Friday, July 16, 2010

The New Canadian Nationalism, The End of the Country as We Know It

My column from this week's 24 hours


A generation ago Canada Day, still then called Dominion Day, was not much more than a long weekend to the start the summer, certainly not a time to make any sort of big deal about Canada. Sure a few people had flags, but they were a small minority.

In 2010 Canada Day has become our version of July 4th in the US. Fireworks and flags are all over nowadays. People are going out to party, painting their faces, and loudly exclaiming the awesomeness of Canada to anyone that is unfortunate enough to be near them.

English Canadians are waving flags not only on Canada Day or when we win gold medals, but all the time now. You can see it everywhere, big flags adorn car dealerships, people hang them on their houses, others wear t-shirts that say mindless things like “Canadian Chicks Rule”. We have entered a new era of English Canadian patriotism.

From the late 60s to the late 90s Canada was rather unnationalistic, we took a perverse pride in being unassuming and second best. In earlier days Canada still felt strong connections to the idea of being part of the Empire and anyone that was not from the British Isles did not really count. Our new nationalism of the last ten years is something entirely Canadian and new for this country. It is also something that is only in English Canada.

This new nationalism is pushing our politics to be much more like the US or many European countries, the nation and the state are one. This leads to political parties trying to wrap themselves in the flag. Politicians need to have Canadian flags around them at press conferences. A premier going to the US for surgery is now considered a major political liability. This new nationalism has two major impacts on Canadian politics..

First, as more people celebrate Canada Day and wave the maple leaf, the more likely it is that Quebec will become independent. Canadian nationalism is incompatible with Quebec as a nation. The yahoo Canadian nationalism of beer soaked, face painted hosers screaming “Canada is Great” does not go over well in Chicoutimi. Th bigger problem is that the yahoo is expecting the guys in Chicoutimi to love Canada as much as he does. The rejection of Canada by a francophone in Quebec will be a slap in the face to Canada Day fanatics.

Second, as people become more nationalistic, wave the flag, support the troops, and resent the rejection of Canada by the Quebecois, the more people will support the Conservatives. Outside of Quebec Canadians strongly supported the Conservatives in the last election. Stephen Harper won a majority outside of Quebec with 43.3% of the vote and 133 of 233 seats. English Canada lives with a minority government because francophones in Quebec elected to send separatists to Ottawa.

As English Canadians embrace this new nationalism our country will become more conservative and will eventually not have Quebec as a province. Each face painted person waving a Canadian flag brings this future closer.
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