Americans ignore us? Why worry?

This blog post is a guest article written by my father, Tony Webb, a retired banker living in Toronto (and a relative of Shakespeare). He discusses American disinterest and ignorance about Canada, and why it’s probably better that way.


This writer has had several vantage points from which to view Canada, his adopted country. Born and raised through secondary and university schooling pretty close to the geographic centre of the U.S. (Nebraska, if you’re interested), my exposure to Canada was in the form of summer fishing trips in my childhood with my family to Lake of the Woods, beyond which my perspective of our northern neighbour was as vague as my interest was muted.

Welcome_nebraska

That changed when I moved to Canada after military service to join the head office of a Canadian bank in Montreal in the early Seventies, a city that appealed more than New York, my likely alternative landing point which, at that time, was suffering greatly from high crime and heavy debt. A career there gave me another vantage point to view Canada, spending a collective decade living in 3 countries in Europe.

800px-Montreal_skyline
Montreal skyline

I concluded in observing Canada from these alternative perspectives that our country is really a kind of bridge between Europe and the U.S. Our politics, our culture and our attitudes are a blend of differing influences from both Europe and the U.S., arguably contributing to the relative moderation inherent in our lifestyles and our politics from those below the 49th parallel and across the Atlantic.

On another measure, the level of European disinterest in our country and it’s history pales in comparison to that of our American friends. While their largest trading partner sharing the longest border, the ignorance of the average American is stunning indeed. This, of course, is not news to Canadians who meet Americans frequently in travel and business. They do know we are the source of the “Alberta Clipper” in Winter; that we love hockey and, to their ears, pronounce “about” “ aboot”. Of course, the oil sands are clearly of interest to them. But only because they need our output. However, ask an American to name our Prime Minister; “Is it still Trudeau? Rob Ford? Beats me.”

Former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau
Former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. 1980

I meet scores of Americans annually in my winter sojourn south. I am still waiting for one, just one, when learning I live in Canada, to ask something like, “Canada. How interesting! Tell me, how things are going there? Economy? Politics? Are the Leafs having a good year?”. As for Toronto’s favourite son, the bizarre former conduct of this man still elicits an occasional unsolicited comment, “How’s your mayor, Rob Ford doing these days?” But that’s pretty much the extent of interest in affairs in the True North.

Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

All this used to be a source of continuing irritation to me. But, I’ve thought about it over the summer here. So the Americans ignore us. So the global focus on the U.S. leaves us in a rather dark shadow. So what! Why care? We’ve got a good thing going here, relatively speaking.

Politics? Our version… mild and relatively calm stuff. Elections that last a couple of months instead of several years; cost the taxpayer meagre millions, instead of the billions now invested in the U.S Presidential election. 3 debates instead of 10. A parliamentary system which, more often than not, mitigates the partisanship and gridlock endemic to Congress in Washington. In Canada, we somehow manage to the middle rather than cater to their political extremes.

New Democratic Party (NDP) leaders debate
New Democratic Party (NDP) leaders debate

No Donald Trump here to create excitement and controversy? We do that on a smaller scale here. Like mayoral elections. And what about borders and illegal immigrants? Hey, we’ve only one. How many Americans are going to try to sneak into our country anytime soon? We don’t need to build a wall, at least not yet. Obamacare? We’re light years past that debate. Guns? No, in Canada you cannot wear six shooters at bars and restaurants nor on college campuses. So what if nobody cares about us?

So we’re a bit boring to outsiders. I prefer boring and predictable to agitated and angry. Canada is a sanctuary from many, if not all, man-made forms of aggravation and irritation seen elsewhere. Obscurity has it’s advantages. But the Blue Jays might change all this, at least for a few months.

Marco_Estrada_on_May_11,_2015

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8 Responses

  1. Marc-Andre

    Great article,

    I really love the quote: “Canada is a sanctuary from many, if not all, man-made forms of aggravation and irritation seen elsewhere” this is so well said!

    It is a shame that Canada has lost some of its notoriety lately, especially when we lost our seat to the UN Security Council … With their size and power (not only military, but also from a political and economic perspective), Americans can allow themselves to take unpopular stances and act as a black sheep. Canada on the other hand cannot allow itself such liberty without losing a lot, and isolating itself from other nations in the process.

    With the exchange rate of our Dollar, Canada may become a little more interesting for Americans as a destination. For many Americans, Canada is almost like their 51st state, albeit with borders to cross and less violent crime on the other side…

    Now if only the Jays’ success could inspire the Leafs 😉

    Marc-André

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  2. Anonymous

    Thanks, Marc-Andre’ for your thoughtful comments. Hopefully Oct 17 will positively impact the concerns in your first paragraph. As for your other comment, Canada is definitely selling at a discount these days for American tourists, although so is Europe with a cheap Euro.
    Appreciate your comments!

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  3. Anonymous

    Great article by brother Tony! All of us Webb’s are so blessed By William’s genes. We go to Arizona in the winter, where Canadians are there in droves. Have many great Canadian friends there, and we play tennis and golf, when they’re not watching hockey. I have asked them several important questions about Canada. I can’t remember the questions or the answers, but I won’t hesitate to ask another one or two this winter, to please brother Tony. Anyway, Canada is a great country and does many things better than do we. Gun control and politics top the list. You also
    start way fewer stupid wars. GO CANADA!

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  4. Richard Hansher

    Hey Tony, we went to grade school together in Lincoln. College View Elementary. My most vivid memory is your father’s Packard Clipper. I was totally impressed. Seriously, Canada is wonderful just the way it is. And, — with Global Warming, Canadians will soon be staying home in the winter and affluent USians will be going to Canada in the summer to get away from the heat. Ok, — I’m kidding (for the most part). Love your Labatts. Richard Hansher — dick80904@gmail.com PS: I was Navy too.

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  5. Thanks, Richard. I’d almost forgotten about my Dad’s Packard.Nice to hear from you. BTW, I keep in touch with Milo Sapp, if you remember him. He lives in Denver now. I took my son with me to Lincoln to see the homestead and College View Elementary a few weeks ago. Lincoln looked super! If you’re up our way one day, let me know!

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