September 29, 2004


Canada's Prophets of Pessimism (Is It the Weather?) (CLIFFORD KRAUSS, 9/29/04, NY Times)

As one of Canada's pre-eminent historians, David Bercuson of the University of Calgary is not your average couch potato. But with beer in hand and feet up on the sofa, he watched the Olympics on television last month to cheer on the world champion hurdler Perdita Félicien to win a gold medal for Canada.

When Ms. Félicien inexplicably stumbled into the very first hurdle like a rank amateur, Mr. Bercuson dashed straight to his computer. He knocked out a screed declaring that her sad performance, and that of the entire Canadian Olympic team, was just another symptom of "the national malaise'' that is making Canada a second-rate, uncompetitive nation.

"It's not the individual performers whose shortcomings are on display for all the world to see,'' he wrote in an op-ed article for The Calgary Herald. "It is the very spirit of the nation and the sickness that now has hold of it that is at fault.''

His acidic commentary is characteristic of the view of a growing number of historians, foreign policy thinkers and columnists from some of the nation's top newspapers. Many see themselves as part of an informal school that has no name or single mentor, but all are writing the same assessment: Canada is in decline, or at the very least, has fallen short of their aspirations.

For these thinkers, Canada is adrift at home and wilting as a player on the world stage. It is dogged by not only uninspired leaders but also by a lack of national purpose, stunted imagination and befuddled priorities even as its economy prospers.

"I'm in almost total despair,'' Michael Bliss, a University of Toronto historian, said in an interview. "You have a country, but what is it for and what is it doing?''

In fairness to Canada, the idea of decline suggests that it once had a certain stature, a proposition that seems dubious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2004 12:47 PM

It once was a sample of what the British Empire could have done do wth our continent.

Now it is a warning to Scotland, not to break away with no goal.

Posted by: Ripper at September 29, 2004 1:10 PM

Not to be sniffy, but this is what happens when over a few decades you try to implement every policy advocated by the New York Times.

Posted by: Peter B at September 29, 2004 1:22 PM

Well, at one point we (Canada) did have a certain stature. After WWII we were the fourth largest armed forces in the world.

It's been down from there, pretty much. High points along the way were Lester Pearson's proposing the UN Peacekeepers and Brian Mulroney's pushing for South African reform on Apartheid.

At one point, it did seem that we had a say, but Chretien's splintering of the US/Canada relationship has removed the last of our international influence. The old saw about the "most boring headline possible" being "worthwhile Canadian initiative" has given way to the "most irrelevant headline possible".

When I look to the future, I see Canada dropping out of the G-8 in the next decade or so and ultimately declining to a position somewhat like Argentina. At the turn of the 20th century, Argentina had a developed economy, educated population, natural resources and one of the largest economies of the time.

I think we all know how the 20th century turned out for Argentina.

Canada has drunk the Tranzi kool-aid. Deeply. The results are starting to become obvious. Any evidence of decline will be taken as furthe proof that we need to drink deeper.

Posted by: BC Monkey at September 29, 2004 1:27 PM

You can't maintain the heights Pierre Trudeau lifted you to?

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2004 1:28 PM

Which heights would those be, OJ? The national debt? Taxes? Ingratitude?

Posted by: BC Monkey at September 29, 2004 1:29 PM

There is no better proof of American exceptionalism than Canada.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2004 1:33 PM

But how can Canada produce its own Peron without an army? And which Peron to emulate-- Juan, Evita or Isabella? And does this mean that eventually Canada will occupy St. Pierre and Miquelon and then get its butt kicked by France?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 29, 2004 2:17 PM

Do I think Canada will gain a Peron? No. After all, Canada borders with the US, and I think that the US wouldn't stand for it. (I hope I'm correct on that) My point about Argentina was that even a prosperous country can be bought low very quickly into unthinkable madness and destitution by bad government.

What I can see evolving is something similar to Mexico's PRI party which held power for the better part of a century. The federal Liberals are already known as Canada's "natural governing party" and have occupied power for the majority of the 20th century, interrupted several times by conservative governments of one degree or another.

