Canadians look beyond America

For the first time in decades, Canadians are more likely to hold a negative view of the U.S. than positive. According to a survey by the Environics Institute, it’s the lowest ever with only 44 per cent saying that they hold a positive view of the U.S.

     image: openeurope.org.uk

It happened overnight says Doug Saunders:

“It is not a subtle drift – Canadians were overwhelmingly positive about the United States as recently as 2016, until Donald Trump’s inauguration put a majority into the anti-American column. The proportion of Canadians who see the United States as “a negative force in today’s world” is now almost 6 in 10, a 12-per-cent rise over 2008, making America by far the most negative country in the eyes of Canadians (Globe and Mail, April 16).”

Canadians see the U.S. even more negatively than even North Korea which is second at 46 per cent.

The U.S. and Britain used to be viewed as “standing out as a positive force in today’s world.” Now Germany is number one, Britain has fallen to second place, and Sweden has risen to third.

While we don’t share languages, we do see similar values in Germany and Sweden.  Those two countries took in two-thirds of Europe’s refugees during the crisis of 2016 at a time when President Trump was denouncing them. And they have avoided far-right governments, which make them look more like Canada.

Canadians look globally in terms of trade. Almost three-quarters of Canadians have a “very favourable” view on international trade. Even NAFTA is more popular than ever. Two-thirds of us say that it “helped rather than hurt” Canada -the highest level since the agreement took effect in 1994.

It may seem as though whatever Trump is against we favour, but it’s not just anti-Trumpism.

Peace defines Canada as much as war. Much has been made of the battle of Vimy Ridge as a defining moment for our country. However, peace played a significant role in shaping Canadian values. Pollster for Environics Institute, Michael Adams, says:

“In recent decades, Canadians have consistently named peacekeeping as their country’s most notable contribution to world affairs since Pearson’s Nobel Prize. This sentiment has held through both Canada’s World surveys that the Environics Institute has carried out, first in 2008 and in 2018 (Globe and Mail, April 16).”

Canadians are more connected than Americans. Anatoliy Gruzd, one of the authors of a recent report The State of Social Media in Canada, told CBC Radio’s Spark:

“Canada is one of the most connected countries in the world. There are twice as many Twitter users than the U.S. per capita. We are very outside-looking. We want to know world events (Mar. 11, 2018)”

Facebook is the most popular social medium with 84 per cent of Canadians having an account. YouTube is second at 59 per cent.

Canada is a nation of immigrants and, unlike the current U.S. president, we value them as an asset not a liability. Canadians look to the world, not only because trade is vital to our economy and to keep in touch with families in home countries, but because we see ourselves as part of a global community.

 

Sunny ways are here again

A new day is dawning across the land. Stephen Harper is banished to the shadows and “sunny ways” are peeking into the windows of the blue riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.

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Justin Trudeau, in his victory speech, chose not the words of his famous father but Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. Laurier had characteristics that many regard as distinctly Canadian: a conciliator and compromiser, one of the longest serving prime ministers in history from 1896 to 1911.

Laurier once said, when resolving conflict: “If it were in my power, I would try the sunny way… of patriotism, asking… to be just and to be fair, asking… to be generous to the minority, in order that we may have peace among all creeds and races.”

Sunny ways are infusing the defeated Conservatives. After the election, Harper lieutenant Jason Kenney told the national press that the Conservatives had been too negative. “I think our obvious weakness has been in tone, in the way we’ve often communicated our messages. I think we need a conservatism that is sunnier and more optimistic than we have sometimes conveyed.”

Reelected MP Cathy McLeod echoed the sentiment. “One of the things Jason Kenney said — sunnier ways — perhaps would have been more enticing,” she told Kamloops This Week.

As well as getting used to being in opposition rather than in government, McLeod is going to have to get used to expressing her own opinions rather than echoing the party line. As a former nurse, I’m sure she has a lot so say about protecting and improving our public health care system. Now she can happily champion health care –that’s the new way.

After being under the thumb of Harper for so long, the new freedom will require some adjustment. But McLeod might be more effective in opposition than she ever was in government.

While sunny ways may seem a bit Pollyannaish, Canadians are ready for a return to true Canadian values; distinctly different from the thuggish ways of Harper’s Canada.

Jaime Watt, political analyst and panelist on CBC’s The Insiders, characterizes what sunny ways look like:

“In electing Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to a majority government, Canadians are seeking a return to the values they believe have traditionally defined our society: civility, kindness, inclusion, collaboration. This quest to feel good about ourselves will inform how the new government’s policies and actions, in every sector, will be judged.”

Watt’s research firm, Ensight Canada, conducted focus groups across Canada before and after the election. They found that Canadians were not necessarily rejecting Conservatives but instead Harper. “Rather, they were repudiating a leader and a tone that did not align with who they aspire to be. That was particularly true for first-generation citizens who expressed a strong sense of what it means to be Canadian.”

Harper’s brand of Conservatism has been an aberration. His iron fist brought Progressive Conservatives and the prairie populist Reform Party together with a cost. The Harper government was neither progressive nor grassroots.

The only way the Conservative Party can regroup is under a banner that recognizes Canada as an open and caring society.