Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Mari Usque Ad Mare

Coming just as Canada’s vast resources of fuel, fresh water, timber and other key commodities make her a coming superpower of the twenty-first century, the appointment of Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank of England seems especially fitting in the bicentenary year of the War of 1812, and when even the world’s biggest pop star is a Canadian. An outspokenly loyal Canadian, in fact, and that specifically by reference to socialised medicine.

Socialised medicine is one of the grounds on which the American Right pillories Canada as a proxy for pillorying Britain. That vulgar abuse is gleefully repeated in our Quisling pseudo-Tory press, which is loyal only to Israel and to an electorally defeated vision of the United States. Its proposed “Anglosphere” is the conformity of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to that model in everything from healthcare to constitutional structures.

Canada is the land of John G Diefenbaker, the morally and socially conservative rural populist who established the Canadian Bill of Rights, the Royal Commission on Health Services, the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act, and the National Productivity Council (Economic Council of Canada), and who extended the franchise to all Aboriginal peoples. He campaigned to save the Canadian Red Ensign, with the Union Flag in the corner and thus making Canada a nation under the Cross. He opposed official bilingualism in the English-speaking provinces, a common cause between Irish Catholics and his own tribe, the Orangemen. He denounced apartheid, and blocked the Commonwealth readmission of the new Republic of South Africa. And he refused to have American nuclear weapons in Canada.

Tommy Douglas was voted the Greatest Canadian by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s viewers in 2004. Born in Falkirk, and therefore an embodied link between Canada and the United Kingdom, this Baptist minister led a party of unions, farmers and co-operators with that splendid name, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. He gave Saskatchewan the publicly owned Saskatchewan Power Corporation, its extension of electrical services to remote villages and farms, and the Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office. He gave Saskatchewan many Crown Corporations in competition with private sector interests, the unionisation of the public services, and Canada’s first programme of universal free hospital care. He delivered the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, with its groundbreaking protections against private no less than government abuses. He laid the ground for the province’s Medicare programme, which soon afterwards became nationwide. And he became the first Leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada’s main party of the Left. Did I mention that he did all this while a Baptist minister?

Only in Canada, within and under the British Empire, and under the Crown to this day, was the old France, “the Eldest Daughter of Holy Mother Church”, able to survive. The fleur-de-lys, on the Royal Arms of England and then of Great Britain from 1340 to 1800, remains the symbol to this day, and the Assembly quite recently voted without dissent to retain the Crucifix between the Speaker’s Chair and the Royal Coat of Arms. The Crucifix between the Speaker’s Chair and the Royal Coat of Arms. Perfect. Utterly, utterly, utterly perfect.

Complete with the Queen and the Westminster model, a few retained British variations on the English language, and a British-style social democracy. Yet sharing with the United States a continent and the longest land frontier between any two countries. How dare they? Who do they think they are? They are indicating exactly who they are by withdrawing from Afghanistan. We should be right behind them. As we should be in defending secure jobs, proper wages, travel opportunities and a full diet for everyone. Canadians have a particularly important understanding of the necessity of government economic action to the maintenance of national sovereignty: “It’s either the State or the States”. Thus is defined all specifically Canadian patriotism, rather than the separatism of Quebec or the West.

Now, there is a special relationship.

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