Canada's Foot-in-Mouth Disease: Here we go again!
By Rachel Marsden
Canada-US relations were thrust onto the world stage once again this week because of a classless, petty remark made by a prime ministerial aide. Francie Ducros--the communications secretary for Canadian PM Jean Chrétien--called US President George W. Bush a "moron" for pushing Iraq to the top of the NATO agenda. Ducros made the comment at a NATO summit in Prague, while in the presence of some canadian journalists.
Although Ducros has admitted to making the comment, Chrétien has refused to accept the resignation of his hand-picked aide and friend. In an interview with CBC News: Sunday, Chrétien downplayed the remark: "She say--she use it. It's a word she apparently use a lot. In the private conversation she apologized. But it was the context of this debate with a reporter where she, it was defending the Americans rather than attacking them. If I knew I would not have to have . . ."
I'll spare you the rest of Chrétien's statement. In case you're wondering--there are no typos or transcription errors in the above passage. This is exactly what Chrétien said--word for word. Now, if there is anyone out there reading this who specializes in "Chrétien-to-English" translations, please contact me at your earliest convenience. Your services are, obviously, desperately needed.
It's pretty clear that if Ducros wants to know what a real "moron" is all about, she need look no further than her own boss. Say what you want about George W. Bush, at least we can understand him when he talks in his country's official language.
Ducros--like Chrétien--appears to be afflicted with a bad case of "Canadian-intellectual-ivory-tower-elitism." They truly seem to believe that they are better than the common man, and are constantly raising the figurative drawbridge on what they perceive as being the "unwashed masses." Despite George W. Bush's upper-class upbringing, he has proven that he's a man of the people. Bush was born into wealth, yet he shunned the east coast New England elitists. He holds a Bachelor's Degree and an MBA from two of the world's top universities (Yale and Harvard, respectively), however he chose to make a humble home for himself and his down-to-earth librarian wife Laura on a ranch in Texas. Bush has never pretended to be above anyone, despite his education, his wealth, and his family's social status.
Bush has been a successful and popular president because he's seen and known as a real person on par with the rest of us. He's someone you feel you can sit and yak with over coffee without feeling self-conscious. This down-to-earth pragmatism is also evident in Canada's Canadian Alliance party. Within only a few years of its creation, the Alliance's predecessor--Preston Manning's Reform Party--shot to the top of Canada's political stratosphere to form the Official Opposition to Chrétien's Liberals. The Canadian Alliance has taken nearly every parliamentary seat west of Brandon, Manitoba, and they have done so by promoting themselves as a party by the people and for the people.
Unfortunately for Canada (and especially for those of us in the West who didn't vote Liberal in the last election), Ducros has mistaken down-to-earthness and Bush's good-horse sense and folksy disposition for stupidity. In doing so, she has embarrassed us and made us look like provincially-minded, petty little people. Last week, American talk show host Pat Buchanan called Canadians "the spoiled brats of the New World Order." And who can blame him if comments like the "moron" remark are coming straight from the PM's official mouthpiece--and no disciplinary action is taken by the Prime Minister.
While the United States, post-9/11, has been preoccupied with fighting and pre-empting terrorism against western democracies, Canada has been more concerned with poking sticks in America's eyes. Chrétien has blamed the September 11th terrorist attacks on America's relative wealth, and he has compared Iraq to Pearl Harbour. If America is the young schoolgirl working diligently at her desk, then Canada is the little brat sitting behind her, prodding her with his pencil and sticking bubblegum in her hair. While other countries are driving circles around us with the implementation of increased defense, immigration, and post-9/11 security measures, Canada can't even find its keys.
Could we, as a country, possibly do any more to alienate our strongest ally/defender and largest trading partner? Oh, yes--we could strike up a Senate committee to recommend legalizing marijuana. And we could vote into office public officials like newly-elected Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, who ran--and won overwhelmingly--on a platform of giving junkies legislated "safe" places to shoot up around the city. Brilliant! We appear to be well on our way to being a third-world country that the United States would want nothing to do with.
And ultimately, when the focused, disciplined schoolgirl gets sick and tired of being taunted by the little guy beside her, surely she'll start to fight back. And if Canada thinks the US-imposed softwood lumber tariffs are bad, perhaps it should consider what might happen if America slaps a heavy duty on imported Canadian steel used for purposes such as US automobile manufacturing? It would only take a move like this to effectively shut down the province of Ontario and, essentially, the economy of our entire country. And the Americans have the power to do this at the drop of a hat--and deal with the World Trade Organization later.
Fortunately, Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and other US representatives at the NATO summit took the high road. They have ignored the "moron" remark to the point where they haven't bothered to even address it. However, Ducros' comment is also symptomatic of a prevailing anti-American attitude which underpins Chrétien's circle of power. In 1997, Chrétien remarked in front of an open microphone that he liked to stand up to the Americans because it was a popular thing to do. But at what point will Canadians finally get fed-up and start electing public officials who are willing to build our country in cooperation with our closest friend and neighbour, instead of ones who are seemingly so hell-bent on distancing ourselves from the US that it becomes detrimental? Besides, if we aren't "with" the Americans, then what side ARE we on?