Quantcast

«

»

Nov 24 2013

Skepticon: Not my Canadian pride!

Debbie Goddard fired a shot across Canada’s bow, viciously savaging us during her talk at Skepticon where she related her deconversion. She said — I am horrified to even have to type this; someone fetch my couch! — that we’re “not really foreign.”

More specifically, she related her experience visiting Oslo, where she was in “for the first time in a really foreign country, not like Canada”.

The GALL. The unmitigated NERVE!!! What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a Canadian! I cannot stand for this. No Canadian could. Now, on behalf of all of Canada, I am forced to apologize!

Wait, no, not apologize. Explain. Prepare yourselves, I’m about to Cansplain all over this.

She and I went back and forth in emails about this — when I tweeted my mock horror, she took the objection very seriously, even despite the fact that I was teasing, and I tried to make it clear that I understood what she was saying and understand well enough the phenomenon wherein Canadians can “pass” as Americans. To her great credit, Debbie thought deeper about the phenomenon and found it to be problematic enough to ask me my thoughts on the matter. In doing so, she laid out a few of her thoughts about American hegemony and erasure, about whether we viewed it as punching up vs punching down (which is a whole other post, honestly), much of which I agreed with and I’ll give you the synopsis as preamble.

See, America has this cultural tendency — bear with me on this one, I know it’s going to be shocking to you — to thinking its culture is the best and pretty much only culture. Foreignness is fetishized, something to be viewed at a distance, maybe through glass at a zoo. So since Canada’s so physically close that we cross-pollinate media-wise, and since we share a language with no more difference in inflection or patois between your average Canadian and your average American than, say, your average Georgian and your average New Yorker, we just aren’t foreign enough. Oh, sure, we’re foreign enough for your average American to see your average Canadian and throw a few “Canadian jokes” at them (trust me, I get it all), but given about five minutes, we’ve heard every single trope. That particular river runs very shallow. Observe: “eh”, apologizing, poutine, Terence and Phillip, maple syrup, moose, and those three things in my blog banner that I suck at. There, I’ve saved you the time. So there’s this phenomenon where we’re different, but close enough to pass.

Only these things that are jokes are known because they’re actually part of Canadian culture — at least to some extent (Matt and Trey’s offering notwithstanding). So I wrote a very long email back to Debbie talking about the cultural differences I saw, and I figure most of it could be repurposed for this blog. The cure for erasure is talking about the culture, after all.

While cultural blending happens more easily along the borders than elsewhere, there’s always a significant amount of bleed-through thanks to media — not only do many big-name talents move south to work Hollywood, but we get almost all the TV and movies northward. It’s tempered, though, by Canadian television, much of which doesn’t bleed south as much — or, rather, people in America care less about Canadian TV than vice-versa.

That’s not to say there aren’t Americans with whom I can bond over Kids In The Hall, or who know who The Tragically Hip or Amanda Marshall are. It’s just more rare than that a Canadian knows about The Rolling Stones (post-pub edit: whom I’m told are actually Brits, heh) or Kanye West, or who watches American Idol or Saturday Night Live.

I think that might contribute to the not-foreign aura we give off. Because we’re steeped in the same media, with slight alterations insofar as there’s a Canadian regulation requiring some percentage of Canadian content minimum on Canadian-owned broadcast stations, we come out shaped by society in many of the same ways. (The SCTV “Great White North” sketches make fun of these rules, by Bob and Doug McKenzie certifying them to contain 100% Canadian content.) And even in school, every one of our textbooks except perhaps the Canadian History ones seemed to have been published in the States.

And the diversity and easy blending of cultures seems to happen more readily with a shared language. Quebecois culture is very unique in Canada, and bleed-through even into New Brunswick is limited, despite it being officially bilingual (the only such province — well, I’m informed Manitoba is too, but NB is actually fairly evenly split population-wise whereas Manitoba is decidedly not). Canada is officially bilingual, but pockets of French happen more often than uniform bilinguality. I imagine the dynamic between English and Spanish is similar in the States. When I moved to Nova Scotia, it was very difficult to keep up on my French, and I’ve grown rusty at it from lack of use. I can impress with a well-practiced stock phrase or two, and carry out a conversation with some difficulty, but I still understand it significantly better than I can speak it.

The political climate is very significantly different in Canada, too. Most Canadians eye your political system with distrust and no small measure of disdain, as we see your Democrats as your centrist party and your Republicans as your crazy-far-right party. With only two parties, there’s no real balance, and we see your political atmosphere as something approaching bipolar — where on the one hand you have people trying to do right by everyone (but failing to have the teeth to do it), and on the other you have people trying to do right by only themselves (while having the willingness to forego even the facts to achieve such). There’s been a shift in that climate in Canada in recent years though, and I fear it trends toward polarization. Once upon a time, we had several “big” parties:

- The Reform Party — equivalent to your Tea Party, though significantly less openly religious (you can’t get elected in Canada by professing your love of Jesus — you’ll actually hurt your chances!)
- Progressive Conservatives — the semi-reasonable right-wing
- Liberals — the centrist party, slightly leftist (yes, yes, I know)
- NDP — the New Democratic Party, the left-wing progressive party
- Greens — the actual environmental party, and yes, they get seats now and again, making them politically viable
- Bloc Quebecois — a party almost entirely devoted to helping Quebec secede, so fairly “nationalistic” (prior even to there being a nation for them!), though they are, politically, slightly more left than Liberals.

