Oh, Canada

(A work in Progress)


So what does it mean to be a Canadian?  In the words of Michael Ignatieff, “being a Canadian these days is like living with a beautiful and talented woman who keeps slashing her wrists.”  What is it in this country’s rich earth that leaves us with a poor image of ourselves? What is it in this country’s water that leaves us thirsting for the supposedly greener pastures of our southern neighbour? The term, brain drain gets bandied around in our media. brain drain refers to the loss of highly talented and skilled people, south to the United States of America or to be more precise, corporate America. But the United Nations has, for the past several years, rated Canada as the best country to live in, in the world. They have judged it as a country that is at the forefront in human development, which takes into account life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment, gross domestic product and education. So, a country is judged by the actions of its government. If that is the case, is Canada a truly forward looking country? If our government is truly forward thinking and we possess a population that is highly talented and skilled, then why are we heavily dependent on the United States for growth in our economy? Why do we look to the United States to gauge our worth? Why is it able to lure and exploit our citizens, citizens who have been nurtured and enjoyed the fruits of this country’s toil through subsidised education, health care and social services? What is it that makes the United States such an attractive option?  Is it the money? Absolutely!  Their market is ten times bigger then ours. A better or higher standard of living? Probably but here is the difference:  the average American may be taking home a bigger pay check but he that check  pays for his health care, education, social security, and corruption that is wide spread through out its corporate sector. If we are to weigh the two options then the choice is quite clear in this age of  prosperity where money can my virtually anything and the unattainable. What does Canada need to do plug the drain?



We have been conditioned to believe that the answers to our financial problems lie within our system of government. Canadians have become a complacent lot, reliant on a government that has shown itself to be lackluster, without strong leadership and vision. If you are a privately owned Canadian hockey team like the Ottawa Senators and are experiencing a financial deficit, look to the government for tax relief. If you are in the business of aerospace such as Bombardier, look to the government to procure contracts on the behalf of your firm. If you are farmer and are not able to get market value for your crops, look to the government to top you up. If you are a theatre, look to the government for grants to produce work. If you are politician, forget why you entered politics - that is if your intentions were honourable in the first place. If you are the government, continue to depend on the country’s natural resources for trade and economic growth. The Europeans do not need more fur coats. Who is to blame? Now, it would be easy to point our finger at the politicians but the scales we use to judge them must be used to weigh us - after all, we elected them. Our politicians were no more  special than you and I until we elected and bestowed the title on them. So what we have here is a population and a government raised on a system of democracy that takes the best of socialist and capitalist ideals. Nothing wrong with that but unfortunately the population has grown accustomed to the government taking care of it.  We also have an aging government that has become stagnant in its thinking.


The apron strings need to be cut. The country cannot sustain a dependent population and it certainly can not afford a government that is unable to perform but has the arrogance to be satisfied with itself.  Prime Minister Chrétien glows in the spotlight after coming back from China with 1.4 billion dollars worth of contracts in his back pocket and with his other hand pushing a string of federal grants to the Auberge Grand-Mère in Shawinigan. Mr. Chrétien, while a local MP, was a one-time partial owner of the hotel. The hotel is located next to a golf club in which Mr. Chrétien may or may not have retained an interest after becoming Prime Minister. What he would not do for the corporate elite. What he would not do for himself and his privileged friends. Nepotism is alive and well. Meritocracy is dead. Hey, we don’t have to go to China to find both that our government resting on its laurels. Just look to Walkerton, Ontario where citizen Stan Koebel could not be bothered to put chlorine in the tainted water and over the years, three governments could not be bothered to make sure that this man was doing his job. In the meantime thousands were getting sick and several people died. There was no question of accountability.


Around us, surrounded by the stench of decay, what we want is better paying jobs and shorter hours.  We want to live the American dream as depicted on television, films and advertising. I have news for you: it is an industry trying to make a buck out of you – a green one. All the props and models go back into storage. So what we have here is a population that is numbed – the blood drained from years of dreaming and waiting; waiting for a government that is too busy back-slapping, glad-handing, backhanding and building unwarranted legacies on the back of this country with no thought to its future. Then there are the others who can not wait to get to the greener pastures of Main Street. You can have America. It’s tired. It’s poor. It’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It’s wretched refuse. It’s homeless. And you thought it was bad here. It is ten times as worse there. We are meandering towards a new century without vision and leadership.


