Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is Canada "Back"?; Are the Liberals Back?

A month ago Stephen Harper said this. “The news is spreading throughout the world: Canada’s back”. Where did we go and when did we leave? I am not quite sure how to answer either, but it has something to do with the US and a general unwillingness on are part. This kind of rhetoric from Harper is not new. For example, Harper said this is 2003, “We've just become increasingly irrelevant to a country [U.S.] that has a lot of priorities…” (CBC Newsworld, July 11, 2003).

Now, in so far, as the US is increasingly desperate to hang onto whatever military allies it has left, Canada is indeed “back”. However, pace Stephen Harper a country’s standing is not in proportion to its willingness to absorb causalities in futile and expensive foreign adventures that serve only to increase the likelihood that the country will be attacked by terrorists. "It's certainly raising Canada's leadership role, once again, in the United Nations and in the world community where we used to have an important leadership role.” “I can tell you its certainly engaged our military. It's made them a better military, not withstanding and maybe because of the casualties.” No, Canada is a middling country and our standing in the international community will rise in fall in proportion to our willingness to pass legislation that can serve as a model for other countries.
SSM is a great example. On no issue has Canada gotten more press and positive foreign press than on the issue of SSM. Canada was an important reference point for legislators and judges in Spain, South Africa, Massachusetts. Moreover, Canada’s unprecedented decision to allow foreign same sex couples to marry promises to push the issue in countries across the globe. In an effort to have their marriages recognized, foreign same sex couples are opening up legal challenges in their countries of origin. Others need not even bother. Several US states, most notably New York, recognize the validity of such marriages, even though these states do not officially allow same sex couples to marry there.

This brings me to another point. Geographically, culturally, economically and linguistically Canada is uniquely positioned to mount an ideological challenge to US conservatism. At no time was this more apparent then in the lead up and immediate aftermath of George Bush’s 2004 re-election. Ann Coutlier threatened to have us “crushed”, O’ Reilly has threatened us with nuclear winter and the Western Standard’s Goldberg has said we should be “bombed” and his colleague Matt Labash seconded him. Thankfully all are only arm chair Lemays.

By far the most popular form of reproach, though, was to echo Harper and call us irrelevant. Tucker Carlson, for example, likened Canada without the US to Honduras “but colder and much less interesting”. The problem with such a train of thought is that it involves them in a kind of performative contradiction. In repeatedly talking about us and calling us irrelevant they helped entrench us as part of the public debate south of the border and so made us increasing relevant.

On the flip side of things, the New Yorker proclaimed as a “Northern light” and the San Jose Mercury asked if there was room for another province.

Both sides agreed that with Bill O’Reilly assessment. A “brave new progressive world is a possibility. That's what happened in Canada.”,2933,140742,00.html
At a time when Karl Rove was making gay marriage a campaign issue, Canada was legalizing it. At a time when the Neo Cons were trumpeting the Iraq invasion as the beginnings of New American Century, Canada was beginning to realize just how lucky it was that we stayed out. At a time when the Bush administration was stepping up the war on drugs, Canada was glibly promising to decriminalize marijuana or even better legalize it. This explains why true blue Democrats where wanting to move to Canada and not, say, Germany following Bush’s re election. We were, if only by accident, the anti Bush.

Martin never realized what a god sent Bush was until to it was too late and he never did realize that words mean little. Only action counts. As a result, rather than pushing ahead with further socially liberal legislation, he rested on his laurels and stopped with SSM. Dion shares these same faults. The rhetoric is there. "I think the prime minister we have thinks he is a president and Mr. Bush is his American Idol”. However, Dion has continually failed to demonstrate a willingness challenge what conservative America holds near and dear. So long as that continues, the Liberals will remain “irrelevant to a country [U.S.] that has a lot of priorities” and by extension unable to tap into an important part of Canadian nationalism, viz., a pride in our ability to affect what is happening outside our borders, particularly south of border.

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