vendredi 29 janvier 2010

Canadians don’t care because you don’t let us

If the current prorogation debate can tell us anything, is that Canadians don’t know too much about our governmental structure or really don’t care too much about it. So often, we will hear a fellow citizen say “it doesn’t matter, nothing will change anyway” and when we look at the past 142 years of Canada, that isn’t necessarily false. All Canadians expect from their government is not to waste any tax money or embarrass them too much abroad. When this happens, we elect a new government. The desire for a government that keeps quiet stems from the fact that Canadians have rarely been consulted on the institutions which govern them and therefore expect less from them than people of other countries. Though there might be a fair amount of literature on the subject of which this author is not aware, a few reasons will be cited that could have given rise to such an occurrence which severely weakens our institutions and the accountability of our government.

Canadians were never consulted when the structure that governs them was created, changed and updated throughout the years. The first settlers to come from Europe were used to despotic monarchs that told them what to do and they did it. While other countries fought revolutions to reject these systems, Canadians did not. Ontario has decided to make their motto out of it. A short period of rebellion and radical change was put down in 1837-38 and that was almost the end of it. Since then, Canadians have let the institutions be changed by a precious few members of the elite who representing them by election or not, have made significant changes without direct consultation of the electorate. The foundation of Canada in 1867 is a prime example. Without participating in the creation of this new country and its institutions there was and still is no real attachment to the need to protect these when there is a difficulty. The list is significant.

Canadians do not worship their institutions because they did not build them. Most of the institutions in Canada are not created in this country but were replicas, or attempts to replicate, institutions that existed in other countries. The House of Commons finds its origins in England and the Senate is a watered-down version of its American counter-part that was intended to be like the House of Lords. The Governor General was for a long period of time the continuation of the role of Governor that existed previously and today still has not shaken that image (thanks to Monarchists and a few other close-minded people). The only significant difference that exists in Canada that is different from other countries is the power of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister monopolizes power and he is usually elected by less than 40% of the population. This is true in this country and reduces the value of every citizen’s vote, at least in common perception. This appropriation of power has never been discussed and though referendums have occurred regarding modifying the constitution, they have never discussed the structure itself, simply the wording.

With these factors in consideration, it is easy to see why the average Canadian does not particularly care if Parliament is prorogued. When we have built something, such as the Canadian forces or our hockey teams, then things are serious. Government, who cares.

dimanche 17 janvier 2010

An Ode to Manitoba (in the style of Manitoba’s own The Weakerthans)

The idea of going to Manitoba, in the dead of winter, was a joke. Maybe not a joke, but it was incredible, too far away from Iceland’s spring to be considered seriously. The days passed and it became necessary and tickets were bought as we flew in from across the continent to see our old friends. It was not just time to relive the past: that was impossible and unnecessary - it was time to create new memories.

We took highway 7 through terrible Teulon to Arborg, a town of 1000 people who all know each other but who stay optimistic despite that. The first stop was at the vendor behind the new bar, Eldhús, where you can buy beer at almost any time by ringing the bell. The locals drink Blue or Club and when in Arborg, you do as they do. We were received by the most gracious hosts as though we were long lost cousins and felt at home. Food was in abundance and the first evening saw us go to the new old bar, the one that replaced the one that burned down three years ago, perhaps the greatest tragedy. Our host Joel’s friends came with us and it felt like we met half the town, útlendinga being welcomed by one and all.

The next day, we discovered this place known as New Iceland. A land grant by Governor General Lord Dufferin, a great fan of Iceland, created a special territory for those escaping the volcanoes and famines to the west. We saw the 20 million bee harvesting operation, the Icelandic farms, the Geysir Hall and the world’s 13th biggest lake, Lake Winnipeg. The frozen surface extended past where eyes could see and no matter how far one ventured, they were no nearer the other side. As some returned to the city, Winnipeg, to find another Gamli survivor, my great Cypriot friend Constantinos and I took a ride through the backroads, beer in hand and admired the fields aslumber, waiting for the next year’s crop to fill them again. The evening is spent at Jon Finnson’s Bible Camp where we watch hockey and drink beer, a very Canadian, very Manitoban and very New Icelandic thing to do.

The next day is New Year’s Eve and a trip to see Stinky the cat is all we need before we head into the city again for the night’s big party. Last year, we were in Reykjavik to see fireworks explode for hours on end, but tonight we’ll be at the Vietnamese Paradise to create some own fiery magic of our own. Manitoba’s largest hotel chain, Canadinn has two rooms for us and we order too much pizza to drink with our vendor bought Blue. We are the party as we arrive and create havoc and the night spins deep as the DJs do. The year is at its best as it ends and 2010 arrives with noise and drinks. At three we return to the hotel to continue the party. It lasts till 5 and when the morning comes, it is absolute ass.

A great party that took everything we could give it leaves us nothing for the next morning but we manage to see the Forks, Portage and Main and the new museum of human rights that is being built. After a nice lunch, we visit the Museum of Man and Nature and Man and itoba…it is a day to laugh at lame jokes. After three hours, two references to Icelanders and one tired bunch, we head to Tim Horton’s and Valour Road then start the goodbyes.

Back to New Iceland for one last night before we all disappear again to our different corners of the world until the next time. We watch Canada’s women beat the American’s with Laura Fridfinnson who should have been on the ice but offered us her expert analysis instead. After a movie and a Corner Gas marathon, we lose members quickly and by noon we are all on a plane to escape from -41 winds and ice. This reunion was so quick, but so necessary. And next year Europe shall host us.