Thursday, September 27, 2018

It's Rocky!

 Oh Canada! – Reflections on Canada


Canada finally gets into the headlines!  Just because it borders the U.S. for thousands of miles doesn’t mean it isn’t invisible.  “Psst!  Hey Bud, there’s this semi-European social democracy just north of us.  Pass it on…”  Justin Trudeau, that Liberal scion of a famous father, handsome and young – is a bit discombobulated by the hostile “America First / Deutschland Uber Alles” rhetoric coming out of the Trump White House over renegotiating the excrable NAFTA treaty.   

After all, like some countries, Canada’s milk business (or pick your product ) has a guaranteed price support program so milk farmers don’t go bankrupt.  The U.S. protects its various farm industries heavily through its farm bill, but not in that way.  Buying milk and cheese surpluses, paying for fallow land, mandating milk products in its welfare programs – the list of welfare to farmers and the Ag industry goes on.  Steel and aluminum have certain similar protections. And does any country want U.S. cultural products like "Everybody Loves Raymond" shoved down their throat?  Capitalist rivalry is built into the nation-state system and various forms of ‘war’ are its result.  Including trade war.  After all, the Japanese entry into WWII was preceded by a cutoff of gas and oil by the U.S.  So…the soft war has begun, even on ‘allies’ and ‘enemies.’  The Gargantuan ogre below the border must have its way. 

Tourists on one side, Mountain and Glacier on the other.

Poor Trudeau has another problem.  Like most Liberals and liberals, he is still wedded to a complete market approach to the environment.  So…the Trans Mountain Pipeline through British Columbia must continue!   The oil must be freed from the Alberta tar sands! The Liberals have said this pipeline ‘will be built’ no matter what, sounding like the Republican Party about Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Ignore global warming, ignore First Nations, ignore environmentalists, the Green Party, a ‘green jobs’ economy, the left in the New Democratic Party (NDP) and your own ‘pledges’ on the environment.  After all, the 566 fires in British Columbia this summer didn’t really happen.  The Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park (and every other one) is not actually receding.  Only pay attention to the Canadian banks loaning money to tar sands companies and the oil companies involved.  Hear them roar!

Oh Canada…  The main problem with Canada is that it is too American.  In my study of the history of the NDP, every time they listened to union leaders in the U.S. or their social-democratic co-thinkers in the U.S., they lost support among the Canadian people.  Their election shares plummeted.  But then the U.S. does not even have – to this day -  any sort of a Labor Party.  The coming legalization of marijuana on a federal level in Canada shows that it is light years ahead of the U.S. and even liberal ‘lower Canada’ states like Minnesota.  The U.S. is so politically backward that the very existence of the NDP – and programs like low-cost higher education, socialized medicine and socialized car insurance – rebuke the weak ‘left’ in the U.S.  And I mean the Sanderites, the union ‘leaders’ and organizations like Democratic Socialists of America who prefer to work through the bourgeois Democratic Party.


Tourism is starting to become a problem all over the world.  Just as the capitalists are gentrifying every premier city, tourism is starting to gentrify and destroy local economies and environments.  Except for the sole function – pleasing the monied tourist.  Crowds from ships throng Barcelona, Venice, London – any city within reach of a tour boat.  Highly desirable National Parks in the U.S. like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and others have become over-priced parking lots in the summer.  Here in the Canadian Rockies it is off season, but still campers and cars throng some of the key spots like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.  The process forces prices up to ridiculous levels, especially in motels and hotels.  Following that is the introduction of million-dollar cabins and lodges and it is all up hill from there.

Tourists here in Canada are from all over the world – mostly from the former English empire of course.  Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, Mericans and Canucks.  But the biggest influx of tourists is coming from China.  Large tour buses and privately driven vans full of Chinese noveau riche are descending on Paris and famous tourist venues – including the Canadian Rockies.  Some people might be offended by the insularity of Chinese tourists – who have probably become the new ‘ugly American.’  But this is only a function of the growth of the Chinese middle class, which has ballooned in the last 10-20 years.  “Enrich yourself” means travel.  And so they do in their own mass group way, bringing their rice cookers, all picture and pose crazy, just as clueless ‘Americans’ thronged Europe many years ago and pissed most everyone off.


Did I say that the problem with Canada was that it was ‘too American’?  I did.  Like most of the rest of the world, the homogenizing force of capital creates suburbs, malls and businesses that are the same all over the world.  Even the music in the stores in Banff is 1960s U.S. rock and roll, not Joni Mitchell, Neil Young or the Guess Who. Driving in this part of Canada, Alberta, you might not know you weren’t in Montana or Colorado.  Until you read the speed limit for freeways is 90-110 kilometers an hour – about 62-67 MPH.  Laughable, but it’s the law.  In Montana it is 80 MPH, in North Dakota 75 MPH.  Welcome to the tame, safer west.  This certainly benefits their National Parks, which are better organized than the U.S. park system. They have memorials to 'internment camps' used in WWI, when illegal immigrants, mostly Ukrainians, were sent to harsh labor camps to build these national parks.  Something U.S. parks would not do.  Edmonton has the biggest Mall in the world – indoors, of course.  Outside its downtown, this government and now finance city on a cold prairie could be anywhere.  Unfortunately. 


Then there is the Canadian attitude to world imperialism.  Canada ended up being a junior military partner to the U.S., with troops still in Afghanistan.  Even the social-democratic tradition in Canada has played along many times.  That other part of the old empire, England, will soon be not just the U.S.’s poodle, but its slave after Brexit.  England will become even more like the U.S., especially if it loses Scotland and Northern Ireland if they try to stay with the EU.  Aping the U.S. is a disaster.

Long ago in the 1990s when I was a member of the Labor Party in the U.S., I suggested somewhat humorously that Minnesota should secede from the U.S. and join Canada.  That essay is re-posted below (“A Less Modest Proposal”). I still think so, but obviously that would not solve the real situation, as imperialism is a world system.  Secession would weaken the U.S. politically.  The environment, human movement, capital flows, supply chains and military sorties never stop at national borders and never will.  The nation-state still exists, but in practice only when ‘needed’ by capital.

Prior reviews on Canada:  “Tar Sands,” “Cornell West in Toronto,” “A Traveler’s Tale,” “Blue Covenant,” “This Changes Everything,” and “A Less Modest Proposal.”  Use blog search box, upper left.

Red Frog
Edmonton, Canada

September 27, 2018

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