Thursday, January 19

Canada: Come Ski the Slippery Slope!

I enjoyed this piece by Hudson Institute Senior Fellow John O'Sullivan from the Chicago Sun-Times. It is about the upcoming Canadian election, but what I appreciated was its pithy chronicle of Canada's plummet in global influence over the last half century.

In 1945 Canada was the world's fourth-largest military power. Its soldiers, sailors and airmen had played a major part on D-Day and in finally defeating Nazi Germany. And its national image was that of a tough, self-reliant, stand-up guy whom you would like on your side in a barroom brawl.

From 1945 to the present the history and changing national image of Canada was brilliantly summed up in the Monty Python song that begins "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" and gradually develops into "I put on women's clothing and hang around in bars." In other words, not necessarily someone you would like on your side in a barroom brawl.

O'Sullivan blames (who else?) Trudeau and, more broadly, the Liberal Party. No surprises there, but I think he is too easy on the Canadian people themselves. The old adage has it that a country gets the government it deserves (though, if this is true, you have to wonder what unspeakable sins the people of North Korea committed in previous lives). Trudeaumania, and its lingering hangover, which Mark Steyn has dubbed Trudeaupia, were and are popular phenomena, not dictatorships. It wasn't too different in kind from what happened on the United States coasts, in California, New York, and Massachusetts, but, for some reason, it took deeper root in Canada. Maybe American federalism, which was designed to preventjust such regional contagions infecting unwilling States, worked. Under Canada's much more centralized federation, Western Canada, which never embraced Trudeau as breathlessly as the electoral kingmakers Ontario and Quebec did, was steamrolled by the Liberal Party's national agenda. And, once the rot set in, it may be that the dependency cycle of the welfare state took over, spurred by judges who believed that their job description included social engineering. Entitlements once granted, are almost impossible to rescind, and usually beget more entitlements under the pressure of what Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher called the socialist ratchet. Thus does the social safety net gradually becomes a social safety hammock.

What was the substance of that rot? O'Sullivan describes it as:

left-liberal in politics, tightly regulated in economics, welfarist in social policy, officially bilingual and multicultural as regards national identity, allied to the United Nations and the Third World in foreign policy, and therefore self-consciously different from (and sometimes even hostile to) the United States.

And now polygamy. Absolutely unthinkable to our grandparents, but now raised as a legitimate possibility by a Justice Department-commissioned report and not exactly loudly and roundly condemned by the people or the press. The Canadian people have pledged allegiance to the doctrine of tolerance at all costs--"let tolerance be done, though the heavens fall"--for so long that they have forgotten how to object, how to say "thus far and no further," how to say (Gaia forbid) "thou shalt not." This isn't a routine policy debate, this is polygamy. Does anyone remember, oh last year, when polygamy was the bogeyman raised by opponents of same-sex marriage--a tactic condemned by same-sex marriage advocates as scare-mongering? Well, now a government study has endorsed decriminalizing polygamy,* and the response? Oh, well, what can you do. (Actually, it's hard to find any response on the CBC website, at least by using its search function). Maybe the Vancouver Winter Olympics can capitalize on the news with a new motto: Canada: Come ski the slippery slope!

Where is the passion to resist the inexorable implementation of a--let's not mince words--revolutionary agenda utterly contemptuous of Canada's traditional culture, faith, and history? I don't see it. And I don't see Canada reversing its 60-year slide into irrelevance quickly. It will take several consecutive terms of Conservative Party power just to slow the descent and lay the foundation for a revival. One can hope, but the Canadian people certainly make it difficult.

Or, as O'Sullivan concludes: [I]s there still a lumberjack under all that mascara?


* Actually, as best as I can tell, there were four studies, one of which strongly recommends decriminalizing and normalizing polygamy, one of which appears to support decriminalization, and two of which oppose decriminalization. That there is even a live debate on this issue would have been, frankly, amazing to anyone ten years ago.