How much Canada does the world need?

Follow in our footsteps, just hands off our wallets

The world needs more Canada. But how much is enough?

Henry Romero/Reuters

Maybe you recall a certain tourism slogan from the 1990s. “The world needs more Canada,” declared television spots and newspaper ads from 1995, pitching the U.S., Japan and Europe on the idea of Canada as a land of tranquility, safety and whales coming up for air in slow motion. We were the place to go for global spiritual renewal.

It seems the planet has finally caught up to this idea, at least as far as safety and tranquility goes. Now the relevant question seems to be: how much Canada does the world really need? After all, there’s only so much to go around.

Evidence on Canada’s status as a sanctuary in an unstable world is plentiful and well-deserved. Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released a new survey of our country. “Canada weathered the global economic crisis well . . . and the economy is continuing to grow despite the persistence of international turbulence,” the authors reported, citing our sound financial system, prudent budgeting and high commodity prices as key reasons for our continued success in the face of tribulation nearly everywhere else.

Our annual Canada Day survey gives readers another opportunity for a self-administered pat on the back. As associate editor Tamsin McMahon reports, the average Canadian measures of education, income, material possessions and overall contentment are impressive without being gaudy (although those debt levels are getting up there). All of which provides plenty more reasons to be pleased with our place in the world. Canada has become the lucky country.

Lately, however, the not-so-lucky countries of the world have been demanding a bigger piece of us. At the G20 meetings in Los Cabos, Mexico, this week, Canada was under considerable pressure to help bail out the rest of the world by pledging a specific amount towards a massive $450-billion pot being collected by the International Monetary Fund to rescue Europe.

Despite pleadings from European leaders, which ranged from polite inquiries to angry dismissals, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear there are limits to Canada’s generosity. In an interview with the European business newspaper Financial Times, he told its readers bluntly: “Europe is one of the wealthiest parts of the planet. We would hope that it doesn’t get to the stage where the rest of the world has to rescue Europe.” The IMF, by the way, is set up to assist the poorest nations in the developing world—not the rich ones. A regimen of “self-help” is Harper’s preferred medicine for Europe.

There are good practical reasons for such a position. Regardless of our relative financial situation, Canada remains a small player on the world stage. While we certainly benefit from a healthy global economy, it is far beyond our means to fix Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy or any of the other sick men of Europe who chose to live beyond their means for decades and now face the unhappy consequences. We could empty every bank account in the country and not make a dint in their sovereign debt crisis. Only Europe can fix Europe.

It’s worth reminding ourselves it’s no accident Canada is in such good financial shape. Prior to the Great Recession, when things looked rosy the world over, Canada was properly running budget surpluses and our national debt was declining. This gave us the flexibility to tackle a severe and unexpected crisis when it occurred. Not so in most other developed countries.

Today, in the midst of international financial turbulence, we continue to strengthen our economy through such measures as raising the retirement age, modest tweaks to Employment Insurance, budget restraint and the pursuit of free trade deals around the world. It speaks to an approach that favours temperance and foresight by tackling problems before they become crises. Plus we’ve still got all those photogenic whales everyone loved back in the ’90s.

Canada has demonstrated precisely how to avoid financial calamity as well as the steps required to rebuild after a global recession. In short, we’ve become an example for the entire world. “The Canadian approach is what the world needs,” the Prime Minister remarked in Montreal last week. Suggestions that other countries might wish to adopt our loonie to benefit from Canadian prudence can be seen as appropriate recognition of our efforts.

If the rest of the world thinks they need more Canada, they’re welcome to follow in our footsteps, enjoy our scenery or even use our currency. But they should keep their hands off our wallets.

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How much Canada does the world need?

  1. Fascinating.

    The Libs left us with a surplus, and bank regulations…..check

    The Cons spent the surplus, and created a huge deficit to boot…..check

    The world at first blamed the US for the financial mess…..Wall St, Fannie Mae etc

    The Repubs then blamed the ‘socialism’ of Europe, even though Europe’s been rightwing for years.

    Meantime Canada has sat here doing not much of anything……building a few gazebos, signing trade deals with the likes of Lichtenstein, insisting on keeping the seal hunt, trying to force pipelines on everybody…..and self-righteously lecturing everyone.

    No one is sure what we’re lecturing them about, since we’re not actually IN the world economy…..mostly we cut trees and draw water around the edges of it…but we’re certainly not out in traffic so to speak…..but at least world leaders remain polite to our face.

    They won’t be for much longer though if we don’t shut up, and put our shoulder to the wheel.

    • The banking regulatory framework in Canada was a joint effort of the Trudeau and Mulroney governments, initiated under Trudeau, completed and enacted under Mulroney.

      • Kept in place by Paul Martin, nearly lost under Harper…..

      • Totally agree that the path back to balance started much earlier and was especially tackled well by Michael Wilson, but remember it was Paul Martin who had the guts to do the actual cutting and kept us paying down our debt for nearly a decade.

