I used to always have something to say, but lately, not so much. I'm reading what other people have to say. I'm tweeting quite a lot. A hundred and 40 characters seems to suit my attention deficit well. But nanoblogging isn't really blogging.
Anyway, it's Canada Day. Confederation is 146 years old, if I'm counting correctly on my fingers. A little later in the summer it will have been 19 years since my little part in Confederation started. It's hard to believe that I've spent close to a third of my life here. And even though I'm an immigrant, and much as I love the United States, the land of my birth, Canada is home. Even before I moved to Vancouver, I used to feel that going to Canada was going home. It's a big part of why I moved here.
Thirteen years ago, Molson Brewery (as it was then before the merger with Coors) ran a commercial that became more famous than its iconic beer. It was the "Joe Canadian rant." A young actor came onto the screen to stand at a microphone in front of a series of images and say what it meant to be Canadian, destroying a few stereotypes (how we pronounce "about") and reaffirming a few others (that we believe in peacekeeping, not policing). He finished off with "my name is Joe, and I Am Canadian," which of course happened to be the slogan for Molson Canadian beer. It didn't matter. It wasn't really about beer. It was about Canada. We loved it.
Just two years ago, the Conservative Party of Canada won enough seats in the federal election to form a majority government. The CPC is the product of a takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada by what was once a PC splinter group, the Reform Party of Canada. Don't let anyone tell you it was a merger. PC leader Peter MacKay sold his birthright, or rather the birthright of his party, for a mess of pottage. He himself sits in the current cabinet.
The PCs were a centre-right-ish party, even under Brian Mulroney. In truth, neither the PCs nor the Liberal Party of Canada was ever very ideological. They were both about winning elections and forming governments. When they did, sometimes they caused harm, and often they did good. Through it all, Canada remained recognizably Canada—calm, reasonable, tolerant, not terribly ideological. It's curious that in a country only half the age of the United States, we hold much more strongly to our traditions.
Many if not most of us, of whatever political stripe, still do. The current federal government, however, seems to have a different idea. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on record saying that when he gets finished with Canada, we won't recognize it. Few took this statement seriously, and in 2011 a plurality of voters in a plurality of ridings gave his party enough seats basically to run the country unopposed. That is what majority government does. In the US, it would be as if one party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, which sometimes happens. Most governments in Canada have been majority governments. Until now, however, no government had so blatantly disregarded the hopes and desires of the majority of the country in favour of its own narrow ideology.
I watched the Joe Canada rant and was sad to think of how much had already been lost. We still have peacekeepers on the ground, but lately that is not what our troops have been doing. And then I saw the latest in a series of small and not-so-small cuts the Harper government has made to the fabric of Canada. A research laboratory that found Infectious Salmon Anemia virus in populations of farm-raised Atlantic salmon on the West Coast has been decertified by the federal government.
That is part of a pattern. This government hates science and indeed anything that does not support its agenda. Facts be damned. Research be damned. Silence those who speak out. The trouble is, most of what the government does flies under the radar of ordinary voters. Did you know about ISA virus in farmed salmon? Does it alarm you? This is only one blatantly harmful thing the government has done. There is a litany of offences. It's much easier, however, to get people worked up about something like Senate spending scandals. But the things that few see or care about are making profound and, I think, harmful changes to Canada.
I am a progressive. I think that's a Canadian value. And yet we have always made sure the baby does not go out with the bath water. We are careful about change. Until now, that is. The Progressive Conservative Party respected the traditions and values of Canada. Not so this Reform, er, Conservative Party government.
Thankfully, the government is not Canada, much as they might like to think so. There are wonderful things going on in this country. There is much to celebrate on Canada Day. I don't want to get negative. I only wish that more people saw the danger in the actions of this government. I have come to love this country. Don't take it away—from any of us.