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America and Canada are two of the largest countries in the world. The two neighbouring countries also share a large border and the same government system. But, though Canadians often lament on the “American way” when it comes to politics, and the way that our neighbours govern themselves, by comparison, Canada looks to fare far better, especially after what we’ve seen lately. Here’s why.
So, what separates us from our giant neighbour? For starters, it’s without a doubt that there are some distinct factors, such as their history of slavery, which the recent racial tensions show have not gone anywhere. Then there’s the issue of a US citizen’s right to bear arms, 9/11 followed by Iraq, Afghanistan, and let’s not forget the unfathomable weight of being the most powerful country in the world.
And we’ve haven’t even mentioned the paralyzing legislative model, a severely partisan media, a politicized judicial system and suspicious practices when it comes to political financing. To be fair, here in Canada, we have our own domestic issues to deal with, for instance, the possible separation of Quebec.
By comparison, Canada has a multi-party system which is extremely efficient and somewhat flexible when it comes to political donations that are strictly supervised and independent commissions that are used for federal expenditure and other issues. And we can be proud of our media too that’s somewhat calmer as compared to the media in the US. Point is, there’s no reason to not feel a new sense of appreciation for the state of affairs in our own backyard. During the current US presidential campaign, the one thing that has stood out, and has made politics in the US more interesting than in previous years is the fact that the political campaigns of both parties are feeding off the feeling of alienation, inequality and frustration of the people in the US, which has pretty much been the entirety of Trump’s campaign so far. That being said, there are some things about this year’s political campaign that has never been seen before, or hasn’t been seen for a long time. For instance, the deep cynicism about public institutions, a media that’s unable to hold politicians to account (the latest Clinton Email leaks being one example), a political culture that seems to be rewarding polarization, and lastly, politics being treated as entertainment. These are not mere exaggerated threats and could easily spill over the American-Canadian border.
While some people say that Trump’s campaigns is single-handedly destroying the norms that have been generally accepted when it comes to US politics, there are many who are under that belief that expanding the parameters of what should be regarded as ‘politically correct’ is exactly the kind of shake up that American politics needs. It should not be forgotten that Canada’s general commitment to diversity both in everyday life and in politics could still waver if the ‘blame game’ we see in US politics, becomes more tempting because of some sense of lack of shared prosperity. For the US, it will be for their better angels to show them the way, but for us in Canada, we should learn from the troubles of our neighbour.