Classy and Cold: Canada turns 150 Years July 1
Happy birthday, Canada.
Plaudits for our great country and the worldwide respect it has earned steadily for the past 150 years since independence.
Back in 1867, Canada was a moribund British colony beside an aggressive republic emerging from a civil war and about to conquer its western territory and launch the Industrial Revolution. Decades later, in 1945, the two allies were the only economies left standing and began to join forces.
Canada has become now the poster child among nations due to an economy and social system that is demonstrably better than most.
It may be the most fitting present of all that Canada has become the darling of America’s liberals. The day after the election of Donald Trump, Canada’s immigration website crashed as Americans flooded to find out information about how to come here.
As Americans flail and filibuster, Canadians quietly and efficiently get on with life. Even grave problems have been overcome because of the unique social contract that Canadians have forged for 150 years. This has not been without difficulty, event violence, or negative consequences. But the outcome is a country that is the Scandinavia of the Western Hemisphere: sophisticated, classy, coddled, prosperous, educated, and … mostly cold.
But Canada’s heart is warm, not mean spirited or imperial or burdened with superpower responsibilities.
This is the differentiator and why we are in the enviable position we occupy today. It wasn’t easy, but it happened and must be sustained. So, in the spirit of not taking ourselves for granted, here’s my list of Canada’s strengths:
* A modern and efficient economy.
* An educated and motivated workforce.
* A good healthcare system for all that provides world-class outcomes at half the cost of the dysfunctional American system.
*An economic meritocracy that provides opportunities to all citizens based on their efforts.
*A solid social safety net that looks after all in need.
*An affordable educational system that does not discriminate against children by postal code or status or identity.
*A parliamentary system that gets things done even though clear majority mandates for one party are rare. Most prime ministers get majorities – which avoid gridlock — but only twice since 1950 has a prime minister won 50% of the popular vote. This keeps our leaders honest and oriented toward finding and holding consensus.
*A legal system that is not corrupt or politicized.
*A British-style society that encourages politeness, courtesy, and avoids confrontations. This is not only pleasant but fosters empathy and levels the playing field. Those with manners have an opportunity to gain entry anywhere.
This gentility is a competitive advantage. It dictates a public discourse, along with strict libel and slander laws, that cannot deteriorate into the crude and damaging name-calling that afflicts the American and other polities. The street brawl called Washington D.C. these days is upsetting and damaging to Americans.
Canada’s social sensibility has helps overcome divisions, such as the French-English divide. Canadians don’t have civil wars, they have Parliamentary debates, white papers, referenda, policy conferences, and eventually compromises.
The Canadian mentality has balanced collective and individual rights – a feat which many other countries have failed to attain.
Canada has always kept a great relationship with its cacophonous neighbor to the south as well as all nations.
Canadians don’t gloat or swagger which is why Brand Canada is one of the most liked in the world. This is bankable.
As a result of these factors, and more, Canadians have reason to be optimistic about the future. This is because winning conditions exist, but also because in a world that is transforming – due to technology and geopolitics – the Canadian nation has demonstrated an aptitude for reaching consensus then setting a mutually beneficial course.
For 20 years, Canada has sustained a 2.7 per cent growth rate until the 2008 recession, but in the next 20 years the new normal will be 1.8 per cent due to the aging population and poor productivity gains, according to a recent report.
On the trade side, it’s likely that revisions to NAFTA will leave Canada relatively unscathed. However, serious problems remain unaddressed, notably illicit offshore flows that have created a real estate bubble in Toronto and Vancouver, and the fact that technology will disrupt the energy and auto sectors dramatically.
But the good news is that we’re up to the challenges and the other good news is that if we’re not we’ll figure out how to collectively cope then move forward again.
First published National Post