So at one point, Stephen Harper negotiated a coalition party between the Reforms and the PC. Now we have the Conservative Party of Canada, and it’s unfortunately giving a lot of legitimacy to the furthest right elements that were once in the Reform Party. It’s something like how Tea Partiers couldn’t take over if they were a whole different party from the Republicans, and yet here they are.

In answer to this, in the last election, the NDP — who until now had not been very politically viable — made huge electoral gains, becoming for the first time the loyal opposition to the Conservatives, where most of the time the Liberals had that distinction when they weren’t themselves in power. So the Conservatives are still the majority, with (from memory) ~36% of the vote in this last election, but the NDP has something like 28% and Liberals 22%. I probably have these numbers wrong, but they feel about right without looking them up. The Bloc has all but disappeared – Quebec turned almost entirely NDP, and the Greens made huge inroads and has a Member of Parliament for the first time in fact. They and the remainder of the other unmentioned parties (e.g. the Alberta Wild Rose party, which is basically Christian dominionism!), split the vote.

And the attack ads now, under Harper, are entirely unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Canada, and they’re largely unprecedented in a country that has always prided itself on its political rationality and civility. And the attempts at building a cable station called Sun, essentially a Fox News equivalent, and the further attempt to gut the media laws that disallow lying on a “news” program, are evidence that Harper’s trying to build a similar propaganda machine to what you have here. It’s more than slightly scary that the “bad guys” are willing to lie, cheat and steal to gain power, and the “good guys” can’t bring themselves to respond in kind (by which I don’t mean use dirty tactics themselves, but rather vociferously expose these dirty tactics and decry them).

So yeah. Politics gives Canada much of its flavour.

So does quasi-British spelling! Flavour!

There’s also a lot of vastly different cultural norms with respect to food. The laws for what can go into your foods different (so you’ll get less high-fructose corn syrup in most things — Coke was for a very long time sugar-based, like in Mexico, for instance, though that’s weakened under Harper so it’s “corn syrup” or “corn sugar” there now — same product, different names). And you have regional foods that everyone seems to know down here as uniquely Canadian.

And some you don’t! Garlic fingers are a thing I miss here — essentially, take a pizza dough, slather it in garlic butter, grate mozza over top of it, crumble bacon or sprinkle with parsley, and cook. Good garlic fingers are comfort food to me, but they were even entirely unheard of in Toronto when I lived there for a year, which was weird to me. Garlic fingers are to be served with donair sauce, which is a reduction of sugar, evaporated milk, garlic and vinegar.

Donair sauce is originally a thing made for donairs, which is a Maritimes-unique doner kebab (originating in Turkey) minus the kebab. To make donair, you take a pita bread, cover with spiced meat loaf on one of those big spits that you shave with a knife to get the long strips of meat you want (I think it’s mostly meat, parmesan, bread crumbs and some spice combination I couldn’t begin to define without looking it up). Then you top with diced tomatoes and (often raw) diced onion, slather with donair sauce, and *maybe* add mozza cheese, bacon and/or green onions if you’re getting a “loaded” one. It’s something I still crave, and I haven’t found anything that’s quite like it here, not even doner kebabs.

And of course, we have poutine, and Kraft Dinner. Something about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese here doesn’t quite do the original product justice — the name is culturally identifiable as Canadian, even though it’s basically the same thing. Even the ads in Canada for it are ridiculously proud of the “KD” brand.

And let’s not forget “Canadian bacon”. Most of what you call that here is basically just smoked back ham, and thus unrecognizable to a Canadian who encounters it. There’s a bit of cultural appropriation going on there. The real “Canadian bacon” is called back bacon or peameal bacon, and it’s mostly a Toronto thing. It’s smoked back bacon prepared super-lean and rolled in peameal or yellow corn meal for preservation purposes. I think the smoking process is different, too, since what you get there is more bacon-like whereas the stuff here is more ham-like. It’s hard to define qualitatively, but if you’re in Toronto, it’s worth hunting down a back bacon sandwich vendor. So when people ask me about Canadian bacon, I usually joke that Canadians call that “ham”. The counter is “what do you call bacon then?” more often than I care to say, to which I have to answer, “um, bacon.”

The overall stereotype of Canadians being apologetic and selfless is totally true. I don’t know why, but I think it has a lot to do with the political factors I’ve mentioned above. But that apologetic nature erodes significantly in the Prairie provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (aka “Alsama”). Very religious (as evidenced by the existence of Wild Rose Party), very spoiled and self-entitled. Part of that is, the Alberta tar sands mean the province enjoys a huge tax break because it’s making so much money. And by huge, I mean they don’t pay any provincial taxes whatsoever, and I believe they have a steeply discounted goods and services tax.

I haven’t even touched on gun culture, or the strangeness that is your Iced / Sweet Tea which varies by region, or your units of measurement being lifted wholesale from British Imperial units, whereas every other country in the world (and your own government and scientists, even!) has moved on to the more sane Metric, our health care system (which some of your politicians are more than happy to disparage without knowing any of the facts on the ground), or Canadian icons being completely unknown in America where American icons are completely known in Canada. