The eras of Trudeau the father and Trudeau the son are very different. Younger Canadians who did who did not know the first must deliver close scrutiny to the second.
Since the end of WWll in 1945, the history of Canada and the history of the Liberal Party are very compatible as they have formed government most of that time. It can be argued that this has been a tale of betrayal: A betrayal well documented in the book, Lament for a Nation (1965), by Canadian philosopher George Grant.
Grant’s lament is for a nation he saw as being betrayed by its political and economic elites. These elites, working together hand in glove, these elites, could not resist the lure of the empire next door and have been willing to sacrifice the entity called Canada to continentalism. Grant saw, even then, Canada was doomed to be assimilated by the US as the commercial and political expediencies practiced by our elites would result in an incremental loss of sovereignty and ultimately the end of Canada as a sovereign nation. If it didn’t apply for formal union with the US, it would exist as a vassal state.
Grant’s book is full of stunning insights that are as true today as when they were written. The difference between then and now has been, as he predicted, is a precipitous decline in our sovereignty.
He saw, even then, as it is now, that NATO( created in 1947) was not a defense alliance of sovereign states but an “instrument of the American empire.”
He saw how foreign policy could be utterly corrupted. Where the dollars flow, so goes foreign policy. Where Stephen Harper allowed Canada’s foreign policy to become non-existent; it could be argued he was only asserting an undeniable reality: Canada is so highly integrated into the US it is utter pretense to try and have an independent foreign policy. To do so, would be to roll back the clock, and in the process raise the fury of the empire. Now, we have a fledgling Liberal government that claims to be establishing a principled foreign policy, but the stipulations of being a vassal state render this a pipe dream.
He foresaw the rise of corporatism and its ability to demolish “local cultures” (nation states). The “operating system” of corporatism is the neoliberal free market economy which impoverishes populations, socializes debt, privatizes wealth, and creates enormous social and economic inequality.
In 1957, Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker signed on to North American Air Defense(NORAD) with the US. In 1959 he canceled the Avro Arrow program under pressure from the US. The Arrow developed in Canada was 40 years ahead of its time. Had it gone ahead later versions would still be in service today.
Before the Mulroney Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of 1988, Canada had true free trade with the US, where 90% of our goods and services crossed the US border free of duties and tariffs. With the FTA Canada went from being a branch plant economy to a captive economy. It was left to the Chretien Liberals to pass into being the much expanded NAFTA in 1994.
Whether it was NATO, NORAD or NAFTA Canadian Conservative and Liberal governments( the Tweedle Dee-Tweedle Dum syndrome) they were there to sign on the dotted line, and these were only the tip of the iceberg. Since the NAFTA signing of 1994 Canada has signed on to a plethora of trade agreements, none of which have improved our trade balances and done nothing to improve the fortunes of the average Canadian.
Now the granddaddy of all trade agreements, the TPP, lands on our doorstep. History tells us the Liberals are most certainly going to sign. To ratify the TTP is to resign the last remnants of our nationhood. If this government could bring itself to be more forthright with Canadians, it would only call a binding national referendum for formal union with the US. Depending on the outcome, all federal institutions starting with Parliament would be dissolved, and the provincial premiers would become state governors.
As Grant observed, “The debt that we owe the Liberals is that they have been so willing to be led. The party is made up of those who put only one condition on their willingness: that they should have personal charge of the government while our sovereignty disappears.”
For Grant, the essential requirement of nationhood is a “thrust of intention”. There is no denying this thrust becomes more difficult when a smaller nation parked on the doorstep of the world’s singular superpower. The indolence of Canada’s political elites is that they are too willing to say Yes, Yes, Yes, to where it is expected as the automatic reply. Total compliance is a downward spiral to total servility. The much touted “friendship” between Canada and the US is nothing of the sort. Our political elites have turned us into a servant state, where their raison d’etre becomes increasingly redundant as they indulge in their retreat from real governance. These are governments that love the trappings of power but lack the mettle to exercise real power.
Canada is not alone. Since Grant’s time corporate power has gone from being influential to being globally dominate. With the TPP, the TISA, and the TTIP many countries are facing the hard choice of signing on amid dire warnings that do so is to resign their economic and political sovereignty. These are well-founded as it is evident these agreements are intended to lock down America’s domination of all satellite economies and further threaten Russia and China.
The world is now at a turning point. The present endless warfare, both military and economic, is being waged because the US is ruthlessly pursuing global hegemony. In this pursuit, the US is all too willing to see satellite economies sacrificed to its imperial ambitions. It is also willing to risk WWIII as we are well into Cold War ll, and it is holding both Russia and China under military and economic siege, using NATO as its imperialist surrogate.
To accept these agreements is to foster a suffocating global fascism, to reject them is a first step toward a New World Order, that is multilateral, much more egalitarian and legitimate.
The irony Canada is that its political and economic elites gave up on it long ago; whereas the citizenry has a strong loyalty to it, even in our diminished state. Where Harper was openly contemptuous of the diminished Canada and sought to undermine it further, the Trudeau Liberals are willing to preside once again over our countries demise and play the pretense of nationhood, delivering empty promises and practicing pretentious foreign policy.
Older Canadians like myself bear witness to how Canada, like so many other countries, has been ravaged by freewheeling corporatism, the consummate thievery of the neoliberal free market economy, and how governments, so willing to accommodate, allowed their powers to usurped.
The eras of Trudeau the father and the Trudeau, the son are very different. Younger Canadians who did not know the father must deliver close scrutiny to the son.
In 1964 the manifesto “ An appeal for Realism in Politics” was published in The Canadian Forum. This quote from it applied to Canada both then, and even more so now:
“If Canadians cannot make a success of a country such as theirs, how can they contribute in any meaningful way to the elaboration of humanism, to contribute to the international structures of tomorrow? To confess one’s inability to make Canadian Confederation work is, at this stage of history, to admit one’s unworthiness to contribute to the universal order.”
Stephen Harper clearly saw Canada as unworthy. His retrograde policies were a manifestation of his contempt for the country. Now, the Liberals are in a position to show their true colors and their commitment to Canadian Confederation.
Robert Billyard ©2016
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