention the workers unemployed due to weak demand, to use building things that will improve our future.
Unfortunately, this sensible bit of mainstream economic wisdom is at odds with most of the rest of the First World economies which are trying to fight unemployment by government spending cuts to try and balance their budgets (aka austerity) - which in most cases is making things worse!  In addition, Krugman points out that because the Canadians did not have the extreme fetish for deregulation of their financial markets like in the US, they were largely spared the brunt of the financial crash of 2008.

I would like to refer the reader to a wonderful op-ed Justin Trudeau: Low Expectations, High Relief by Heather Mallick of The Toronto Star which nicely contrasts the Canadian and American mindsets.
The...election defeat of Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister of Canada, and the triumph of his most hated rival, the Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, gave many Canadians that rush of feeling they so rarely enjoy: “It’s a girl.” “The lab says it’s benign.” “Your long national nightmare is over.” 
Ultimately Mr. Harper’s problem in this election was that he couldn’t win nationally with just an older, white male, rural base.
This is the same problem that US Republicans have which will make it very problematic for them to win any future national elections.
For Canadians are different from Americans, and we like it that way. We don’t think we’re exceptional; in fact, it’s rather important to us that we’re not, because that would imply that other nations are below par, which would be quite rude. We are a vast, cold country with a small population of about 36 million and it is essential for Canadians to connect with and help one another. Mr. Trudeau understands that; Mr. Harper did not.
The liberal motto: "We're all in this together!"  The conservative motto: "You're on your own!"
But money doesn’t come first here. We’re ambitious. We pay healthy taxes to support a national single-payer health care system, the jewel of our country.
And there is this take on our respective attitudes towards guns:
Take guns, and you may. We have rifles and other long guns but spend time alone with them in the woods to kill wild animals. What other purpose would there be for rifles? 
She concludes with this:
Mr. Trudeau is different. He is a better match for Canadians’ vision of themselves: peaceable, educated, emotionally stable, multicultural.
This is a far cry from the American electorate, especially those on the far right whose vision is largely warlike, anti-intellectual, batshit crazy and xenophobic. 

OK Canada, maybe you are a bit boring. But that doesn't mean there isn't a hell of a lot we Americans can learn from you!

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