January 24, 2009

A Canadian's perspective...

Here's an interesting commentary from today's Montreal Gazette -- a newspaper we really enjoy. The writer is from Montreal, and as mentioned in previous posts, Quebec is quite different from the rest of Canada -- with plenty of political problems of its own.

What Obama needs next: a brief guide to our home and native land
JANUARY 24, 2009

Dear President Obama:
I know you're not really my president - but a guy can dream, can't he?
Watching your inauguration was an inspiring experience - and not just because you became the first black president. You also seem to be a perfect president: an eloquent speaker, a natural statesman and a super-smart, compassionate guy - not to mention a graceful dancer and an Internet geek with abs of steel.
Billions of us are counting on you to take us Barack to the future - and you've already started. You shut down Guantanamo prison in one day and used the word "peace" several times in your inaugural speech, unlike the president before you who thought peace was for sissies. When his helicopter flew away into the distance, the whole world breathed a sign of relief.
Now that your inauguration is over, Mr. Obama, it's time to look ahead at your next important event: your first foreign visit abroad - to Canada! This is to take place within weeks, so here is a brief introductory guide to my home and native land.

CLIMATE: Like most Americans you probably don't know much about Canada except that this is where the cold air comes from in U.S. weather forecasts. In fact, during your Canadian visit we will take you on a tour of our arctic air factory, to show you how we make the cold weather and then ship it south.
Each batch is shipped separately and labelled for different northern states, in packages that say: "Minnesota: 11 inches of snow at -21." Or "New York: Combo pack of sleet, hail and freezing drizzle, plus wind chill." On Inauguration Day, Washington reporters were whining about the "cold winter weather" - but that was just a Canadian shipment labelled "cool fall day."

HISTORY: Canada has been described in many colourful terms, from Voltaire's famous "a few acres of snow" to Joey Smallwood's "a large island just off Newfoundland." The Michelin Guide to Canada long described us as a "vast and empty wilderness," populated by "bugs, bears and poison ivy."
The U.S. and Canada have generally got along well, apart from the War of 1812, when your country tried to seize Montreal - but then decided it didn't want it because it couldn't afford the snow removal bill. President Bush didn't like Canada much, either, because he confused us with France, and resented our French attitudes, french fries and French Prime Minister, Stéphane Harper.
But of course, we are not French - we are British. We are a former colony of England that still has the British queen on our money, and is ruled by the queen's representative, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean - who is, uh, French. But by the way, she dances even better than you, Mr. Obama.

GOVERNMENT: Unlike the U.S. we have a PM, not a president. We don't have a public inauguration, because we can't afford it, given how often we change governments. If we did have fancy inaugurations, the opposition parties would all demand equal time to inaugurate their leaders - and by the time all the ceremonies were over, the government would fall and it would be time for another inauguration. Then again, when we do change governments we change quickly.
It takes us 10 days to swear in a new leader, while the U.S. took over 10 weeks - enough time for Dick Cheney to carry so many boxes of documents to the shredder he wound up in a wheelchair.
Our current PM, Stephen Harper, is the anti-Obama, Mr. Obama. While you're comfortable in your skin, he seems ready to jump out of his; while you dance comfortably with your wife in public, he may never have danced with his.
Perhaps you can give him some dance lessons while you're here, along with some smiling lessons, oratory lessons, charm lessons, fashion lessons, strategy lessons, humility lessons and weight-loss tips. You might get along better with opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, a Harvard grad like you who also writes books and spent much of his life outside his country.

NATIONAL TRAITS: Canadians have many big differences from Americans. We embrace hockey, not basketball. We throw more snowballs than baseballs. We bike, boat, swim, canoe and water-ski - but we do not waterboard. We speak differently, too. We say "eh" instead of "huh," Iraq, not Eye-raq, and we rarely say "God bless" anything, unless someone has sneezed.
Anyway, I hope these tips help you appreciate your visit, Mr. Obama. Don't forget to wear long underwear and bring some Canadian dollars, as well as lots of U.S. change. We need it.


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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