Whither Canada? Where is Our Vision?

I rarely -- RARELY -- agree with David Peterson, but tonight on the "Dare to Dream" Panel on TVO's Studio 2, he made eminent sense.

This country has not had a leader with a national dream since Brian Mulroney. That's 14 years ago. Jean Chretien's policy of eliminating the deficit is not a vision; it's a necessity of good government functioning. Paul Martin articulated nothing, and Stephen Harper has priorities.

A national railway connecting the country from coast to coast, having the 20th century belong to Canada, deciding to separate from Mother Britain and putting our own military forces under our own command, developing an unemployment insurance program based on the idea of us as a compassionate people, creating our own flag, Medicare, the Just Society idea, bringing home the Constitution, free trade -- these were all national visions, articulating who we are and who we want to become, each a step towards greater emancipation from Britain and a stronger identity of who Canada is.

It's fashionable in certain circles to poo-poo the idea of Canadian identity or to describe it only in terms of what we are not vis a vis the Americans, but Canada is a young country, and with each vision a Prime Minister espouses we grow stronger in knowing and expressing who we are.

Unfortunately since Chretien came into power, all PMs have been talking about are money matters. Even Stephen Harper today talks about priorities but not about a vision. In fact, some of his actions have mitigated against a vision. Peterson, and I believe Floyd Laughren, spoke about Canadians across the land crying out for leadership. We want our PMs, our leaders, to rally us around a national dream. Deficit cutting, doing nothing, and now this year, GST cutting, going back on accords, fiscal imbalance resolution are all important, but none are visions or dreams. The closest we have today is the increase in defence spending -- and my, what a spending spree Harper is having this week -- which looks like an expression of an idea. Unfortunately I can only guess at that idea. I think Harper may see it as a way to make the Americans like us again or job creation. I see it as saying that we are a sovereign country that has enough pride in herself to not expect others to come to her rescue like a damsel in distress, that we will be able to stand up for herself so that even a tiny country like Denmark will think twice before trying to lay claim to our territory. Job creation naturally happens when a vision is implemented, but is not the vision unto itself.

I see three visions for Canada. We are a nation of smart, determined innovators. We are only here because the people before us created a technological society out of rock. Those people needed courage, determination, ingenuity, and some ability to get on with other communities. Based on that, my first vision is that of Canada leading the way in changing our relationship to the land, the sea, and the air. Our spirit is in our land. Currently we are at war with it, but our innovators can be encouraged to bring us into harmony with it. They already want to do it but our partisan politicians work against them. As well, our first people talk constantly of their relationship with the land, yet we see their talk as a cultural thing not a national idea. So that leads to my second vision: let's stop looking to the past and the endless land claims and instead involve the First Nations in Canadian governance. Bring them in to help drive a changing relationship to our environment and also to evolve our system of government. Make them a part of our political life, instead of a constant hand-out peripheral player, and they will prosper, and so will we. My third vision is to knit our country tighter by demolishing every interprovincial barrier that exists. It's absolutely ridiculous that provinces would rather trade with the US than with their sister provinces. Like a family, we ought to support and prosper each other first, so that we can then go out to carve our own place in the world as a strong, vital country.

We need to get excited about Canada. Our PM needs to inspire us to a greater sense of who we are. To that end, it's pointless to go back to 1867, to talk as Harper is doing, about BNA Act stuff. That's so 139 years ago. Furthermore, the Constitution superceded that. That argument is over. Let's look to the future. Where are we now? Who do we want to become? How do we want to be in the world? These are the questions, and their answers, that will grow Canada.


cheezwhiz said…
I must say it is a sad day to think TVO is cutting "Studio Two". I think a grass-roots revolt is in order.

Where else do we get a panel (and moderator)like that in the Canadian (or other) media? Do we really have to let it be a sad day??????????????

Unite, Studio Two-aholics!!!!! Let's take back 8:00!!!!!!!!!!!
Mark Dowling said…
One wonders what Steve Paikin will fill "The Agenda" with. Here's my guess - flashy new graphics and plinkyplonky music like the recent "revamp" of the National and damn all else. I hope I'm wrong. According to Antonia Zerbisias a lot of S2 people are being cut from TVO entirely.
Totally agree with you cheezwhiz!

I hope you're wrong too mark, but new and improved in television usually means dumber and fluffier. Canadians don't want that. We like our politics and our insightful analysis, a la Studio 2.

I'm so incensed about this, I've written a separate post.