As Canadian as anyone

Renowned CBC broadcaster Peter Gzowski once held a contest to determine how to complete the phrase "As Canadian as"

The winner: "As Canadian as possible under the circumstances."


So as we prepare to celebrate our nation's 146th birthday on Monday, just how Canadian is it possible to be these days?

Green Party leader and MP Elizabeth May recently took a fair bit of flak for saying in an interview with Global TV that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "not Canadian."

May then doubled down on her criticism in a post on the Huffington Post, titled "10 Reasons Why Harper Isn't Really Canadian." In it, she tears a strip off Harper for undermining of Canada's principles of parliamentary democracy and professional civil service, concentrating the entire power of government in his office.

There's nothing illegal about it - the potential power of a prime minister to control the entire machinery of government has existed for years. The principle of responsible government, where a prime minister serves purely at the will of Parliament, started being corrupted by the cult of personality around none other than our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

May's argument is that Harper, in actually using these powers rather than respecting tradition and keeping his hands off them, is "outside the normal spectrum of Canadian political thought."

There's the rub: is what Harper is doing un-Canadian?

Canadian values have been in a constant state of evolution since Confederation. If they hadn't, we would be a very different nation today. The decisions to populate our country by opening our doors to the world, to stand as an independent nation rather than remaining a quasi-colony of the British Empire, to move beyond two founding peoples and embrace multiculturalism, to codify our rights and freedoms and enshrine them in our constitution, all were radical departures from what Canada had been before and have changed the country forever.

Is this the next big shift? Possibly, but not necessarily. Harper's style could just as easily provoke a revolt within his own party or defeat at the polls. Perhaps dancing close to the edge of parliamentary dictatorship could provide the impetus for true electoral reform.

In the end, though, it's quintessentially Canadian to mistrust the government of the day.

It's Canadian as anything to bemoan the loss of our nation as we know it when you disagree with what the Prime Minister is doing.

We were going to say that what isn't Canadian is to accuse others who don't share your views that they aren't really Canadian. But then again, Macdonald himself accused his detractors of being pro-American, anti-British sympathizers who were trying to destroy the country.

Which makes both Harper and May just about as Canadian as you can get. Under the circumstances, anyway.

Happy Canada Day.

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