2008-11-06

My Crappy Country

The “smug” is officially off being Canadian. With the stunning victory of Barak Obama this week, the well-worn pastime of self-righteously comparing ourselves to US may be coming to an end. Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on exactly how progressive our own country is.

Most of Canada cheered when Obama prevailed but the fact is that even if John McCain had been elected president, the United States would now have far more ambitious carbon reduction goals than Canada.

Our country seems well on the road to becoming a politically compromised petro-state and now trails the developed world in dealing with the greatest issue to face humanity

A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada shows that Canada now has among the worst environmental records of 17 of our major trading partners, ranking only slightly above Australia and the US.

These are only the latest in a series of shameful embarrassments on the world stage that would make Pierre Trudeau spin in his crypt.

Consider Canada’s outrageous flogging of cancer causing asbestos to the poorest countries in the world. The Canadian Medical Association Journal recently compared Canada’s aggressive promotion of our asbestos industry to the “international arms trade”.

Last week Ottawa succeeded in preventing Canadian asbestos from being included in the Rotterdam Convention. This agreement would merely require informing impoverished nations of the well-known human health risks of using this deadly substance.

Rather than defending this heinous position to international community, the Canadian government instead cut a quiet deal behind closed doors with such moral luminaries as Zimbabwe and Russia.

Our country is also become closely aligned with the worst of George Bush’s foreign policy. We have spent close to $20 billion intervening in impoverished Afghanistan, but less than 10% of this was aid. The vast majority of there has instead been on aggressive counter-insurgency.

This, while our military allies are plainly stating that international troops are now "part of the problem, not part of the solution".

Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis unfolds largely unnoticed in the Congo that may rival the Holocaust in loss of human life.

The UN is pleading for peacekeepers, a vocation that was invented by Canadians. Yet in 2006, the number of Canadian peacekeepers worldwide could fit on a school bus. The genocide in Rwanda only fifteen years ago is apparently ancient history.

Canada’s perennial inability or unwillingness to deal with aboriginal living conditions, homelessness, child poverty, world poverty or universal day care speak volumes about what kind of country we have become.

While many Canadians enjoy absolving themselves by instead slagging Stephen Harper, at least he is honest in his disdain for such apparently naïve causes as environmental protection and peacekeeping.

More Canadians voted for his party than any other, and he won the election fair and square on a clear campaign of lower taxes and cheaper fuel. Had he also thrown in free cable, a grateful nation might well have handed him a majority.

The political Left in Canada remains far more committed to partisan gains than egalitarian principles. The provincial NDP’s brazen opposition to the BC carbon tax is a sickening case in point. Jack Layton successfully fear-mongered the proposed Liberal carbon tax in apparent collusion with the Tories.

Both parties maintained that this was an untried experiment though both knew very well that such taxes had been successfully employed in Europe for almost twenty years.

Sweden brought in a carbon tax seventeen years ago and has reduced absolute carbon emissions by 9% below 1990 levels while their economy grew by 44%. Here in the bumpkin backwater of Canada, emissions have ballooned by over 20% with no end (or concern) in sight.

Meanwhile the Green Party succeeded in wasting almost one million progressive votes and have ambitious plans for even more counter-productive lunacy.

For their part, the Liberals immediately threw the hapless Stephane Dion under the bus, and new leadership contenders are rapidly distancing themselves from the political plutonium of meaningful environmental policy.

Even with such stark choices in the last federal election, less than 60% of eligible Canadian voters bothered to exercise their democratic rights that many Canadian veterans gave their lives for. This is the worst voter turn out since confederation.

Electoral reform is one potential route out of this morass but that issue seems dead as a doornail in our jerkwater country.

Every other developed nation in the world besides Canada, the US and the UK have rejected the ancient first past the post system that was a museum piece when we inherited it from the British 150 years ago.

Provincial referenda on electoral reform have failed so far in BC, PEI, and most recently in Ontario where more than 60% of the public rejected the idea with the strident support of such supposedly progressive newspapers as the Toronto Star.

I do not enjoy writing these words but they are true. These and other issues have pushed me in sad transition from proud Canadian to someone who is increasingly ashamed of my country. The fact is that our international reputation was forged over 40 years ago and very little has happened since.

We can of course do much better but for the time being, and foreseeable future, we have chosen not to. It is not surprising that no leader remotely approaching the stature of Obama or Trudeau has appeared on the Canadian landscape. They would wither in the stripmall worldview that has become our new Canadian character.

Is our country capable of picking up the inspirational gauntlet that has been cast down by our southern neighbours? I sincerely doubt it, but would be delighted to be proven wrong.

1 comment:

Linuxluver said...

I'm coming to the conclusion that we will have to accept that people will be kept ill-informed by the corporate media and we will do little about climate change until it's too late....and then the shock doctrine will kick in and the powerful will simply use any emergency to secure control of what they want.

The only obstacle to this is democracy....and that requires and informed, awake and thinking citizenry.

About 15% of the citizenry is awake and alert....the rest snooze on and are easy meat for the manipulators who want to use their collective ignorance to further their own aims and interests.

As long as people can continue to get away with not thinking, this situation will not change.

By the time it changes, it will be too late.

There is not much intelligent life on Earth and we have successfully dumbed down much of what could have been intelligent.