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Over There (in the UK)

September 6, 2000 at 9 AM

The 51st state in 25

The 51st state in 25 years? It's always interesting when American media actually pay attention to li'l ol' Canada. The Washington Post did so yesterday--on the front page, no less--in a feature by its departing Canadian correspondent, Steven Pearlstein.

The article quotes a bevy of Canadian analysts, experts and notables, all of whom seemingly see the end nigh. If you are a nationalist (I ain't), there are indeed some alarming numbers. Canada controls only 70 percent of its "productive capacity"--a symptom of business-gobbling mergers and acquisitions by American firms. A majority of Canadians see the loonie disappearing in favour of the greenback. The Canadian per capita income has fallen embarassingly in comparison to the USA. And oh yes, let's not forget the infamous Brain Drain.

The editorial board at the National Post must be giddy. The article reads like a sly propaganda piece for Andrew Coyne and Diane Francis; it's sweet candy for Stockwell Day. The communications scholar in me warns that writing stories with statistics leaves a lot of room for subjective interpretation. Some of the very same polls that say Canadian incomes are on the whole lower also say that if you are poor, you'd better hope not to be an American; the gap between the upper and lower class in Canada is significantly less significant.

Pushing aside the economese, though, Pearlstein has some insightful notes. Canada has had its own school shooting. Our laudable health care system pleases no one these days, and besides conservative newspaper columnists, I've heard family members and friends say they would pay for better service.

Pearlstein has also noticed English Canada's lack of attention to history: "...they have so little of it they consider worth remembering." This morning's Montreal Gazette countered with a "We do so have history!" response, but they missed the keyword in the sentence: "consider." Having studied some Canadian and specifically Quebec history, I know there are some rich historical nuggets, but few are aware of them or consider them noteworthy. No wars, no Lincolns, but an important rebellion, some shocking maltreatment of anyone not British, and no end of scandalous politics. And that's just the bad stuff.

Moreover, if Canadians paid attention to how history is painted in French Quebec--it's a very different story here, one coloured (or should I say colored?) in shades of fervent patrimoine--they might learn something. Instead of using anti-Americanism (often distastefully vitriolic) as a source of nationalism, we might try building on our own heroes, fables and myths. It irks me that half the streets in any Canadian town West of Cornwall are named after dead British guys who probably never so much as sneezed over Canada.

Then again, I'm acting a bit like a typical Canadian myself--getting all worked up over what an American thinks. "But...but...it's just not true!" Well, maybe it is.

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Previously: Deary me! It’s been awhile.Well,

Subsequently: Happy birthday, Patrick!

September 2000
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