Monday, January 30, 2006

Call Me A Dryden Liberal

Dryden for Leader! Via Paul Wells, this speech at Ken Dryden's website almost made me sad they'd lost. But then I thought, "If Dryden had been leader, maybe they wouldn't have..."
That's what really bothered me about the Conservatives' announcements. Put money into parents pockets fine. Be proud of that if that's what makes you proud. Just don't call it early learning and child care. So limited. So limiting. Same words completely different story.

What does this have to do with me "talking about Canada"? Just a few weeks ago the Prime Minister talked about building a system of early learning and child care across the country and described it as a "great national endeavour." Like Medicare.

But to take on a "great national endeavour," you have to think in those big terms. It has to be in you. In your bones. It has to be part of your understanding of this country, what it is, how it works, what it can be and should be. The railroad, Medicare, the education system Canada was built on "great national endeavours." In which Quebec was an immense part; in which Alberta and B.C. and Nova Scotia and Ontario were immense parts. Great national endeavours that made Quebec better, that made Quebec more "Quebec." That made Alberta more "Alberta."

Two founding languages and cultures, multicultural transformation it's not that Macdonald or Pearson or Trudeau or even Mulroney always succeeded, but they had big dreams, that made us dream bigger, that made "great national endeavours" possible.
What bugs me about American-style Conservatism here in Canada is not that it's American, but that it's a worldview that's imported from totally different circumstances. The American economy has a totally different nature than the Canadian one, but the way Conservatives talk (or used to) you'd think we could both run the same way. We can't, and trying to will only hurt us in the end.

Specifically, Canada's economy is far smaller, and far more dispersed than the American one. It has historically required the government to step in and make the country whole - the railroad, the CBC, Health Care, etc. All are elements of national unity. A national day care program may not be sexy, but it's the next obvious step.

Which is part of my problem with it - it's obvious, and it's going to happen one way or another at this point. Who's advocating for the not-obvious idea? What Great National EndeavourTM is waiting in the shadows of the future, that we haven't thought of yet? My bet is, once the Liberals answer that question, we won't need to bother with polls or election markets - the winner of the election will be obvious.

Canada doesn't just welcome Great National EndeavoursTM. It demands them. This country cannot be governed along the lines of a laissez-faire, neoliberal model. The only way to keep it together is to have a strong, active role in the economy. The option is to look at what happened for the last 20 years, as our economy has increasingly become a North-South branch of the US Tree. This has some undeniable benefits, but it leaves us without much in the way of national dreams.


late said...

I couldn't help but think the same thing when I read that same note off of Jason Cherniak's weblog (someone who could hardly be called a Dryden disciple I think) before the election. Dryden's speech stated the positives, which implied the negatives about the altertives instead of smearing them. I felt like moving to his district just so I could vote for him!

Steve V said...

If you can get passed the delivery, Dryden offers tons of substance, crafted within an inspiring vision. Dryden could be the Liberal leadership darkhorse to watch. Dryden has some potential to appeal to both English and French Canada. I think the Dryden email represents the single best thing to emerge out of the election.

Westacular said...

The American economy has a totally different nature than the Canadian one

Contrary to what you suggest at the end, this has actually become much more true over the past twenty years.