Source – theguardian.com
– ‘…Trudeau is the political equivalent of a YouTube puppy video. After your daily barrage of Trump and terror, you can settle your jangled nerves with his comforting memes. Each week, Trudeau feeds the news cycle a new sharable moment, and our Facebook feeds are overwhelmed with shots of the adorable young statesman cuddling pandas”:
(Think Canada is a progressive paradise? That’s mooses—
If that’s what you think, that’s fine by us. In fact, it’s our brand: not America. The nice guys. Dull, kind and harmless. That’s how we like to be thought of.
But it’s mooses—.
We are not the country you think we are. We never have been.
The first prime minister and founding father of Canada, John A Macdonald, was a raging alcoholic. He spent entire campaigns fabulously drunk and once vomited on stage during a stump speech. When his rival pointed it out, Macdonald shot back that he hadn’t puked because of booze, but because he had been “forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent”. It was a deflection worthy of Trump. Macdonald handily won the election.
The reason the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (our “Mounties”) ride horses is because during the labour movement of the 30s, horseback was the best way to trample protesting immigrants and miners. By the 60s, the horses were mostly just for show and the Mounties’ regular activities included subjecting suspected homosexuals to the “Fruit Machine”, a device designed to measure erotic responses to gay porn.
These days, Canada is the second-largest arms exporter to the Middle East. Our Alberta oil sands produce more carbon emissions each year than the entire state of California. Our intelligence agency is allowed to act on information obtained through torture. And a lot of French Canadians are into blackface comedy.
Little of this is widely known, because we happen to share a border with America. When your next-door neighbour is a billionaire celebrity genius with automatic weapons and an undying need for attention, you can get away with all sorts of stuff. It’s nice to be thought of as the world’s nice guys. And it’s useful – it obscures a lot of dirt.
Last year, Canadians almost came to terms with the lie in our branding. After a decade of the rightwing Harper government, with its pro-oil, anti-science and anti-Muslim ideas, it had become difficult to maintain our sense of smug superiority. Add to that the global coverage of crack-smoking Toronto mayor Rob Ford (since deceased), and the maple leaf flag patch sewn to our metaphorical backpack was coming loose at the seams.
In this disillusionment, there was opportunity. If we wanted to reclaim our reputation as a just and caring and helpful society, perhaps we could try behaving like one. During our 2015 election, everything from electoral and environmental reform to international peacekeeping was put back on the table, and we dared to open our eyes (just a peek) to the neglected, remote indigenous communities where suicide rates are shockingly high and access to untainted drinking water is shamefully low. There was a sense that Canada was ready to grow up and forge a national identity based on what we do, not on who we aren’t.
Instead, we elected Justin Trudeau, a social media savant who has positioned himself, and by extension Canada, as a sunny chaser to the world’s bitter news. Trudeau is the political equivalent of a YouTube puppy video. After your daily barrage of Trump and terror, you can settle your jangled nerves with his comforting memes.
Each week, Trudeau feeds the news cycle a new sharable moment, and our Facebook feeds are overwhelmed with shots of the adorable young statesman cuddling pandas and hugging refugees and getting accidentally photographed in the wild with his top off, twice.
For international audiences, the Justin moment has been a harmless diversion. For Canadians, it’s a dangerous distraction. Canadians care far more about what Americans think of us than we do about Canadian politics. Little wonder that things remain so grim.
Despite Trudeau’s progressive branding, Canada is right where Stephen Harper left us. It’s been a year since the election, and we’re still selling arms to Saudi Arabia, still cutting $36bn from healthcare and still basing our economy on fossil fuel extraction, and running roughshod over indigenous rights to do so.
Too much maple syrup will make anyone sick, and I thought Trudeau’s honeymoon was finally over when, sensing a hot meme, he knelt down to offer a three-year-old Prince George a high-five. But the royal toddler left our common prime minister hanging – and to me it seemed the spell was broken. But it wasn’t. A few weeks later, right as he was backtracking on a campaign promise for electoral reform, Trudeau’s approval rating hit 64%.
Canada’s moment would likely have lapsed by now if not for the American election. The comparison of Trump v Trudeau is just too rich for the press to resist. Canada has a dashing Disney prince for a ruler, and the US is considering this guy? The Washington Post dubbed Trudeau “the anti-Trump”. Every idle threat to move to Canada if Trump wins has been treated as a major news event by the Canadian press.
(A note to my fellow Canadians on that: when an American says that they’ll move to Canada if Trump wins, it’s like when the head cheerleader tells the arrogant quarterback that he’s so conceited, she’d sooner date Urkel. Urkel may swoon to hear his name coming from a pretty girl’s lips. But it’s not really a compliment, and she’s never really going to date him.)
Last week an opportunistic Canadian ad firm sent America a s–t-eating YouTube sympathy card, in which a handful of pasty Canadians assured their beleaguered neighbours that despite you-know-who, we still think America’s great! The passive aggressive subtext is of course that we also think we’re a little bit better.
But we’re not. And for that, I’m sorry.
Jesse Brown is the co-author of the upcoming CANADALAND Guide to Canada (published in America). Available in May from Touchstone Books.
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