On Canada Day, let's show a little more pride
By Richard Gwyn
On the eve of Canada Day, it's time to say what we've been loath to say before: Things haven't been as good as they now are for Canada and Canadians, since — let's admit it — since never.
We all ought to be dancing in the streets while laughing on our way to the bank. Instead, our mood, although in no way morose, is by no means euphoric. We throw our hats into the air, this is to say, in a very Canadian way — cautiously and while still hanging onto the rim.
Thus, a recent multi-country survey (Canada's participant was the Carleton University Survey Centre) has found that in terms of comparative expression of pride in country, Canadians rank sixth among 34 nations surveyed.
That sounds pretty good. But why are we less proud of our country than are Australians, Americans, Venezuelans, and only just barely ahead of Filipinos?
Moreover, we didn't come out top in any of the 10 categories (economic achievement, arts and literature) on which people were invited to rate their own national performance. Our best score was in "Fair treatment to all," where we came second — oddly, to those Venezuelans.
By any objective criteria, we really should all be laughing and dancing:
- Our economy is in its best condition in 50 years. So says a report just issued by the National Bank of Canada in Montreal. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says much the same thing. The loonie is up around 90 cents U.S. Our finances are in the best shape of any major economy. We've lucked into a resource price boom in everything from oil to minerals that, given the rise of China and India, is likely to go on and on.
- Politically, we've just discovered that we really are a democracy rather than a one-party state. It's actually possible, it turns out, for someone other than the Liberals to govern us without the country collapsing into a heap.
- In terms of that old bogey of national unity, the sponsorship scandal has turned out to be only a blip, if an ugly one. Quebecers got mad, in other words, about the scandal, rather than mad about or at Canada. To confirm this, polls now put the separatist Parti Québécois behind the federalist Liberals.
- Our system of multiculturalism isn't perfect, as shown by the arrest of those 17 alleged terrorists, and, almost more chilling, by the hatred of Canadian liberalism and pluralism apparently expressed by a number of them and their wives in emails. But it's hard to think of a country, except perhaps the U.S. in certain respects, that has anything to teach us about integrating large numbers of newcomers into our society. And support for immigration is higher here than anywhere, the U.S. included. Sure we have problems; everyone always does.
Our productivity performance is poor. We're in for a long, hard slog in Afghanistan, which is going to test the will and nerve of the Canadian public. Relations with native peoples are tense and are far more likely to get worse than better.
Much else, though, keeps getting better. According to a poll by Maclean's magazine, there has actually been a decline in fear of crime: 36 per cent now say they worry about taking a walk near their homes, down from 40 per cent in 1975. Even better — at least for myself — trust in newspapers is up from 10 years ago (also in schools, police, local government and unions).
A last bit of good news. A fact that's repeated endlessly is that young Canadians aren't interested in politics. According to Maclean's, this is really a factoid. Maclean's found that 23 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds are interested in and involved in politics, compared with only 15 per cent by all older Canadians.
Sixth, therefore, isn't nearly good enough.
I'm not entirely clear why Venezuelans are so up-beat. I cannot but be impressed, though, that Americans have risen above both the military mess they're struggling with in Iraq and their national financial mess, to stand top of the table in terms of pride in their country.