Famed Mag Says We’re a Mess

Worth A Look, Role of Government, Frontier Centre

OTTAWA — Canada is still cool but our politics is “a fractured mess,” says the influential British magazine The Economist.

Two years after first declaring Canada “rather cool,” the latest edition of the weekly concludes the country is “not at its best, just at the moment.”

It says Canada is beset by dysfunctional politics, grumpy anti-Americanism and three brewing political storms: one in the West, one in Quebec and one in its relations with the United States.

The business-oriented publication is running a 14-page special report and a lead editorial on Canada.

It’s upbeat about Canada’s overall prospects: “Peaceful, diverse, tolerant (in June gay marriages became legal throughout the country) and with long-term riches to boot — if this isn’t ‘cool’, what is?” However, it points to turbulence.

Looking at the campaign for the Jan. 23 federal election, the survey describes the political scene as a fractured mess.

Prime Minister Paul Martin is “a fine finance minister, but as prime minister he has, on the whole, disappointed.”

Aloof, cerebral

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is described as “an aloof, cerebral figure, disparaged well beyond Liberal circles as a neo-conservative importing dangerous ideas from the United States.

He is also “clueless with the media.”

The magazine dismisses the NDP (Leader Jack Layton isn’t mentioned) as “a socialist party from the old world that is ill at ease in the new one and has yet to find its Tony Blair.”
It touches on the sponsorship scandal, but says the country’s political problems go far beyond sleaze.

“A funny sort of government,” reads one headline. The Economist talks of the country’s highly centralized system, where power concentrates in the prime minister’s hands. Real opposition comes not from national parties, but from the provinces, it says.

There are disturbing portents in this troubled political mix.

Alberta, awash in oil money, is grumbling about a distant, aloof Ottawa. Separatist sentiment is stirring again in Quebec. And Canada’s relations with the U.S. — vital to trade and prosperity, but vulnerable to bickering over everything from mad cows to Republican politics — are fraying.

The magazine says the most likely outcome of this “untimely election” is another Liberal minority, propped up by the NDP.

It says the Conservatives carry baggage from the merger of the old Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance.

— Canadian Press