Canadians tend to please themselves by feeling superior to the Americans: Americans are violent; we are peaceful. Americans demand anarchical freedom; Canadians want “peace, order, and good government.” Americans go to extremes, e.g., by electing the awful President Donald Trump; we are moderate, e.g., by electing a young, good-looking, well-spoken prime minister. Americans are braggarts; we are modest. Of course, Canadians often add that American people are nice and kind; it’s only American culture that’s the problem and the reason that American society has gone wrong.
The Canadian impression of America is only reinforced by the current state of the American economy, its galloping inflation, and by its urban crime, its flood of illegal immigrants, and the tens of thousands of poisoning deaths from smuggled fentanyl. Increasingly, Canadians see America as mad, bad, and dangerous to know. So Canadians are thankful that we live here in Canada.
But, wait, is Canada today the Canada that we’ve always known? Most notably, why has our “peace, order, and good government” come to resemble that of Mussolini’s Italy (except that the trains don’t run on time)? And the American inflation and destruction of the oil industry, is Canada any different?
U.S. President Joe Biden aspires to be a transformative president. Allegedly his advisers told him that he could be like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who made massive changes during the Great Depression. Biden has adopted the ideas of the “progressive” socialists of the Democratic Party, particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the radical socialist Squad of the House of Representatives, and their fondness for the Soviet Union, Communist Cuba, and Communist China.
But Biden has failed to be transformative; his policies have just failed. One reason is that the U.S. political structure is based on a division of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and Biden’s policies have been obstructed by Congress and rejected by the Supreme Court. Another reason is that there’s a robust political and popular opposition that consists of at least half the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in contrast, has successfully been a transformative leader. He expressed his intentions early when he said that he admired the Chinese Communist Party for its capacity to institute changes efficiently. And then the PM set about deconstructing Canada.
Trudeau asserted that there was no Canadian mainstream culture, and that therefore Canada was not a nation but a post-national state. So, in his view, the only thing real about Canada was the state apparatus. This was reinforced by his claim that “diversity is our strength,” indicating that there’s no there in Canada, but only a congeries of splintered cultural subgroups. Furthermore, he asserted, Euro-Canadians, now described as “settlers,” engaged in genocide against First Nations. In his 2022 Canada Day statement, the PM said that Canada’s “historic wrongs” would make it difficult for some to celebrate. Euro-Canadians have often sinned, as the PM delights in reminding us.
For Trudeau, in Canada only the state is real, and, what is the state? For Trudeau, the state is moi. Canada has none of the diffusing division of powers that characterize the American government. Possible sources of opposition—Parliament, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the press, the universities—are easily dealt with. Following the U.S. Democratic Party motto, never let a good crisis go to waste, during the pandemic Parliament is closed down, and the Charter is totally ignored and civil rights overridden. Provinces join in, and control of everyday life, commerce, and schools is turned over to unelected “public health” bureaucrats who treat citizens as chattels. The true basic rules of health care—“informed choice” and “do no harm”—are ignored as people are locked away and mandated to accept experimental quasi-vaccines, and fired and are still being fired from their jobs in health care and the military for refusing the shots.
The prime minister uses taxpayer money to buy the mass media, giving grants to obedient craven publishers to abandon their duty to champion the public interest and to instead support the state. He likewise uses taxpayer funds to impose a “social justice” agenda on universities, requiring them to dispense with the search for truth and the advancement of knowledge in favor of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” The cancellation of academic freedom and judgment on the basis of merit and excellence has served to advance reverse discrimination and the “justice” of identity politics. The PM has advanced bills (currently, Bill C-11) allowing his government to censor internet content; once passed it would allow government censors to declare any criticism of the government and its policies “misinformation” and to eliminate it.
The prime minister has gone out of his way to humiliate the majority of the population, characterizing white Canadians as genocidal oppressors of First Nations and racist discriminators against BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of colour) and apologizing for Canadian history.
When a First Nations activist claimed that there were graves of missing indigenous children on the site of a residential school, the prime minister lowered Canadian flags to half-mast across the country for six months! No serious evidence has ever been forthcoming to support that claim, or the claim that there were any “lost” indigenous children among the carefully registered pupils in residential schools. And when churches were burned down because residential schools had been run by some church groups, the prime minister said that he “understood” the anger.
The cancellation of Canadian history through the destruction of statues of those political figures who built Canada, and through the erasure of honorific names of historical figures from institutions, the PM had nothing to say, not even “enforce the law.” Apparently, the PM not only thinks that the state is moi, but also history is moi.
If all of this was not enough for Canadians to see Trudeau’s authoritarian path, his malicious intolerance of democracy was made clear during the truckers’ demonstration in Ottawa. Remember the truckers, the heroic folks who kept bringing food and fuel to citizens during the pandemic? Fed up with rigid COVID regulations and mandates that unnecessarily inhibited their work, the truckers demonstrated by parking in downtown Ottawa streets.
The PM refused to speak with them. He called them a fringe minority of troublemakers, racists (even the black truck drivers), misogynists, and if he had called them cannibals, I wouldn’t be surprised. The truckers’ parking offenses in Ottawa were not their real offense. Their real crime was challenging the PM’s policy. Who were they to criticize the PM’s judgment? Citizens—or is it now “subjects?”—should speak only when spoken to, and, obviously, defer to their betters.
So the PM, claiming that the truckers’ bouncy castle and parties were a violent threat to peace, order, and good government, that the truckers were insurgents aiming to overthrow the government, declared the Emergencies Act, successor to the War Measures Act, which allowed the government to confiscate the truckers’ trucks, cancel their licenses to work, and expropriate their bank accounts, and the police to brutally break up the demonstration. None of the legal conditions for invoking the Emergencies Act were satisfied, and the PM soon withdrew it.
In any self-respecting parliamentary system, the other government ministers would have resigned (as in the UK just this week), and the prime minister would have lost a confidence vote and been replaced. But Canadian democracy is today a sham, replaced by an authoritarian quasi-dictatorship.
In the United States, the limitless ambition of the president is constrained by the courts and the legislative opposition, and sometimes by principled opposition from members of the government party in the legislature. There’s also the possibility of strong opposition from the public, which we see today in its 88 percent judgment that the country is going in the wrong direction.
In Canada, there are no such constraints. Parliament is helpless. The Canadian public is too blind, passive, or timid to stand up to its now authoritarian government. So the satisfaction of feeling superior to the Americans is a pleasure lost to the past. Canada is no longer safer, nicer, and more civilized than America. Canada has gone wrong under the thrall of an authoritarian despotism, and has become a nasty, sad country.
Philip Carl Salzman is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Originally appeared in Epoch Times.