Hans Riekko

Throughout history, every nation eventually comes to a fundamental crossroads and must ask itself what its reason for being is. Today, with the mass Americanization of our culture and the increasing globalization of the economic system and institutions governing world affairs, Canada has come to that point. Why should Canada continue to exist? Why should we preserve what we have created? Fortunately for Canada, the country has a very legitimate raison d’ĂȘtre and is unquestionably worthy of being saved. Although our fellow citizens often take it for granted, we must take the time to appreciate the greatness of what all Canadians have collectively achieved over the past 133 years, and the value Canada presents to the world community. With Canada we have created a model of unparalleled success, providing incentives to follow personal ambitions while looking after our less fortunate neighbours. We must work hard to preserve what we have achieved, and make everyone everywhere appreciate what we have created, or we risk losing everything we have accomplished to the neo-conservative hegemony.

The modern identity of Canada as being a caring, kinder, gentler, more compassionate people emerged after World War II, and is one facet making Canada worthy of being saved. The post-war acceptance of Keynesian economic theory favouring government intervention in the economy led to the development of Canada as a modern welfare state. The resulting social and economic programs which Canadians today value dearly was nothing short of a remarkable achievement for the country. Unemployment insurance was created in 1940 to ease those in transition between jobs. Family allowances were introduced in 1944 to improve the quality of life for children. Old age security and a national pension plan were established in the 1950s to eradicate poverty among the elderly. Perhaps the greatest achievement of all was the adoption of universal medicare in 1966 (fully implemented by 1972), providing any Canadian, rich or poor, with access to quality health care services. Government intervention to correct market failures and inequitable distributions of income resulted in wealth being more fairly shared, and a reduction in income differentials between the rich and poor, a statistic still distinguishing Canada from the United States. Budgetary cutbacks in the 1990s have decimated these programs, and restoration of adequate funding is imperative for preserving these social programs and our identity.

Another reason Canada is worth preserving is the quality of life provided by our social development for both rural and urban residents. Our crime rate is a fraction of that in the United States, and continues to decrease, while the Americans are incarcerating people at ever-increasing rates. Our downtown cores have not been abandoned, whereas in the United States many are empty shells teeming with violence and decay. Our suburbs are more diverse and complex, not just the typical white ghettos of voluntary American segregation. Also, pressures to leave cities are fewer, resulting in less counter-urbanization and urban encroachment into valuable farmland. In Canada, millions of immigrants have successfully integrated into mainstream society while being allowed to retain their cultural heritage, providing for a rich multicultural society, while elsewhere discrimination, race riots, and neglect have gripped minorities. Finally, education levels and literacy rates in Canada are among the highest in the world, a product of quality public schooling and affordable post-secondary education.

Finally, Canada should continue to exist because we set a good example for the world through our international involvements. Canada, guided by the foresight of Lester B. Pearson, invented peace-keeping during the 1950s. Since then, we have been part of every United Nations peace-keeping mission, helping promote non-violent solutions to the many conflicts in trouble spots around the globe. As a middle power, we have used “quiet diplomacy” to resolve international disputes because of our friendly relationship with the United States. Canadians have also helped the less fortunate in this world through hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid, and also through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) by providing medical, educational and technical solutions to chronic problems. Thus Canada has its special place in international affairs, without which the world would be worse off.

In conclusion, Canada is worth saving because we have developed a positive national identity with the creation of the welfare state, because we have developed a good quality of life in our society, and because we play a vital international role. Canadians must fight the economic imperialism of the United States through institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, and take back our culture by better utilizing and properly funding tools like the CRTC and the National Film Board. Foreign investment is beneficial, but it must occur on our terms. Only this will allow Canadians to control their own destiny.

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