By Jason Menard
Congratulations Mr. Wilkins! You just earned yourself a spot on top of Paul Martin’s Christmas card list this year.
David Wilkins, the United States’ ambassador to Canada – and the spokesperson for President George Bush north of the 49 th – issued a stern warning to Canadian politicians about using North American relations as a campaign. Without naming names, it was clear that Wilkins was referring to Martin and his recent tough stand on American issues.
What he doesn’t realize is that, for many Canadians, a little anti-Americanism goes a long way. And by building the platform for the Liberal leader, he’s created another pulpit from which he can preach that he’s the true defender of Canada. Let’s face it, we Canadians are a touchy lot at the best of times when it comes to the elephant to the south – and when they start saber-rattling, then we really get our backs up.
What does it mean to be Canadian? First and foremost on many people’s list is that we’re not American. Sure, it may say something about our national self-confidence that we choose to define ourselves by what we’re not, as opposed to what we are, but the fact remains that Canadians are fiercely proud of not being Americans.
It’s a social superciliousness that extends through all walks of our lives. From our social programs to our foreign affairs, we Canucks love nothing more than to look down at our American neighbours.
Of course, that pompous nature and constant exhortation of all that is better about being Canadian belies our true fears. When it comes to North American life, we ride shotgun. Whether we talk, shout, or pout, really we’re riding shotgun to wherever the U.S. decides to steer the continent. As independent as we like to think we are, we know we’re beholden to our American friends for such important issues as defense and trade.
And what makes us feel even worse is that we know we’re powerless even when we’re right. Take, for example, the softwood lumber ruling. We knew we were in the right and the world’s court agreed with us. Yet, like a schoolyard bully holding our lunch money, they basically dared us to come and get it!
Of course, the schoolyard bully didn’t have designs on our overabundant supply of fresh water. And there’s no principal to step in and ensure fairness. When it comes to life, politics, and global economics, fair is only in the eye of the beholder.
So, with many Canadians harbouring an inferiority complex that would have Carl Jung salivating, any verbal spankings issued by our American cohorts is going to have us, as a nation, in a fighting mood! In fact, we’ll get downright ornery, kick our heels, wring our hands, and look for someone to champion our cause.
And in comes Paul Martin. The same Paul Martin who has been talking tough on softwood lumber for months. The same Paul Martin who has been throwing stones at the Yanks over Kyoto – despite living in a remarkably see-through house. And the same Paul Martin who can now turn attention away from beer-drinking, popcorn-popping mothers towards the more friendly confines of standing up against the Americans. Should Stephen Harper, who many see as the northern incarnation of George Bush, or Jack Layton step up and say anything, Martin now has the requisite foundation to call them out as profiteers looking to jump on the anti-American bandwagon.
Is it a risky game? Not for Martin. Any opposing sentiment suggesting a more mollifying touch with the United States would simply come across as weak pandering to the Americans. By spending a little of the trade capital earned south of the border, Martin’s able to exchange it for a much more valuable currency in the Great White North.
Christmas came early for Paul Martin, and the many wearing the bright red suit was named David Wilkins. And, as evidenced by the way he’s pounced on any of Harper’s gaffes this election campaign, Martin is not one to look a gift horse – or ambassador – in the mouth.
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