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Is Canada Canadian? And other Tales and Parables.

Is Canada truly Canadian, or is it simply an undeclared territory of the tumultuous “Excited States”?

A month ago, I would have been able to answer that question without even thinking about it.

Now, I’m not so sure.

What’s caused me to question the status of my home and native land? Well, to be honest, it’s the recent actions of our Prime Minister.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Kevin O’Leary supporter. Heck, I’m not even a Conservative; but the recent political footwork of Justin Trudeau has my puzzler puzzling until it plain hurts. ( With apologies to Dr. Suess )

Hamburg, to go:

What first caught my eye, was a speech that the Prime Minister gave to some well-heeled captains of German industry, in Hamburg. The remarks were startling not only because of the audience, but because they came from the lips of the leader of a G-8 nation.

Trudeau told the black-tie crowd that current capitalist conventions, are no longer acceptable.

“When companies post record profits on the backs of workers consistently refused full-time work – and the job security that comes with it – people get defeated.

And when governments serve special interests  instead of the citizens interests who elected them – people lose faith.

Increasing inequality has made citizens distrust their governments. Distrust their employers.

It turns into “Us” vs. “Them”.

And we’re watching that anxiety transform into anger on an almost daily basis.”

He then went on to chastise the guests who had paid a significant dollar, just to hear him speak.

You have an equally important responsibility to your workers, their families, and the communities that support you.

It’s time to pay a living wage. To pay your taxes. And give your workers the benefits – and peace of mind – that come with stable, full-time contracts.

Ahhh, truly, it was enough to warm the cockles of any socialist heart. Including my own. Until I began to wonder why our Prime Minister was acting like a somewhat churlish messenger in a country that already does a better job of providing pensions for the elderly, and stable, meaningful employment to its young citizens, than we do here in Canada. Why wasn’t he standing up in Parliament, or in front of a Bay Street bunch that would match their German counterparts, to deliver such a significant message?

Was it simply a trial balloon, floated in front of a room full of foreigners, in advance of the pending federal budget speech?

Will the “Oh!” brothers; Trudeau and Morneau, walk the walk on budget day? Or will the salty sauerbraten, served up in Hamburg, prove to be unappetizing on this side of the pond?

There could, of course, be many reasons that the Prime Minister called for such significant societal reform, but one in particular has been buzzing around in my brain for several days.

With a Slice of Swiss Cheese:

Early in the new year, delegates to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland received a lecture similar to the one delivered to the Hamburg crowd, in a report issued by one of the most powerful economic organizations in the world.

The global money-shakers of the WEF told international policy wonks, governments, and financial big-wigs, that income inequality threatens global security. ( Global Security, in this sense, meaning the steady thrum of capitalist, ‘business as usual’, profit-making machinery.)

The idea, was not their own.

Six months earlier, the incestuous twin-sister of the WEF, known widely as the International Monetary Fund, had issued its own clarion call of concern, about the rising tide of ‘populist’ politics, and the increasingly restive 99%.

Known as the “Trickle Down Report”, the document told us what we’ve already known for more than three decades: that is, “trickle-down economics”, do not work. Ronald Reagan’s solution for the great recession of the ’80’s was indeed, as George Bush the Elder proclaimed at the time, “voodoo economics”, benefitting no one but Wall Street bankers, and the idle rich.

It’s not that the flinty eyed bankers of the IMF/WEF had suddenly arrived at a startling epiphany. No. Instead they prudently recognize that “the jig is up”. No longer can the plutocrats of the planet impudently plunder the global reserves of wealth, generated by the labours of the vast majority. Not unless they are willing to face a severe comeuppance comparable to the fall of Louis the XVI. The lower classes are restive, and clearly angry.

So, when the Prime Minister suddenly begins to preach the doctrines of shared prosperity aloud, in a public forum, I have to ask my companion at the trough to pass the shaker, so that I might tap out a grain or two of salt to swallow. Is he really sticking up for Canadians? Providing a Canadian solution? Showing global leadership and courage? Or simply following the blueprint laid down by the most powerful monied interests in the world? Interests primarily controlled by the United States.

The “new” plan, seems to be a push for something known as “Universal Basic Income”, or UBI.

The drift of it, is this: governments will provide a guaranteed base ‘salary’ to every single adult citizen in the country, in order to wipe out poverty, encourage income equality, and protect the average citizen from the worst monetary affects of technological change, and globalization. Job loss, precarious employment, and poverty.

On the surface it sounds great, and, as a socialist I have to admit that it seems like a simple, and enticing solution to our current malaise.

But in truth, it seems upon reflection to represent nothing more than a new form of “wage slavery”, in which the rich continue their boundless consumption of wealth, while the rest of us struggle for satisfaction as we scramble for the crumbs that fall from the banquet table.

Call me skeptical, or even cynical, if you wish. But how often has Canada, as a nation, ever taken such a bold stand on an issue of such global concern? Other than turning down the offer to join the “Coalition of the Willing”, and jump into George “W”‘s American war with Iraq, nothing immediately leaps to mind.

A Very Canadian Pickle:

And then there was last week’s state visit of the Prime Minister, to “The New Republic of the Fourth Reich”, formerly known as the “Land of Liberty”, or the United States of America, if you prefer.

Had Canada truly desired to set its own course, and carve a new path into the global wilderness, we might have seen Mr. Trudeau offer up some surprising rhetoric equal to that uttered in his Hamburg address. After all, there were plenty of topics available, on which he might plant the flag of “Canadian values”.

But a photo-op with Ivanka, does not resolve misogyny. Nor does a careful, and polite restatement of an established national policy regarding immigration and diversity, do anything to battle racism, and Islamaphobia.

