It’s true what they say: The grass is always greener on the other side of the 49th parallel. And so, I’m delighted to be the Canadian half of Dave Swindle’s great cross-cultural engagement and work towards a common understanding, I fear I must begin by defining the differences in political culture between our two nations, and remind my friend Dave to be grateful for what he’s got in the good ol’ U. S. of A.!
Dave wondered why I’d want more average Canadians to take interest in their politics, given how screwed up the American system is. He advises me to work to get politicians who share my values elected, but to do that I’d need them to express actual values in a consistent manner. Because average Canadians don’t care about politics, Canadian politicians have no reason to do that!
I challenged Dave to watch the Maclean’s leaders’ debate in addition to the Republican primary clusterkludge on the same night. That would have made him one of 30,000 people watching despite Maclean’s trying to tell us why their debate matters (NOTE TO MACLEAN’S: IF YOU HAVE TO TELL PEOPLE YOUR DEBATE MATTERS, IT DOESN’T MATTER). By comparison, 24 million people watched the Republicans bash each other about, and everyone on that stage put on their game face and differentiated despite the fact that Trump walked away with it.
When 30K out of 7.5 million eligible Canadian voters are watching a debate and the only people you have to impress are the jackals on Twitter, it would be silly for anyone onstage to be worried about principles or values. You can get into a side conversation about national unity and have it be the debate’s defining moment! For Dave’s sake: This is like if the Republicans had randomly started talking about the constitutional framework under which the South could secede.
Let’s use another particularly silly and very Canadian example. Last week, an entire day of a federal election campaign was wasted in a debate over a tax on Netflix of all things. I doubt the good people of Southern California would tolerate this for a minute, especially in a country where they once went to war over a tax on tea. The CPC planted their flag: Vote for us if you don’t want greedy bureaucrats taking a percentage every time you watch Daredevil!
Canadian politicians and parties are all over the place ideologically to the point where Dave’s well-intentioned project of classifying conservatives is near-impossible in a Canadian context. Everyone knows Peter Mackay is the Reddest of Red Tories...even though he is pro-life. Frank Klees, one of the few Ontario Conservative MPP’s to receive brand name recognition, ran two leadership bids- one as a social conservative, another as a Red Tory. In the alleged conservative heartland of Alberta, Jim Prentice enjoyed a reputation as what Dave might classify as “Corporatist Cold Warrior Conservative” even as members of the far more right-wing Wild Rose Alliance joined his party.
Canada have little to no sense of who our Fathers of Confederation were, what our Constitution is all about, or even that our flag looks the way it does because the governing Liberals didn’t want to upset Quebec. None of this is ideal, but, to use a uniquely Canadian idiom: It is what it is.
Dave, my friend: The American concepts you're talking about are wonderful and interesting, but they are simply abstractions to most Canadians. Ask yourself: What is it about our history and culture that appeals to you? Then we can work from there to find common ground.
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