|Embracing Canadian values goes way
beyond resenting our neighbours
'Pro-Canadian' Means Much More than 'Anti-American'
By Murray Dobbin
Published: March 23, 2005
George W. Bush and his gang of neo-cons have inadvertently prompted
Canadians to more closely examine their own very different take on the
world. And they like what they see.
There are those, of course, who dismiss this
phenomenon either as 'mindless' anti-Americanism or narrow nationalism.
But both these criticisms miss the mark. First, an attachment to the
ideas of tolerance, community, equality and the rule of law is not anti
anything. And as for nationalism, in Canada this has almost always been
expressed not as blind patriotism or narrow xenophobia, but as pride in
and a commitment to broad social democratic ideals.
The polling firm EKOS, put the following question to a
large sample of Canadians: If you were prime minister for a day, and had
to pick overall national goals for Canada to achieve by the year 2010,
which of the following would you choose? Here is how Canadians
- Best quality of life in the world: 66 per cent
- Best health care system in the world: 64 per cent
- Lowest incidence of child poverty in the world: 62
- Best-educated population in the world: 57 per cent
- Eliminate public debt: 50 per cent
- Lowest overall tax burden of major industrialized
countries: 45 per cent
- Highest productivity level of major industrialized
countries: 45 per cent
- Highest standard of living of industrialized
nations: 30 per cent
Canadians continue to reject the mantra of the
economic elite by putting their own priorities - quality of life,
universal health care, and lowest child poverty rate - far ahead of Bay
Street's preoccupation with productivity, low taxes and debt reduction.
The emphasis on quality of life, says the EKOS study, underlines
Canadians' view that government has a positive role to play in 'in
addressing problems in our collective life' because robust social
programs are seen as complimentary to income.
In 2002, the Canadian Policy Research Network (CPRN)
explored Canadian values in a comprehensive follow-up to a 1995 study.
Day-long dialogues around the discussion theme, "The Kind of Canada
We Want," revealed that the 1995 theme of investing in children
"had strengthened and broadened to include the right of every
child, youth, and adult to receive support to become a fully
contributing citizen." In 1995 citizens emphasized
"self-reliance and compassion leading to collective
responsibility," while the 2002 dialogues revealed a desire for
"mutual responsibility for all actors in society."
Many commentators have mused about the decline of
Canadian democracy but the CPRN study revealed something quite
different. In 1995 citizens said 'everyone should have a chance to
participate in this kind of dialogue.' But seven years later, Canadians
were 'stating their right and their responsibility to engage more
actively in the policy process.' Many participants suggested that
governments get advice from program recipients in designing those
None of this is anti-American. Yet Canadians
strong belief in fairness does lead them to distrust the U.S.
government. This distrust arises from two main sources American official's
imperial arrogance, and their disregard for trade agreements. In a poll
done by the Innovative Research Group, 80 per cent of Canadians
described the U.S. as a 'rogue nation' and fully one third believe it is
a 'force for evil' in the world. Persistent trade harassment by the US
has led 48 per cent of Canadians to the conclusion that 'the U.S. cannot
be trusted to treat Canadians fairly.'
While Canada's elites are eager to hand over our
sovereignty to ensure our trading relationship with the U.S., Canadians
are nearly unanimous in saying they want to maintain that sovereignty no
matter what. In a March, 2004 poll Ipsos Reid found that 91 per cent
agreed that: 'Canada should maintain the ability to set its own
independent environmental, health and safety standards and regulations,
even if this might reduce cross-border trade opportunities with the
These trend lines must give migraines to Bay Street's
annexationists, such as Tom d'Aquino, head of the Canadian Council of
Chief Executives. Canadians show every sign of wanting nothing to do
with undermining their quality of life by being absorbed into the ailing
and paranoid giant to the south. Books and studies galore reveal the
very stark differences in values held by Canadians and Americans. EKOS
asked people what being a Canadian or American meant to them. Having
universal health and social programs was identified by nearly half of
Canadians polled, but less than a third of Americans. Twice as many
Canadians opted for paying taxes. Almost three quarters of Americans
believed that aiming for 'the good life' - measured in things - trumped
all else. Canadians emphasis on collective rights led them to put a
healthy environment, a tolerant multicultural country and individual
liberty ahead of the accumulation of wealth.
Tom d'Aquino, meet Canada.
Murray Dobbin writes his State of the Nation column
twice monthly for The Tyee.
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