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Happy Canada Day! In a troubled world, Canada stands out as a genuine triumph of bureaucracy

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Canadian flags. Photo: vtgard/Flickr

Happy Canada Day!

One way or another, our Canada always seems to end up on every list of the world's top 10 economies.

Granted, we are almost inevitably number 10 of 10, which may leave the intensely competitive dissatisfied. But, realistically, this also means we're number 10 of 193, if you go by the membership of the United Nations, which is a moving target in a perpetually unhappy and fractious world.

Now, a large economy is no guarantee of national happiness, and money, as my mama used to say, isn't everything. Still, in this world it is a measure of success, and, managed properly, of potential. Being a citizen of a rich country, therefore, isn't a bad place to be, which is why so many people dream of coming here.

As a country, it gives us the financial, technical, and educational resilience to successfully meet an economic, political, or environmental crisis -- leastways, if we have the collective wisdom to recognize such crises as they come along.

It's interesting that we Canadians tend to see our country as smaller and less influential than it really is -- doubtless the result of living next door to a cacophonous colossus.

And though our history turns out to be darker than many of us imagined, certainly that generation, mine, that went to public school in the 1950s and 1960s, we still have not done badly in the great scheme of things -- struggling to set things right over time and all without a bloody revolution or a civil war.

If you're looking for a universal lesson in Canada, then, it's that those who say governments never do anything right are full of baloney.

Governments can -- and, indeed, must -- pick winners and losers, and the Imperial Government in London picked a winner in 1867 when it pushed the disparate parts of still-British North America for geo-strategic and budgetary reasons into a national union that was not entirely comfortable at the time. Canada.

This was achieved despite political uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic, with John A. Macdonald -- "the ablest politician in Upper Canada," said Lord Carnarvon -- working hand in glove with the Colonial Office.

Canada doubtless benefitted from London's perceived needs to save money on defence and to get things done in a hurry, before our next-door neighbour turned its attention northward in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. (It certainly took us a long time to clean up the details after the basics were laid out in the British North America Act, and then thanks to Pierre Trudeau.)

The history of northern migration by those loyal to the British Crown who fled the depredations of the American Revolution likely also gentled the worst ethnocentric instincts of colonialism that later created such catastrophes in post-colonial Asia and Africa.

Yet it is more than a lucky accident that our country grew up to be the place it is.

Canada must be seen as a genuine triumph of bureaucracy, a successful creation of a professional civil service, that prospers still.

Further meditations on the national holiday, which marks the start of Campaign 2019

Canada Day 2019 marks the beginning of the official campaign period leading up to this fall's federal election, and the rhetoric, excitement, and limitations on spending and donations that go with that season.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from this fact, it is that grafting American innovations like fixed election dates onto our Westminster parliamentary system is usually a bad idea, especially from the governing party's point of view.

The three major national parties that have been in a position to form government in recent years all suffer from vacuous leadership that is both weak and flawed. A Jean Chrétien, a Brian Mulroney, or a Jack Layton could be expected to win at a canter.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faltered badly in recent months, which should have made it easy for an Opposition party leader to make a compelling case for change. But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's pitch is for more Harperism with its roughest edges lightly burnished.

Canadians have been there, seen that done and would really prefer not to have it happen again. This makes the Conservative base furious, and therefore furiously accident-prone. Perhaps Scheer will put out a meme claiming that if he were PM, he'd make Canada's GDP No. 8! One wonders how many Conservatives are seriously contemplating voting for Maxime Bernier and his batty far-right People's Party just to overcome the nagging sensation of Scheer indifference?

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is as yet unclear about what he stands for, if anything. This leaves NDP supporters dispirited, awash with ennui, and casting lingering, longing glances at Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, whose party lacks an infrastructure that can form a national government.

This, in turn, makes many New Democrats, appalled at the prospect of a return to Conservative government, vulnerable to the attractions of strategic voting, Trudeau's obvious limitations notwithstanding.

Here in Alberta, meanwhile, the avatars of our fake national unity crisis -- presumably ginned up to frighten Canadian voters into holding their noses and betting on the dubious attractions of Scheer -- are scruffy men in ancient rust-holed and bumper-stickered pickups who want us to believe we can all be as rich as Croesus if only we'll take their financial advice. Two months ago they were telling us that sustainable energy was a UN plot to land-lock Alberta's resources. Now they say the UN will guarantee an independent Alberta's bitumen access to tidewater!

This may not make much difference to the solid Conservative vote within Alberta's borders, but somehow I don't think these people constitute much of a threat to Confederation whether or not Trudeau and his Liberals manage to get re-elected.

Perhaps this explains why Stephen Harper himself seems to have turned his attention away from reforming Canada in his sinister image to another project, helping England finally stage its Brexit gong show, not just extracting itself from a united Europe but probably unintentionally from the United Kingdom in the process.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: vtgard/Flickr

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