The last three election campaigns in Canada have been characterized by increasing elite sentiment (relentlessly pushed through the MSM) that the conservative party is "too scary", essentially anti-canadian and racist- that they must not be allowed to come to power. I expect the next election to be "the conservatives cannot be allowed to gain power- at all costs". In the meantime, our judicial system is being stacked with extreme liberals who will determine Canada's laws by judicial fiat and destroy any attempt to reform Canada's Liberal machinery of government.

We aren't going to have a Peron or an Evita, just a faceless EU-type bureacracy lulling us in our mediocrity.

Posted by: BC Monkey at September 29, 2004 2:37 PM

I've facetioiusly called our neighbor to the north "El Gran Blanco del Norte", and you're saying that I'm not far from the truth? That is sad.

But that just reinforces my belief that all those people who want to turn the US into another Canada would do everyone a favor and just move there. Maybe a one-for-one swap owithanyone who wants to move south, sort of like a prisoner exchange in the Culture Wars.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 29, 2004 3:03 PM

I predict that sometime this century the western provinces (probably BC, Saskat, Mann, and Alberta) will secede from Canada. The secession will be supported and defended by US. The most likely new name Yukonia.

Posted by: Pilgrim at September 29, 2004 3:14 PM

Raoul, I would gladly participate in such a trade. I would love to move to the US and be proud of the flag I would live under.

As for Pilgrim's suggestion, Saskachewan is essentially a socialist province. It consistently elects socialists to office and has mismanaged its resources and potential to achieve its current "have-not" province status. Manitoba is little better.

BC is a potential candidate, but I can tell you it would be a democrat state for all time. They're only recovering from a decade long socialist binge.

Canada, up until recently, had three "have" provinces and eight "have-not" provinces. The three have been taxed by the federal gov't to pay for the programs in the other have not provinces. BC in the latter half of the last decade slipped into have-not status (net recipient of money from Ottawa) it is barely a net contributor right now. Allberta is by far the strngest province cash-wise and the only province that the US would rationally want to have.

Alberta's big problem is that right now, having taken care of their deficits and debt, they are enjoying massive surplus. In the early 80s, the Feds raided Alberta's coffers, and there's suspicion they'll try again.

See here

I'm currently doing the research on whether or not to move out to Alberta. (I'm in Ontario currently)
Taxes wise it's a no brainer. Cheaper real estate too. My only negatives are leaving behind my family and the winter cold.

Posted by: BC Monkey at September 29, 2004 3:26 PM

hi there

Its not 1812.

Anyway i left ontario as it reminded me of 1970's UK a wasteland.

So now I'm in sunny Inuvik. Read 'While Canada Slept' and you get the despair of even the semi-liberal crowd.

It is really despairing about a country that could have been something and not a 'nothingness'

Posted by: patrick at September 29, 2004 5:12 PM

Raoul, I've got a better idea--let's have Canada and Britain switch places.

Posted by: Timothy at September 29, 2004 5:48 PM


C'mon, you can't throw out a teaser like that without an elaboration.

Posted by: Peter B at September 29, 2004 6:08 PM

Well, the state of Canada, baseball-wise, is so parlous these days that the Montreal Expos have officially decamped for Washington, D.C.:;_ylc=X3oDMTBpNWZic251BF9TAzI1NjY0ODI1BHNlYwN0aA--?slug=ap-expos-washington&prov=ap&type=lgns

Posted by: Joe at September 29, 2004 6:48 PM

Peter: I wasn't trying to be cryptic. Two countries colonized at about the same time, with similar populations and similar natural resources, but cross an imaginary line and everything changes: attitude, wealth, moral clarity, work ethic and wealth.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2004 9:23 PM


But they don't, really, unless you look at them in splendid isolation. Compare them to the rest of the world and they are peas in a pod with one dynamic one dragging the sluggish one along, but the sluggish one still doing quite well, at least economically. There is no way you can say the differences between the two are greater than the differences between, say, Canada and Europe, despite whatever drivel is said at the UN.

