Friday, December 28, 2012

Most and least worthwhile Canadian initiatives 2012

Taking some inspiration from Ezra Klein on this who in his year end wonk piece distributes various awards. He includes a most worthwhile and least worthwhile Canadian initiative. (The term "worthwhile Canadian initiative" once won a contest held by The New Republic on the most boring headline that one could imagine. Thus, Ezra's use of the titles today.)

First, Ezra's picks for Canada with which I strenuously disagree:

"Most worthwhile Canadian initiative: Mark Carney

Mark Carney is just cleaning up with honors these days. First, Reader’s Digest named him the “Most Trusted Canadian” in the entire country. Then, British officials tapped the very-trustworthy Carney to become the next governor of the Bank of England. Now, we’re giving Carney a wonky for his work as Canada’s central banker. While the rest of the global economy was in free-fall, Canada saw a relatively minor economic downturn. It avoided the big banking crises that played out in the United States and England. For his stewardship of the Great White North, Carney racks up yet another accolade.

Least worthwhile Canadian initiative: The NHL lockout

Canadians are usually known as a polite people, quick to resolve a conflict. That’s not the case with the National Hockey League lockout, which has lead to the cancellation of 625 games. It’s also hit the Canadian economy: As Brad Plumer reported earlier this year, Canadian spending on “arts and entertainment” fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter. Research on a previous NHL lockout, in 2004, suggested that the cancellation of the entire season shaved 0.1 percent off Canada’s overall GDP."

First, on the Carney pick. Let's not overstate the ongoing stewardship that has been solid, yes, but given Canada's relatively better economic position than most of the G-something world is a little like being the manager of the New York Yankees. Sure you can mess it up but if you've got the basics firing well, like a well-regulated financial sector, then your chances of coming off smelling like a rose are quite good. Best of luck though to the man as he shuffles off to Britain shortly. And notice, no mention at all by Ezra, noted economic wonk of the Carney-Liberal dalliance which really is quite gossipy but inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. Second point on the Carney pick, it reinforces the all-economy-all-the-time Canada with which this corner disagrees. We are not Canada Inc., simply put.

Thus, my pick for - cue the bold type - Most Worthwhile Canadian Initiative 2012: The anti-bullying efforts that have been unleashed this year in the face of tragic teen suicides across the country. The country has been forced to reckon with a nasty underside of modern life in which social media has made high school experiences a living hell for many young persons and particularly gay young persons. The Canadian suicide problem has been raised to prominence as a national issue. May we continue to build on the caring response and commit to doing more.

As for the Least Worthwhile Canadian Initiative 2012, while I am tempted to agree that the hockey lockout is possibly a good metaphor for present day Canada where our federal government is similarly unable to engage with its opposition and work out solutions that intelligently reflect a diversity of inputs, maybe we can do better. Ezra is giving too much prominence, once again, to a stereotypical Canadian symbol. There are so many in the least worthwhile category to choose from, what is a blogger to do. The omnibus tragicomedies should figure prominently here but are perhaps too obvious.

So I will go with the one that rises instinctually to the top of mind and choose the Woodworth motion as the least worthwhile Canadian initiative. Dangled in the spring, carried over into the summer and finally voted upon in September, this motion was divisive, a sideshow in the Canadian Parliament that sought ultimately to interfere with a woman's right to choose. The only utility, really, was to demonstrate the reactionary breadth of the Harper Conservatives, which could well come back to haunt them, and smoke out the stamp of officialdom on the Woodworth approach in the form of the Status of Women Minister voting in favour of the motion. Runners Up in this category: Anything touted by the talking points crew of Alexander, Del Mastro, Leitch or Poilievre; This government's appointment of a climate change ambassador who is probably a lovely person but which moved the ball exactly nowhere.