Canada slumbers while Obama shakes up U.S.


If there is one feature of the Obama administration that transcends all others, it is its level of activity. Not a single day passes without a policy initiative being launched, a decision being announced, or a commentary being offered, either by Obama himself or through a government spokesperson. A second and more important characteristic is the strategic content associated with its policy making. This guy has a plan. Whether or not you agree with Obama, you know there’s a sense of direction and a view of a bigger picture. No wonder, then, that Obama is more popular than all our leaders combined.

Even his adversaries concede that Obama is transforming the conduct of his office and is moving in directions that will have long-term repercussions on the nation and the rest of the world. Although there is strong opposition to many of his proposals, at least there is a strategy to be debated and a sense that things are changing. Young people are engaging in numbers not seen since the baby boomer generation came of age. In the lead-up to the anniversary of their nation, there is today a sense of hope, excitement, and optimism shared by a majority of Americans. But while the U.S. is on the move, where is Canada headed? Where is Canada going to be in the next decade? Put more bluntly, is Canada asleep at the switch?

In an earlier post, I stated that Canada has legitimate concerns about America’s direction on energy, free trade, border security, and global warming. It was not meant as a critique of Obama’s general direction—though we should challenge some aspects of it—but rather as a comment on the lack of real debate in our country and the fact that we are not promoting our comparative advantages around the world. It is one thing to claim Obama is bad for Canada, but it’s quite another to say so when we cannot even clearly define where we want to go. When was the last time a Canadian politician was courageous enough to stray from his scripted sound bites and press lines?

While America is trying to restore its image abroad, exert some leadership, and restructure its economy through the partial nationalization of the auto and financial sectors, we spend our days speculating about whether the Harper government will be defeated and whether we will have a fall election now that the summer showdown has fizzled. The politicians down south are debating implementing a cap and trade system for carbon emissions, comprehensive reforms to healthcare, and energy independence; meantime, our politicians are obsessed with parliamentary gamesmanship. While the Obama juggernaut rolls on, the Harper government brags about the impact of its anti-Ignatieff attack ads. The Liberals, meanwhile, have left us waiting to see what the alternative would look like.

And yet, we have every reason to be arguing about the direction of our country and the state of our economy. For better or worse, Obama should be forcing us to think strategically. Otherwise, we will remain in reactive mode, fretting over “Buy American” provisions and border restrictions. Canadians deserve more than that from their politicians. A minority parliament is not a signal for prioritizing parliamentary ruses. It should be a signal for developing laws and policies that go beyond political ideology. The voters want and expect this. My experience with the minority parliament of Quebec has convinced me that the public wants a different kind of politics. At the federal level, all parties have failed to see the opportunities that cohabitation provides in a minority parliament. The Conservative government has adopted a stimulus package that even progressive liberals could live with, but the ballooning deficit has drawn criticism not from conservative thinkers but from the same Liberals who pushed for it. The NDP and the Bloc Québécois may have interesting policy ideas, but they both seem to relish being a nuisance when it comes to the brinkmanship over a possible election call.

Meanwhile, Canada registers declines in areas like research and the economy, and is not leveraging our diplomatic reach in the world. As former ambassador to the U.S. Alan Gotlieb pointed out recently to illustrate our complacency, we did not build on the NAFTA deal in the decade following its signing and then we nearly panicked when Clinton and Obama spoke of re-opening the deal. As rich as we are and as respected as we have been, why are we spectators rather than real players at G8 and G20 forums? Perhaps we are effective behind the scenes, but there is little evidence that is the case.

In spite of all this, we remain the envy of the world in many regards and deservedly so. We are a gentler and more compassionate country than our neighbour to the south; our people are among the healthiest in the world; we have a competitive education system; we all have universal healthcare; we have been inventors and innovators; and we have a consensus on most of the social issues dividing Americans. We work for peace and a better world, and have every right to cherish our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But we can be leaders in the world.

Happy birthday, Canada!


Canada slumbers while Obama shakes up U.S.

  1. I would trade Harper and Ignatieff for 3 draft choices in the US. Our leaders are pathetic. I`d retire Layton and Duceppe .Parisella is right we are sleeping at the switch . WAKE UP CANADA!!!

  2. Stop yelling. I'm trying to nap until the fireworks start.

    Besides, we're not slumbering. We're being slumbered.

  3. There was frenetic acitivity in Moscow in 1917 and Berlin in 1933. Going in the wrong direction is hardly anything to beat one's breast over.

    I'm not overly concerned, the good U.S. citizenry will wake up from their 2008 election slumber and will punish, severly, the party that foisted Obama on that great nation come the next mid-term elections.

    • And Harper is in the right direction with negative ads , big deficits and dividing Canadians . Jarrid is right about the wrong direction . Just identified the wrong leader.

      • So negative ads and "big deficits" are somehow worse than what Obama is doing… deficits in excess of 10% of GDP being used to finance a wholesale takeover of the US economy by the government? Whenever Harper's asinine "stimulus" spending sickens my stomach (most days) I need only think of the disaster that is Barack Obama to remind me of how fortunate we are. Things could be so much worse.