The solution lies in our systems of education. Corporations have put a dollar tag on education. Universities have become billboards for corporate logos. Degrees have become contracts with conglomerates.  The corporations want the future generation to market their tired products. We do not need to educate young minds to sell more Coke.  Let us not delude ourselves - money is essential to person’s survival in this world in which we are no longer individuals but a target market. American style capitalism is here to stay. But that does not mean Canada can not remain an independent country strong in its economy and tradition of social values. The Canadian system of education needs to evolve in this age of globalization but without the corporate hand dictating agendas. This is where it needs to start. We need to plant the seeds of self-reliance, responsibility, accountability, and social values early in our citizens.  We need to start as early as junior high school. Schools need to instruct in the basics but they also need to open up the individual’s imagination to creative thinking and problem solving. This is where we will find our innovators and future leaders. For this I am proposing that we adopt a Japanese style Jukua, which are private after- school classes, but in our case would be part of the public school programme. This would enable students to build on their education and explore subjects and ideas that they excel at, such as the arts, sciences, and athletics. For these after-school classes we can look to individuals who are deemed unemployable, in the technological age, to teach. These are the ones we bypass: the ones with the arts degrees, the ones in mid-career being forced to retire. I can not think of a better way that a country can take care of its present and future. A confident motivated person does not need to drop out of school or retire from life.  I am also advocating that post-secondary education be free of tuition because we will need a population that is well educated and rounded in order to compete in a knowledge-based economy. The seeds we plant in this country’s rich earth can only yield a harvest full of good things. This is obvious; maybe not. But by being conscious of our strengths and weakness we can retain control - of our lives, our country.  It is time to grow up, Canada. It’s time to look in the mirror and see the beauty. It is time to be truly involved at every level of the democratic process of our country.



This an editorial marked by eloquence and passion, and it shares some of the

disadvantages associated with eloquence that verges on hyperbole, and passion

that risks losing coherence or even loses coherence. The jagged juxtaposition of

images in the second, third and fourth sentences lacks a common denominator.

Does the beautiful woman hate herself or has she been jilted or is there

another, more beautiful woman just to the south of her? "rich earth" is literal,

but the literalness of "poor image" is dissonant without creative compensation.

"country's war" is literal (I think), but "greener pastures" is metaphorical.

The reader must be nimble to keep up with the editorialist. It is a bit like

playing dodge ball (I change the image completely from keeping up with you to

virtuoso movement to keep upright and going forward). There really isn't a

logical connection between the sentence on the brain drain and the sentence on

the UN's opinion. The question you ask about Canaan dependence on the US for

economic growth, following upon a comment on the Canadian government and the

talented and skilled population–is not logically consistent with itself. A

first-year economist could easily point out that economy is about selling goods,

not just manufacturing them and producing services. The mainstay of colonial

theory and practice was to have buyers for the manufactures of the colonial

power. In the next sentence you shift from literal "worth" to metaphoric worth.

As a political rhetorician, you are governed by your feelings more than is

beneficial to your argumentative skills. As I think about it, your proposal to

do a sentence outline of this editorial seems to me a good thing. It will

require you to shift things, probably, to bring out unity and coherence. But it

will help you impose order on your passionate disorder here. The first sentence

of the second paragraph seems to me to have been refuted by the first paragraph.

Or else it is ingenuous to make a bare statement about "answer to our financial

problems" being linked to "our system of government." The next sentence

criticizes the government, when the tone of the previous sentence was definitely

positive toward the same government. At least, so I hear it. Your facts on p. 2

about the hockey teams, Bombardier, crop prices, are, according to what I know,

of questionable veracity. Or else rather large oversimplifications. Now, it is

splendid rhetoric to enunciate a series of "If you are a . . . then look to the

government . . ." This sounds excellent. But the fill-in-the-blanks must be

better tuned to carry through the plausibility that the sound structure sets up.

There is no problem in logic with "Nothing wrong with that, everybody needs a

hand to get over . . ." but it sounds awful. The tone undercuts the strength of

the ringing anaphoras that precede it. The specificity of the golf club matter

distorts the symmetry of what else you are saying. And I still feel that active

government intervention is of such a different order than agency supervision

(referring to Walkerton, where everything depended on local self supervision, as

is true on every block in every village, indeed in every home) that the reader

has trouble making an adequate connection between them. And where does the

"stench of decay" come from? Metaphorical or literal? You make a trenchant

criticism of the propaganda of the American Dream, but you distract yourself

from it, only to go back to an American Nightmare powerfully worded in

counterpoint to the Statue of Liberty. A powerful counterpoint, but it seems to

be for its own sake rather than serving a larger purpose. I don't know what your

point is in the first half of the next paragraph. You are not criticizing

capitalism, only its excesses. (A modern reader gets nervous when he sees the

word "lackeys"–it is one of the buzzwords of Marxist hysteria and its very

appearance counsels that writer/speaker has probably been relying on more than

fresh air to bolster him in expressing his opinions). Your editor begins a

magnificent turnaround with "The Canadian system of education needs to evolve .

. ." This is what you should have been saying all along. Perhaps it is necessary

to have smoke before fire, and the first 3 pages were smoky enough. But here

there is pure and enlightening fire. You are throwing ideas forward too many and

too fast, but they are all coming from the same direction. They illuminate each

other as they glow in the air. The style is still that of political prophetic

utterance, but it makes good sense. Implicitly at least, it tries to make

Canadian identity a positive thing, not a non-American thing. It proposes how to

be a citizen of the world in the time we live in. The inculcator of it will only

be the educational system. Nothing else need apply. Therefore the purity and

ambition of the educational system, with universal accessibility, is necessary.

A stirring conclusion, after preliminary obfuscation (look up the etymology of

"obfuscation"–my use is deliberate).  Good ideas that need some hammering out

and about.


Mark: 79