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Canada is losing its cool

by admin October 20, 2009

Canada is losing its cool

by admin October 20, 2009

In September of 2003, the Economist magazine declared that Canada was “rather cool.”
At the time, Canada was primed to become the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages, and plans were underway to provide universal childcare and decriminalize marijuana.
Ottawa was taking steps towards addressing climate change &- then environment minister Stéphane Dion released his Project Green plan which, while flawed, would have brought Canada more than half way towards meeting our Kyoto commitments.
Soon after, the Liberal government forged a historic pact with the country’s Aboriginal leaders to finally begin to address the deplorable living conditions faced by our First Nations.
Abroad Canada championed efforts to fight global poverty through a massive US $55 billion global debt forgiveness initiative aimed at sub-Saharan Africa. It was the year of Live 8, and there was a sense of hope and optimism in the air.
Five years later that hope has all but disappeared. On a number of crucial fronts, Canada is far from progressing, or even treading water. The country has instead regressed. From the Kelowna to Project Green, universal childcare and the decriminalization of marijuana, the progressive initiatives that symbolized an evolving country have fallen by the wayside under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
The rise of Harper’s Conservatives did not simply signal a routine change of government, or a simple shift from left of centre to right of centre.
After four years of Harper rule Canada is smaller as a country. We are more divided as a people, our ambitions are narrower in scope. We have become modest in our expectations, and more limited in aspiration.
Indeed, this is Harper’s goal. His politics of almost imperceptible incrementalism have gradually but persistently lowered the bar to the extent that Canadians no longer expect much of their government.
In the minds of many Canadians, Harper has succeeded in blunting the hard edges of his Reform/Alliance persona. He has manipulated his image so extensively that he has become odourless, inoffensive and neutral. This new Harper seems to stand for nothing at all.
Strategically, the makeover has been quite a coup. As much as Harper fails to ignite or inspire Canadians, he has also learned how not to enrage them. The result is an oppressive and immobilizing complacency.
There was a time not long ago when now Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was touted as this very figure, the visionary waiting in the wings set to sweep Canada up in a wave of “Iggymania.” But his support has been hobbled by a failed attempt to topple the government and the rebellion of his former Quebec lieutenant Denis Coderre.
Neither, however, will likely damage him in the longer term since neither event speaks much to issues of substance. In fact, we can already see a positive outcome to his recent foibles. They have pushed him to finally unveil some of his policy positions. But Canadians are still in the dark as far as most of Ignatieff’s policies are concerned.
Unless an alternative emerges, a leader with the capacity to call Canadians back to the collective dream that once inspired us, we will remain in our current quagmire. Canada needs to move away from the politics of personalities and towards the politics of ideas. Canadians need to expect big ideas from their leaders if the country is to become “rather cool” again.

In September of 2003, the Economist magazine declared that Canada was “rather cool.”
At the time, Canada was primed to become the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages, and plans were underway to provide universal childcare and decriminalize marijuana.
Ottawa was taking steps towards addressing climate change &- then environment minister Stéphane Dion released his Project Green plan which, while flawed, would have brought Canada more than half way towards meeting our Kyoto commitments.
Soon after, the Liberal government forged a historic pact with the country’s Aboriginal leaders to finally begin to address the deplorable living conditions faced by our First Nations.
Abroad Canada championed efforts to fight global poverty through a massive US $55 billion global debt forgiveness initiative aimed at sub-Saharan Africa. It was the year of Live 8, and there was a sense of hope and optimism in the air.
Five years later that hope has all but disappeared. On a number of crucial fronts, Canada is far from progressing, or even treading water. The country has instead regressed. From the Kelowna to Project Green, universal childcare and the decriminalization of marijuana, the progressive initiatives that symbolized an evolving country have fallen by the wayside under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
The rise of Harper’s Conservatives did not simply signal a routine change of government, or a simple shift from left of centre to right of centre.
After four years of Harper rule Canada is smaller as a country. We are more divided as a people, our ambitions are narrower in scope. We have become modest in our expectations, and more limited in aspiration.
Indeed, this is Harper’s goal. His politics of almost imperceptible incrementalism have gradually but persistently lowered the bar to the extent that Canadians no longer expect much of their government.
In the minds of many Canadians, Harper has succeeded in blunting the hard edges of his Reform/Alliance persona. He has manipulated his image so extensively that he has become odourless, inoffensive and neutral. This new Harper seems to stand for nothing at all.
Strategically, the makeover has been quite a coup. As much as Harper fails to ignite or inspire Canadians, he has also learned how not to enrage them. The result is an oppressive and immobilizing complacency.
There was a time not long ago when now Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was touted as this very figure, the visionary waiting in the wings set to sweep Canada up in a wave of “Iggymania.” But his support has been hobbled by a failed attempt to topple the government and the rebellion of his former Quebec lieutenant Denis Coderre.
Neither, however, will likely damage him in the longer term since neither event speaks much to issues of substance. In fact, we can already see a positive outcome to his recent foibles. They have pushed him to finally unveil some of his policy positions. But Canadians are still in the dark as far as most of Ignatieff’s policies are concerned.
Unless an alternative emerges, a leader with the capacity to call Canadians back to the collective dream that once inspired us, we will remain in our current quagmire. Canada needs to move away from the politics of personalities and towards the politics of ideas. Canadians need to expect big ideas from their leaders if the country is to become “rather cool” again.