We're definitely locked into a sluggish, isolationist, dreamy-liberal mindset, at least among the people that run the shop, but even that is timid by Mass./Upper Left Washington/Southern Cal. standards.

When I first discovered this site I thought Orrin's hammering away about religion was off the wall, but he has convinced me. But I don't see the statist (comparatively) jab at all, medicare notwithstanding. As several provinces and Ronald Reagan have shown, an election can change a lot. We have nothing like the social problems the Brits have, nor do we have (nationally) a serious left anywhere near as doctrinaire as Australia's. Sometimes I wish we did, if only to awaken a few righteous, lazy souls.

This article seems to be focusing on the lack of a national mission or sense of purpose. I agree and I see little prospect of change unless an angry young generation comes along. But I can't understand exactly why you guys insist on seeing such a polarity.(Even Jeb Bush said he couldn't tell the difference). Nor can I quite figure out how Orrin's scathing dismissal of our future sits so confidently beside his abiding faith in the sunny prospects of Poland, Turkey and Chechnya.

Posted by: Peter B at September 29, 2004 10:06 PM

Peter: Canada is the best proof of American exceptionalism because it is so like us, and so unlike. It is as good a control as real life is apt to give us.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2004 10:42 PM

And, I'm sorry but it's hard to take this country seriously.

Oh, I almost forgot: I was in Toronto about six weeks ago and rented a car from Hertz. Hertz' workers were on strike. The strike consisted of a worker standing in front of customers as they tried to drive their rental car in or out of the lot for 9 minutes. That was what the Union and Herz had negotiated. It was a little hard to know whether to laugh or cry, but everyone was very nice.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2004 10:45 PM

Where's Lizzie Grubmann when you need her?

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2004 10:49 PM


Two points to you. I'm still on the floor.

I assume you have seen Canadian Bacon, the only half decent thing Moore ever did?

Posted by: Peter B at September 30, 2004 5:56 AM

It is just ignorant to say "the idea of decline suggests that it once had a certain stature, a proposition that seems dubious." Our war dead, from the Transvaal to Ypres to D-Day to Korea to Afghanistan, should be a reproach to you. We were on your left flank in Normandy, on your right in Italy. I was on joint exercises with the U.S. Navy through the 1950s and at the time our equipment and training was well the equal of yours. Ten years later the decline had already set in when Trudeau, a wealthy Marxist,turned up to complete it. Our epitaph: "Canada. Rich by nature. Poor by policy."

Posted by: Caper at September 30, 2004 11:22 AM


Yes, you fought by our side when we came to help in your wars. We needed you in Vietnam and you took our deserters instead. We need you in Iraq and you're nowhere to be found. That's kind of a one way relationship, no?

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2004 11:29 AM

OJ, I hope you aren't saying that WW2 or Korea or the Cold War were "our" wars and not yours, or that the United States had no interest in the preservation of the West. We, too, went to the aid of France and Britain. But otherwise your comment is in line with my post: the Canada I grew up in, with strong armed forces, a dollar worth US$1.05 to 1.10, and a self-reliant citizenry, was essentially destroyed by Trudeau's Liberal Party and his successors, including the unspeakable Chrtien, and one of the side effects was the welcome given to draft dodgers. The last straw was when we welshed on Iraq so as not to upset the anti-war separatists in Quebec. It made me ashamed of my country, yet one more time. I write as one who has lived and worked in the U.S. (Cal.and D.C.) and who admires and respects America and Americans.

Posted by: Caper at September 30, 2004 4:03 PM


You are fighting an impossible battle. Don't you realize Orrin started this site to battle liberalism, internationalism, secularism and Canada? He would rather holiday in Chechnya.

David, on the other hand, is much better. Although he has little use for us, he readily acknowledges our niceness. I always say that you can impugn a Canadian's honour, steal his wealth and kidnap his women, but as long as you tell him he is nice, he will be grateful.

Posted by: Peter B at September 30, 2004 6:00 PM

David can afford to be nicer, he has us as a buffer between MA and Canada.


They certainly weren't our wars.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2004 6:11 PM