Brent H. Cameron is a Senior Advisor with Concierge Strategies, and a local councillor in Ontario, Canada. The second edition of his 2005 book, “The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade: Options for a new globalization” is available on Amazon worldwide – both in paperback and in Kindle e-book formats.
Recently I happened upon a YouTube series where the host, from Britain, was demonstrating differences between Britain, Canada and the United States in terms of spoken language. Not surprisingly, the biggest differences were between British English and American English, with Canadian English favouring one or the other. In a couple of cases, Canadian English was different from both.
We know that this is the case because English-speaking Canada inhabits a space that has been subject to the powerful forces of American popular culture and British historical precedent. It should only make sense that we should inhabit a linguistic space that is like both, but not the same in either case.
Our politics inhabits this strange territory. It always has – and maybe more so today.
To be a Canadian is to live in a country run according to British inspired rules but influenced by American trends and opinions. It has always been the case, and certainly George Grant’s 1965 book “Lament for a Nation” makes this both a central theme as well as a ‘cri de coeur’ for an independent Canadian nationalism that speaks to the reality of our lives.
Grant was pessimistic because he felt all the power and the pressure emanated from those who favoured us simply as an adjunct to the United States. He recognized the socializing power of the United States – military, economic and cultural – but our history, our political institutions, and our national reference points are decidedly unique and very British in style and tenor.
It is problematic to draw comparisons, but if we must then it is fair to say that we campaign like Americans and govern like the British.
This is important as we see an election where the two leading contenders for government have taken approaches that favour both competing influences.
In the Conservative campaign, we see similarities to the “Blue Collar Conservative” approach taken by Boris Johnson – an approach that completed Brexit, broke the Labour Party’s hold on key constituencies in northern England – the so-called “Red Wall” and still maintains a healthy lead in the polls nearly two years on.
The Liberal campaign, by contrast, has focused its attention by hitting on sensitive issues such as abortion, gun control, and health care. The tone and tenor are virtually indistinguishable from the content one might see from a self-styled Liberal Democrat running for a congressional seat in New York City or a suburb of Baltimore or Los Angeles.
We are neither British nor American, but we are enough of each to somewhat negate the other.
Should we be surprised that the British style campaign and the American styled campaign are now in a statistical tie for the lead?
If George Grant were alive, he might be surprised – and pleasantly so.