IS IT JUST ME, OR IS AMERICA TRYING TO BE MORE LIKE CANADA, AND CANADA TRYING TO BE MORE LIKE AMERICA? (SOMETHING TELLS ME, WE’RE GOING TO MEET SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE!)
Have you noticed these last several years, how America is trying to emulate some aspects of Canada’s more left-of-centre domestic policies, especially on health care? In Canada, however, we seem to be going in the opposite direction. We seem to be backing away from Medicare, gun control; we’re building more prisons, laying off more civil servants, privatizing more government agencies and so on.
It’s as if the two political cultures of these two countries are having an allergic reaction to each’s origins, and are trying to move towards the model of their immediate neighbour. America has always been more libertarian, individualistic, and private sector-oriented. Men of property have built that country and have fiercely advocated for protecting their property and wealth from being taxed and controlled by government.
On the other hand, Canada has been built for the most part by a propertied class of mostly men who have seen the advantage of allying themselves closely with the Crown, in the form of various levels of government, so as to get help building various enterprises which would help them profit from the mother lode of wealth that this country has to offer. One only has to think of the great canal and railway-building schemes of the 19th centuries and early 20th century.
As the 20th century wore on, and neo-conservative politics took hold in western countries after the rise of Ronald Reagan in 1980, this ideology of free-market ‘everything’, and ‘we’ve got to lower taxes’, and ‘get government off our backs’, started to insidiously make its way into Canada. Granted, government had become quite big in our country, but that had been for a good reason. It didn’t just grow because it was hell-bent on oppressing people.
There was a deep-seated desire on the part of the average person, especially after the great sufferings imposed by the two world wars and the Great Depression, to use the instrument of the state to improve people’s lives by investing in group-centred policies such as public housing, medical care, social services, education, and so on. I think people are starting to forget just how mean-spirited and socially bereft our two countries were not so long ago before the government stepped in and did things for people in spite of the protests of men of property who saw that their wealth might be taxed to make it happen, which never goes over well.
Now we find ourselves with a government in the U.S.A., trying to stare down very entrenched propertied interests who are vowing to repeal such things as the so-called ‘Obama Care’ medical care bill, flawed as it is, but better than what was there before nevertheless. We also find ourselves in Canada with a government who seems to have the interests of the very same propertied class of people at heart when it comes time to ‘dumbing down’ our country’s level of government services.
I sort of wonder: Are the Americans going to be able to pull themselves up while we get dumbed down, or are we all going to get dumbed down to a level heretofore unseen since the time of Charles Dickens? Hopefully, we’ll be able to strike a happy medium somewhere in the middle, because people are still people, and they deserve better than to be left to fend for themselves without any protection from the vagaries of market forces, which, as we all know, can be fairly unforgiving and brutal in their ability to mete out punishment and economic hardship to the common folk of these lands we call Canada and America.
So, Stephen Harper, and Barak Obama, are you listening? Can you balance your budgets, wage your wars, collect taxes, and maintain services, all without affecting the quality of life of the common folk of your respective countries? If so, how? If not, where will you cut? If you need to raise taxes, will you have the strength to do so, and to stand up to the entrenched interests of money, power, property and prestige who pressure you not to tax them, and who proffer all manner of threats and blackmail to dissuade you from acting in the public interest?
These are challenging times. They require strong leadership if we are to move forward into the new millennium with strength and fortitude. The world of our fathers and grandfathers is rapidly slipping away from us, and along with them, their memories of battles fought, lost and won, both on the battlefield, the boardroom, the bedroom, the legislature, and especially, in the crucial realm of public opinion.
Let us not shy away from our duties as citizens of not only our respective countries, but as citizens of the continent and of the world, to make a world which is truly in the image of the perfection of our Heavenly Creator. A world, closer to the heart. Amen.