It’s obsequious behaviour that could be rationalized I suppose, on the grounds that you don’t want to throw rocks at a Bully, just as you’re about to make an attempt to hold on to your lunch money.  ( Lunch money, in this sense, meaning a reasonably favourable trade agreement under NAFTA )

But all of this pales in comparison, to the latest proposal to “enhance” border security and offer Canadians unparalleled preferential access to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave: Bill C-23.

And of course, the Bill:

Officially known as the Preclearance Act the Bill gives unprecedented power and authority to American agents from the Dept. of Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If passed, it would allow U.S. Border guards to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens, on Canadian soil. Those detained would have no legal right to contact a lawyer, or to return from detainment to Canada, without the express permission of the American authorities. It would even allow American agents to order a strip-search of Canadian citizens, without the consent, or agreement of Canadian Border Services personnel.

And this unique legal aberration, is currently being both promoted and defended by the Prime Minister and his government.

What’s wrong with it, might be illustrated by “The Parable of the Eagle and the Beaver Lodge”, a tale of my own invention. It goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was a quiet, happy little beaver, that enjoyed one of the finest and most comfortable homes in all of  the animal kingdom; his own, wonderful beaver lodge, known far and wide as ‘Canada’. It was sturdily built of mud and sticks that kept both the harsh cold of winter, and the teeth and claws of nasty predators outside of its cosy interior.

The neighbour that lived closest to the happy little beaver, was the proud and majestic bald eagle, who occupied the high limbs of a nearby tree. The eagle had his own fine, and expansive nest, also built of sticks, and generally he paid little or no attention, to the happy little beaver. This was quite remarkable, as the eagle could easily have made a satisfying lunch of the happy little beaver, and so the beaver told himself  that obviously, he and the eagle were good friends.

One day, the winds of change began to blow furiously around the nest where the bald eagle lived, and there were terrible storms, and heavy clouds that poured rain mercilessly upon the nest of the proud eagle. From his high perch he looked down upon the little beaver lodge and wondered to himself; “Why should I be buffeted by the storm? Am I not the master of the entire marsh and forest, for as far as my sharp eagle eyes can see? Perhaps I will visit the Beaver, and his wonderful lodge of sticks, and ask for a favour.”

So, the eagle flew down and sat on the edge of the beaver’s lodge, and screeched a screech that he hoped was a warm, and friendly greeting. The beaver, startled to hear the eagle so close to his home, cautiously stuck his nose above the water, and smiled his best toothy smile.

“Hello, Eagle,” he said, ” How are you doing?”

“Not very well, thank you,” said the eagle, ” I am very wet and uncomfortable with the current state of  affairs out in my nest, and I wonder if you would be willing to agree to a proposal I’m about to make.”

And so the eagle asked whether the beaver might be willing to let him push the sticks around on the top of the lodge, just enough that he might be able to stick his tail feathers inside the lodge to dry them out, and keep them beautiful. In return the eagle promised the beaver something very special; something that no other animal would have the chance to do. A chance to come to the eagle’s nest and see the entire forest!

The beaver was a little bit wary, but very curious, and greatly flattered that the powerful eagle would make such a unique offer to him. So, he agreed, and the eagle pecked away at the top of the lodge until he had cut a small hole. Then he stuck his tail feathers inside the warm, dry lodge to dry, and thanked the beaver for being such a good friend.

It was only a very short while, however, before the eagle once again called out to the beaver.

“Please, let me make the hole just a little bit bigger, so that I might be able to spread my wings inside, and let them dry as well? After all, if you are to come to my nest it would be much easier and more convenient for you to fly there with me.”

“Fly!” , thought the beaver. ” Oh how wonderful and amazing that would be!” And so he quickly agreed with the eagle’s request, and soon, the large wings of the eagle were taking up a large amount of space in the beaver lodge. “No bother, ” thought the beaver, ” it’s only for a little while, and then I will receive a wonderful reward!”  And he thought not only of the amazing things he would see, but how easily and quickly he would be able to get to the eagle’s nest.

But the eagle’s wings were hardly settled inside the lodge when again the powerful bird called out. ” Please beaver, let me have just a little more room in your lodge for my poor bald head, and then I will be dry very soon, and able to take you to see my nest more quickly.”

The beaver was a little bit upset by the amount of space that the eagle seemed to be demanding, but once again he thought of the marvelous reward that he would receive, and the thought of receiving it more quickly, made him giddy with excitement. But just to let the eagle know that he wasn’t completely thrilled by the arrangement, he said ( as politely as he could ) “Oh, yes, very well eagle. But please, this is as far as I can go in our agreement, as you are very large and powerful, and not only do I find that I’m a little anxious about that, but I have so very little room left in my lodge, that it hardly seems like my own at all.”  

At that, the eagle smiled, and answered, ” Don’t worry little beaver. Trust me. We’ll be able to leave very soon, and this will all be behind us.” And with that, the eagle made one last great push into the cosy lodge — and the beaver discovered, much to his dismay, just what the eagle’s talons, were for. And although he did indeed make it to the eagle’s nest, he never enjoyed the reward he’d been hoping for. “

And the moral of the story is this: Don’t be like the beaver. Trading the promise of easy access for sovereignty, is a fool’s bargain.

So I am asking once again, is Canada truly Canadian? Or, are we simply undeclared territory?

scoturquhart@outlook.com

I'm a veteran broadcast journalist, producer, writer, and talk show gadabout. I like to play bad hockey, drink good beer, take sporadic rides on my bicycle and generally annoy my family with Dad jokes and selective memory. ( Lois the dog, excepted. )

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