      • Yeah, it is totally amazing to me how Harper has made me, truthfully, miss Mulroney. I’m serious. I thought at the time he was a bad PM. But now? Now I would give a heck of a lot to have him replace Harper.
        The one thing we can all agree on, is Harper had nothing to do with it. And Flaherty jiggering with mortgage lengths and minimums, then claiming it wasn’t a bailout when we removed these bad mortgages from the banks’ books (since they were guaranteed by the government anyway, and we were just picking up the guarantee early) was absolute nonsense, and all his fault besides because there wouldn’t have been any bad mortgages if he hadn’t jiggered with mortgage lengths and minimums. He’s finally put it back the way he found it now, but the gobsmacking stupidity is, he hasn’t let the experience lessen his enthusiasm for an ideology that he himself proved doesn’t work. And he never apologized or acknowledged it was his fault. The blame lies solely and absolutely on his shoulders. And on Harper’s for being the head of the monster and allowing Flaherty to do it.

      • The banking stability of Canada is a myth. We just heard recently about how the feds quietly passed over $100 billion to the banks. How is this not a “bailout”?

        • The Insured Mortgage Purchase Program not a bailout because the banks had to give up in exchange $108 billion worth of CMHC-insured mortgages, which the government is now collecting interest on. The debt used to purchase the mortgages was borrowed at a lower interest rate than the mortgages themselves pay, and the mortgages were already CMHC insured, so the risk to the taxpayer was zero. Don’t take my word for it. Read the report of the All Party Finance Committee on the IMPP in Hansard.

          That’s not to say I favour such action. This should not have been necessary, and if credit conditions had been kept tighter all along, it would not have been.

    • We are an exporting country and have been for centuries what is the problem with that??

      What do you do to bring value to the Canadian economy??

      And as for the govt having to spend the surplus at the downturn, if it had not been for the NDP and Fiberals pushing a minority govt to do it, it would never of happened.

      • We started as a trading nation….beaver pelts, and assorted other furs.

        Nothing wrong with it, other than we need to be trading better things than our natural resources At the moment we’re not doing much beyond lecturing other people….and they don’t appreciate it, especially from those of us on the sidelines

        I’m a global economic development analyst.

        The govt didn’t spend the surplus on the downturn…..the surplus was long gone, blown on silliness. We had to go into deficit to help in the downturn. And Harper agreed to stimulus at the Nov 08 economic summit with Bush.

  2. This editorial brought to you by the PMO. You’re welcome.

  3. What the f*ck kind of garbage is this?

    You come off as a spoiled little child who has no sense of honor or goodness.

  4. So it is official. The world needs more Harper. Too bad we won’t share. :)

  5. What the world doesn’t need more of is Stephen Harper’s bombing them and what Canada doesn’t need are F35’s to do it.

  6. Thank God for these other comments, I was beginning to think Canadians had straw for brains. If Macleans doesn’t want other countries asking us for money, they should prevent that sanctimonious ninny Harper from parading around the planet, smugly lecturing everyone about his wonderful stewardhip of the country, which has resulted in a 40% reduction in my household income under his watch. This article is nonsense.

  7. So, does this mean we all have to put up with (head-up-adhole, with an utter disdain for Canadaians’) Articles like this until October, 2015 ??
    How does one continually bear to write such shamefullies. ?
    It’ll be CHINAda, and NOT Canada, by 2015, if we don’t watch where we’re going.
    comon’ canadians’ wake da-___ UP pleeez !

    • I hate no clue what you are trying to say.

  8. Please take care of Canada, and don’t send the Euros money earned by working Canadians; the Euros will only take more vacation time, go deeper into debt, and then beg for more money from Canada.
    Oh, and Happy Canada Day!

  9. I think we have to be very careful of this idea that Canada is a model for the world. This kind of thinking comes from every country with some semblance of financial power and political stability, at every point in history. We rightly complain when we hear Americans talking about their purported “exceptionalism”, yet some of us are happy to think that the world should “be like Canada”.

    The world cannot be like Canada. Canada is a great place, and it does have some lessons to offer the world. But Canada is also the product of a fairly unique set of circumstances. It is a very, very young country, with no sense of a “Canadian ethnicity”, and it has benefited from a kind of historical simplicity that other parts of the world do not have. Longer, deeper history gives people in other countries a different perspective. Their values may seem similar on the surface (after all, most of us appreciate freedom, democracy, etc.), but the understanding and manifestation of these values can be very different from what we understand.

    If Canada puts its best foot forward, it can benefit the world. But if we’re going to stand on a pedestal and lecture others about our “superiority”, we’re going to find the backlash unbearable. And we’re going to find ourselves on the wrong side of history. Financial strength is not the only measure of a nation, nor can multiculturalism be exported according to the Canadian model.

  10. Its not luck.

    Its not due to politicians either.

    “Windsor West MP Brian Masse thanked the new immigrants for choosing
    “to build your futures with us.”

    “We have a great country, best in the world, but it needs work,” said Masse. “That comes from the people. (ie immigrants)” ”

    We have a great country…. but it needs work???? From other people??

    How offensive to me and all Canadians. Quit trying to displace me and my people and call it enrichment.

    This is genocide.

    Africa for the Africans, Asia for the Asians, White Countries for Everyone

    DIVERSITY is just a codeword for anti-white. More diverse = less
    white. How much more offensive can you get??? Diversity means Genocide.
    Anti-racist is just a codeword for anti-white.

    Every white country on earth is supposed to become multicultural and
    multiracial. EVERY white country is expected to end its own race and end
    its own culture. No one asks that of ANY non-white country.
    It is genocide. Diversity = anti-white.

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