        Jarrid, I think your faith in the US electorate is misplaced. Their political system has shown itself quite capable of producing one fiasco after another. 2000: Gore-Bush. 2004: Bush-Kerry. 2008: McCain-Obama. The last time the US even had a chance for a decent president was when McCain was in the running in the 2000 Republican primaries… before he went nuts (as opposed to the nearly senile John McCain of 2008).

  4. Jean Chretien used negative ads over the course of three elections against three conservative leaders. He garnered three majorities.

    Are negative ads only bad when conservatives use them?

    • Harper is negative in the Karl Rove sense -divisive and vindictive like the ones used by Bush . Chretien was an angel compared to what Harper did to Dion .
      You prove my point,jarrid -we are arguing about tactics and not about Canada`s future.

      • You're the one who raised the ads. The Liberal ads against Manning, Day and Harper were in the nature of character assassination and not the midl "Iggy's just visiting" sort. Mocking people's religion, Warren Kinsella said in his book that Chretien laughed his head off about it. That sure is a classy duo. I wonder if Iggy will show more class. I doubt it since he hired Kinsella.

        • I understand your negative obsession with Liberals and Obama . But tell me where are we going as a nation when we no longer stand for any of the values we were admired for.Allowing other countries to administer the death penalty on our citizens .

          • It would had been just had Paul Bernardo faced the death penalty. And Karla Homolka too. Instead she freely walks our streets. Sometimes the death penalty is just.

          • What "values" that we were once "admired" for are you thinking of? The mindless obsession with falling in line with every absurdity that came out of the UN? The equally mindless – and far more dishonest – practice of signing international treaties (Kyoto) that we had no intention of following up on and no realistic possibility of living up to? Peacekeeping perhaps? (Hear of any good peacekeeping initiatives worthy of joining lately? Me neither.) Or is it just the spineless supplicating and approval-seeking before the "international community" in general that you are pining for? Harper has done a lot of things wrong, but one thing he's done right is bringing a more abrasive, belligerent Canada onto the international scene. One that actually takes a stand and looks out for its own interests.

    • In general I'd prefer that all political parties (and third parties for that matter) did not use negative ads.

      That said I'm not really that worried about negative ads; most if not all of them contain at least a 'fact' or two and then go on to suggest a 'proper' reaction to that fact.

      In cases where the fact is wrong or grossly overstated it is easily refuted, which then has the opposite effect as intended. In the other cases voters are free to use or ignore the fact and the suggested reaction however they see fit, just like they use any other information they have.

  5. Ah yes, a Parisella Obama thread, in comes Jarrid, compares Obama's "frenetic acitivities" to Hitler and the Bolsheviks, mentions something about W. Kinsella… muses about the death penalty.

    "The Conservative government has adopted a stimulus package that even progressive liberals could live with, but the ballooning deficit has drawn criticism not from conservative thinkers but from the same Liberals who pushed for it. "

    Indeed, depressing. Though, it seemed to have (at one point) helped the Liberals in the polls.

    • Yeah Jarrid gets all huffy if you mock Day's ludicrous religious views but has no compunction in lumping Obama in with Hitler and Bolsheviks. Well i'm sure his views are a comfort to himself if no one else.

      • I was reacting to the first line of Mr. Parisella's post. The level of activity of government in and of itself means nothing, indeed, most of the time it scares the beejeebers out of me. Obama's aministration is one of those that scare the beejeebers out of me. Americans won't put up for much longer though, although the mid-terms can't come quick enough.

        • "scares the beejeebers out of me"

          Scared stupid, it seems.

          • You're such a wit Anon/Ti-g*y.

  6. John Parisella may envy the Americans.

    Michael Ignatieff wished he were American to the point he referred to himself as one.

    Canadians don't have to emulate Americans. Let's get over this American envy, this inferiority complex that plagues so many, particularly, English Canadians.

    On this Canada Day, we have so much to be thankful for. Canada is weathering the recession better than any G-8 country. The Parti Quebecois are on their heels in Quebec. Canada will host the world in Vancouver at the Winter Olympics in early 2010. Summer has finally arrived.

    Happy Birthday Canada!
    Bonne Fete du Canada!

    Be proud to be Canadians and put aside the American wannabe attitudes. We're different than Americans, and we should celebrate this difference.

    • It is Canada day and I will stop the hostilities with jarrid although I thhink he is misguided about an activist government . I would have hoped he would have seen the benefits of Canada taking control of its destiny instead of being a mere observer .Too much to ask when ideology takes over .Still happy Canada day ,jarrid.

  7. Obama has yet to get any legislation into law . . . the Senate is still a rough go territory. His Cap & Trade Tax bill only got through by filing a 3:00am 300 page amendment full of $billions of pay off money for reluctant Democrats who sold their votes to salvage Obamasiah's reputation and ego.

