“Canada” turns 150 today.
Of course, no one is alive from 150 years ago, but the institution set up in 1867 still exists. Individuals in the northern half of the North American continent still identify, first and foremost in many cases, as Canadian.
But Canada didn’t really begin in 1867.
Before then there was a smaller, semi-independent colony called the Province of Canada in what is now Quebec and Ontario.
Since Englishmen in British North America demanded the same rights as those in Mother England, and with the influence of American independence literally at their doorstep, the colonists often enjoyed liberties sometimes greater than their European counterparts.
Too much democratic populism was both a blessing and a curse for North America. American brashness freed markets from political rule like no country ever had, but it fostered the conditions for the all-powerful state to emerge.
And so political secession proved fatal for many Americans, and in Europe, while Bismarck was busy unifying Germany, British politicians and bankers were talking about amalgamating the British North American colonies into a single political monopoly.
The technicalities of Canada’s constitution wasn’t in the hands of British aristocrats or influential banking houses like Baring Brothers & Co. and Glyn, Mills & Co.
But Canada’s finances were, and examining the nation 150 years later, the situation doesn’t seem to be much different, although the names have changed.
And so, with this historic thread of crony-capitalism bridging Canadians living today with those of yesteryear, here are the two ways we stay true, north, strong and free (whatever that means), and one way we don’t.
And as Meatloaf would sing, “Now don’t be sad… ’Cause two out of three ain’t bad”
1 — The Canadian constitution was a bare-bones classical liberal document that favoured a central state headquartered in Ottawa. This pleased British bankers and the Crown approved.
With basic British precepts of “responsible government” thrown in, all talk of Canadian identity or culture was left to the masses. It would arise later, “when the people did great things together.”
And thus, Canada isn’t really 150 years old, it’s really only 50. You see, the Canada we know today started with Expo ’67. The actual event itself is insignificant enough, but as a transitionary point it will do.
This is when the modern Canadian identity developed. But as Canadian thinker George Grant wrote in Lament for a Nation, we were giving into American influence and undermining our British customs and traditions.
Like 1867, Canada is still the crony-capitalist protectionist state it’s always been, conservative to radical ideas and satisfied to play a minor role in the world given the empires we’ve situated with. We’re a mini-empire ourselves. But that depends on what you mean by “we” and by “empire.”
Which brings us to,
2 — Canada is a run-away democracy.
Like a runaway greenhouse effect, a population who believe they are the state and thus can tax themselves to prosperity are ultimately undermining what makes their system work.
How did this happen? Simple, looking at the American civil war, George-Étienne Cartier said that, “We were not now discussing the great problem presented to our consideration in order to propagate democratic principles. Our attempt was for the purpose of forming a federation with a view of perpetuating the monarchical element. The distinction therefore between ourselves and our neighbours was just this: in our federation the monarchical principle would form the leading feature, while on the other side of the lines, judging by the past history and present condition of the country, the ruling power was the will of the mob, the rule of the populace.”
For all practical purposes, the prime minister is the head of state. This in spite of the British traditions that balance democratic elements with an aristocracy and, of course, the monarch.
In Canada, the Governor General is the Head of State but in 2017 he apologies for stating true facts. He rubber stamps his Royal Assent without any opposition.
Many Canadians don’t like the monarchical element in our government and it’s easy to see why. It’s just a glorified celebratory position without any real power.
The Victoria mayor didn’t pledge allegiance to the Queen, citing respect for aboriginal groups.
Some incoming immigrants refuse to pledge allegiance to the Queen.
But the Crown is divine, appointed by God, and of course since no one really believes that, the Crown itself has little power over the prime minister.
The system was designed to avoid the excesses of democracy. A Canadian-made aristocracy was to form gradually, a sense of identity was to be fostered after laying out a bare-bones “civic” constitution.
The Crown was to be the supreme element binding it all together.
3 — Regardless, Canada was slated for the history books. As Canada’s seventh prime minister, Wilfrid Laurier, said: “The 20th century belongs to Canada.”
While not quite true, Canada has helped play the role of world empire with our neighbours to the South.
Given the success of the English common law tradition, the influence of American free markets, the vast wilderness and virtual endless diversity of resources claimed by the British post-1867, it would have taken a miracle for Canada not to emerge as a free, prosperous and powerful nation.
But in 2017, as the rule of law deteriorates under postmodernism, with American markets no longer free, and resource ownership a hot political issue, it may take a miracle for Canada to retain its position as a free, prosperous and powerful nation.
Combined with central banking and a population who seem to think bigger governments offer better solutions, Canada’s sesquicentennial still manages to fulfill the wildest desires of those old white Englishmen who created the country 150 years ago.
But for how long?