Thursday, May 22, 2003

And Then There's Canada

This Time article does a fairly good job of pointing out the reasons for the great disappearing Canada. The piece argues that Canada has become an increasingly irrelevant nation on the international scene due to cuts for military funding. But the problems don't stop there. Canada, which oftens likes to sell itself as a great humanitarian, also lags behind on development funding for the Third World. And to top this off, there's the absolute incompetence of the Liberal government in Ottawa that has alienated friends while cozying up to nations like Cuba.

Of course I don't expect my fellow Canadians to take much notice. For years now, the federal government and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have promoted the great myth that Canada is beloved internationally and greatly respected for its humanitarian and peace-keeping efforts. While there is some truth to that, there is also a lot of wishful thinking going on. Over the past ten years, Canada's international prestige has fallen dramatically but rather than take account of this disaster, the federal government prefers to stand smug in its self-righteous indifference, reminding Canadians that at least we're not like the commercialist Americans. But there's the rub, because it is precisely in the area of business and finance where Canada still garners some respect. It's not for nothing that the most admired federal politician on the world stage is Paul Martin, the man who presided over the reduction of Canada's debt. Similarly, Brian Mulroney, Canada's former Prime Minister is much-respected around the world as a statesman. The same cannot be said of Jean Chretien or the rest of his gang of underachievers.

But we don't need to look only at politicians. Individual entrepeneurs from Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto can be found around the world, and especially in growth areas like Asia as well as the oil fields of Russia and the Middle East. It is these people, Canada's capitalists and not Canadian diplomats, who have now become the great Canadian representatives abroad. If you need any further proof of this, you might just ask why was it that the WHO was so willing to throw Toronto in with China as places to be avoided during the initial stages of the SARS outbreak. It happened because Canada was an easy target, it was a nation that wielded little influence on the international scene. All our cherished Canadian myths about how much we matter in the world of international humanitarianism are increasingly just myths, but I suspect they are myths Canadians will still hide behind.

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