    He's had a completely free ride so far – the US media has been mesmerized by the Snake Charmer in Chief, but there are signs they are waking from their very embarrassing self inflicted stupor and starting to ask questions that need answering. It will only get harder as his policy of spending the US into economic slavery results in the inevitable reduction in services, increase in taxes and angry tax payers – especially the ones making under $250k that Obama promised he would 100% protect form any tax increase – a promise he has already broken.

    Obama is the next Jimmy Carter and is turning into an economic and political disaster as he inflicts his socialist/redistributionist policies on an unsuspecting America.

    The saving grace will be the mid term elections, where America can save itself from Obama and his economic disaster in teh making.

  8. Parisella, your love affair with Obama is discomforting. Send him a love letter, and then grow a spine.

    Government activity is not necessarily progress, it is simply government activity. Obama is breaking things that were working well, not fixing things that were broken. Why don't you spend a moment talking about how Obama is bankrupting his country. Three cheers for California. Three cheer for Argentina. There's lots of activity, the same way a compulsive shopper runs up debts on his credit card and then files for bankruptcy years later when his life is in a shambles.

    One thing is for sure, the Canadian economy is in better shape than the US, but of course Parisella construes this as a bad thing, he would prefer that we were nationalizing the economy as well, just like any other Chavismo.

    • The Canadian economy is in better shape than the USbut of course Parisella construes this as a bad thing …….

      I did not read this in Parisella`s post.Our econmy is far more nationalized than that of the US . Obama inherited the mess. Bailouts started under Bush and Paulson . Saving GM was necessary for economic reasons but also for social reasons . The economy is starting to slowly turn around , US image in the world is improving , universal healthcare is necessary and leadership on the environment and education is for future generations . And he has acted on this in the 1st 6 months .
      Fred and scf are just throwing slogans around and using Carter as as a tool . Obama is following more the Lincoln , FDR, JFK, Reagan path but this is too hard for ultra right wingers to take . W BUSH spent more than all previous presidents and brought in selfish tax cuts for the rich which only served to balloon the deficit . PROVE otherwise scf , Fred and jarrid !

  9. Canada has a golden opportunity to act like a world leader and protect the remaining old forests and the fresh water therein. Major droughts are enveloping our planet and there's more on the way. The disgraceful sullying of fresh water in northern Albertan the tar sands is poisoning all life — and including humans. The oil companies are making billions and killing the planet — and why aren't they mandated to clean-up? Europe has no great forests left – why should Canada become impoverished at their expense? A couple more decades and there will be no more old forests. Is this what the denizens of Canada want? because the land is owned by the crown and the crown is holding it for the people. Old forests are awesome CO2 and Canada has the last remaining largest coastal temperate forests and a sizable chunk of the "emerald crown" boreal forests. It's time to eschew 19th century brawn and embrace 21st brain power!
    Dr Reese

    • The entire Tar Sands operations are using less than 1% of the North Saskatewan River. It's been blown so far out of proportion it's just ridiculous. I agree we should be doing more to protect our forests. The obsession over carbon trading and carbon emissions and carbon this and carbon that have completely blinded us to conservation initiatives that would actually be worthwhile. And the forestry industry here – with their jackpot of absurdly low stumpage fees – has way too much sway over policy at both the provincial and federal level.

      Your focus on saving forests is admirable, but you'd do well to drop the platitudinous nonsense about oil companies "killing the planet" and the forest-as-carbon-sink garbage. Scientists have yet to determine if forests are at all effective in mitigating carbon emissions. The data is mixed and contradictory at best. Forests should be saved for their own merits. For the wildlife they harbour. For the beauty and bounty they provide. For the simple fact that whatever we replace them with could never be as good as a forest. When you reduce forests to carbon sinks, you do a disservice to the entire conservation effort. Forests (and oceans, and estuaries, and rivers, and lakes, and so many other types of ecosystems) can stand on their own merits. To attempt to measure their value in terms of carbon can only diminish them.

      • So you are saying it's okay to pollute, just a little bit at a time and oh well if the Arctic Ocean gets toxic, just a little bit at a time? Unacceptable because if you ever eat anything out of the ocean you too are eating toxicity, just a little bit at a time.

        Unfortunately unless we apply $$$ to these old forests be they water or carbon credits they will be gone — this is a very hard reality — out of sight out of mind — like now you see them now you don't. And that the citizens of Canada own the land y'all can have a BIG time saying in this very important matter. The time is NOW!
        Dr Reese

  10. I don't know. I'd rather slumber than incur a deficit of almost $2 TRILLION dollars!

  11. Obama is every bit the trainwreck that George W. Bush was. Slavering media coverage does not make him an effective leader. It merely hides how ineffective he is.

  12. Good points lmn.

    Harper has no vision. There's ways of moving forward in a number of policy areas without significantly adding to the long term debt. In fact, some visionary leadership is needed for the environment, R&D, our reputation abroad, education, etc., etc. There are lots of areas to choose from. Harper's self-serving strategies are hindering our growth as a nation.

  13. The right wingers are having a field day tearing down any effort to get out of the Reaggan to Bush mess without a single idea, just tearing people down . Reminds me of Harper .