Canada can be a beacon in a darkening world

Year upon year, a veritable basket of deplorable events has been filled to overflowing. But our exceptionalism as a civil democratic society still shines

canadaPOWELL RIVER, B.C., April 30, 2017 /Troy Media/ – Way back in the comparatively gentle year of 2000, my prognosticator pal Randy made a very convincing case for Canada owning the 21st century.

We were on the cusp of a new era, he argued, where Canada’s wealth of natural resources, great potential for economic growth and room to grow – especially in the West – augured well.

That sheltered time was before 9/11 and well before the Paris agreement, when terrorism and climate change were less vested in our imaginations. It was still possible to dream.

Central to our national dream was $100/barrel oil and infinite markets for natural gas, as Alberta’s oilsands were brought on-stream. The world increasingly craved politically-secure suppliers of hydrocarbons, while well-intentioned scientists beavered away on next-generation solutions for carbon-free power.

Internationally, it was a time of post-Mikhail Gorbachev reckoning in the new Russian Federation, the 2003 Iraq invasion had not occurred, and it was still possible to travel safely in Syria, Iran and Turkey on vacations to the Levant. Canada’s role as an honest broker was well established under Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the Stephen Harper era was still before us.

And then a series of card houses collapsed.

Year upon year, starting in 2001, a veritable basket of deplorable events has been filled to overflowing. Start with al-Qaeda, Iraq, the Islamic State, Syria, 410 ppm of carbon dioxide at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, and the oil price plunge and its impact on Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland’s economies.

Then factor in Brexit, and the advent of Donald Trump brutalism allied with American protectionism and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

Next add the growing alliance of anti-democratic presidential kakistocracies in Russia, Turkey, Syria, Egypt and god knows where else.

Where does Canada fit in to this bizarre assemblage of events, each threatening the environmentally literate, open-hearted, free-trading, fundamentally decent Old Trudeau-New Trudeau world view that Canadians inhabit?

Is there any hope for my pal Randy’s dream of Canadian hegemony in the 21st century?

Strangely, I think there is. Look around and cite any country that has behaved more decently in the new century. And to do this, it requires Chretien, Harper and Trudeau (Pierre or Justin) sensibilities. So be it. Increasingly, we should look around the democratic world and ask: Who is doing a better job?

Evidence of our success might first be taken in the global appeal of our major urban real estate markets. While increasingly difficult for homegrown Canadians, inner city and suburban real estate in Vancouver and Toronto is obviously in high demand. Moneyed elites (good and bad) from abroad want into our housing market.

No equivalent stampede for condos and single-family homes exists in any of the presidential kakistocracies. And I wonder how enthusiastic global emigres are for real estate opportunities in Trump’s America? I suspect the enthusiasm is muted – certainly for the heavily-Republican states.

More support for my belief in the new Canadian exceptionalism comes in the April 17, 2017, edition of The New Yorker. Check out the full-page advertisement for the Broadway production of Come from Away, note the strong political praise in The Talk of the Town, and enjoy a full-length piece on Margaret Atwood (The Prophet of Dystopia).

Each of these references heralds a Canada that literate, urbane and successful (The New Yorker readership) readers should take note of. The combined language is one of accolades – for our hospitality for stranded strangers “from away;” for our growing role as a successful exponent of global democracy; and for the world-class contributions of our writers and artists.

Our fundamental ability as Canadians to abide linguistic and cultural differences, to feel as at home in a canoe as an office, and to enjoy digging for clams as much as making a casserole for strangers at the airport, has arguably never been in greater demand.

Interestingly, the political skirmish in France, between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, lends itself to Canada’s experience with national referenda regarding separation or inclusion. So far, it looks like Macaron will win the presidency on May 7, “Regardez, dans le sac!” His appeal to Canadians should be obvious. He is our kind of president, too.

Troy Media columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery. Mike is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.


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One Response to "Canada can be a beacon in a darkening world"

  1. Michael nicoll yahgulanaas   April 30, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Mike:
    While Canada’s beacon may indeed glow more brightly we might pause and consider why our illegal, immoral and aggressive economic colonization of Indigenous Peoples has attracted the attention of such institutional mediators as the United Nations. A beacon at night can also serve as a blinding pit lamp in service of the hunter.

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