Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Canada, the Former Evolutionary Country, Stays Safe

Canada is not a revolutionary country. We were not born out of bloodshed and chaos, hate and fight. Instead, we did something few can do: marry two cultures who had warred with each other for centuries, who had thought the best thing that could happen was to wipe the other out. But in Canada, the British and French got together and did a bold thing: created Confederation. We dreamt big.

Still, we remained tied to Mama England's apron strings until World War I when we discovered ourselves, our courage, our smarts and achieved something the big girls had not been able to do: capture Vimy Ridge. We dreamt bigger.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, one of our great Prime Ministers, as an expression of our newfound independence of spirit, declared that the 20th century belonged to Canada. And the 20th century did bring us many great things, much due to another of our great Prime Ministers, Lester B. Pearson, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the Suez Canal Crisis and the force behind the creation of our groundbreaking social policies, including medicare. While today the United States tip-toes towards the concept that health care should not be predicated on wealth, Pearson during his minority government plunged us full in. Plus he was the man who gave us our own unique, inspiring flag. We dreamt even bigger.

Then Pierre E. Trudeau brought home our consitution, while Brian Mulroney dragged the politicians and media into free trade with the backing of much of the Canadian people. Trudeau believed we could manage our own rights and responsibilities here at home, all by ourselves without Mama England ensuring we were making the right decisions. And Mulroney believed that we could kick ass in trade and prosper even more economically.

We dreamt biggest.

Then we deflated.

And that's been pretty much it. Since then we have had Prime Ministers who like to talk money -- our biggest vision was to slay the deficit -- not to forward our identity or our democracy.

Since the early 1990s, we have had governments who've slashed research and science budgets to the bone, and continued on with the slashing of knowledge right into the heart of collecting it. This during the information revolution and appearance of the knowledge economy. We have had governments who've successively concentrated power more and more into the Prime Minister's Office and away from Parliament. We have had two major governments, Liberal and Conservative, where corruption is rampant, and the corrupting of the electoral system continues whether it's bussing in of non-citizen seniors to voting places or acclamation of leaders or backing away from redrawing electoral boundaries so that every Canadian's vote is equal or using the Senate to thwart the House of Commons not because of sober second thought but because of partisanship. Since the 1990s, we have elected governments that make Canada a partisanship fiefdom at the expense of Canadians (damn the helicopters), a place where the game is to obstruct the other guy (who's afraid of the big bad election) not empower Canadians, a place where the petty make themselves mighty and even change the name of our country on official letterhead from Canada to their own.

Meanwhile, Canadians egg it on, switching one stale, corrupt party for the other, from one minority to another. Our former creative thinking and courage that brought us Confederation and Constitution has concretized into stay-safe thoughts of if I vote for the NDP or the Green Party, it'll be wasted, or if I vote who I really want to vote for, the other guy will get in, or if I can change it so my vote will matter more, I'll say no cause change and dreams and striving for a better democracy is for those who must give up their lives.

It seems that we will be facing another election, with the same result almost inevitable, the only question being which party in the Liberal-Conservative coalition will lead. Yet two parties advocate the creative, courageous idea of democratic reform. They are not the Liberals and Conservatives. These two parties believe they are entitled to govern and have no need to reform a system that vaults them into power with the fewest votes possible. Canadians confirm them in that view by their voting patterns.

While Egyptians dared to sit in a square, tanks around them, until their President left and they had assurances of a new form of governance, we shrug and say all governments are corrupt, we deserve no better, so we'll just go from Liberal to Conservative and back to Liberal again.

While Libyans face slaughter for the chance at democracy, we opine that we can not flex our full democratic muscles and consider all four national parties as viable leaders, only two.

While the poor and oppressed rise up in Yemen and Bahrain, knowing the West won't come to help, yet yearning for freedom and education too much to simply complain in private anymore, needing to act so badly they want to put their lives in firing range, we stay happy in our complaining.

Laurier looked ahead into a century that brought evolution to Canada. Our Liberal and Conservative leaders look forward into an election that will bring them power. And Canadians look south for hope that is embodied in the US President, ignoring the hope of trying out new perspectives from the NDP and Green Party, not seeing as viable these parties' visions and bold ideas of democratic reform to re-energize our country Canada.



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