The nation as dessert

Michael Valpy writes nearly 4,400 words for the Saturday Globe on Michael Ignatieff and True Patriot Love.

His idea of some of the mythologies that run deep in Canadians’ lives seems a little musty — the North, the land, the constitutional mantra of POGG: peace, order and good government. He writes at one point that because Canadians are three peoples living in a single state without sharing the same sense of country — English-Canadian, French-Canadian and aboriginal — they cannot create a single, uniting national myth, as Americans have done.

What, I ask him, does that say about our shibboleths of pluralism, of a culture of rights, of a more communal approach to life than the Lockean individualism of Americans? On the last issue, he tells me, this nephew of George Grant: “You can’t run this country without government, without a federal government that has an inciting, promoting, stimulating role in pulling the country together.

“And the job description of a prime minister, the job description of a federal government, is just one job — hold the country together, make it stronger. That’s all it does, and Canadians have a deep understanding of that. They don’t like big government. But they do think we can’t have a country unless we have a federal government that does some of this stuff. And this is, I think, the fatal ideological flaw of Harper’s conservatism because it fits a country that is finished, but it doesn’t fit a country that is not yet done. … Part of what I like about our country is the sense that we’re unfinished business. We’re not there. The dish is not done, and that creates a project for us, which to imagine it finished, imagining the building done, the pie cooked.”

You can listen to the entire interview here. Excerpts of Valpy’s conversation with Ignatieff have also been turned into a six-minute video. Oh, and there’s a book excerpt too.

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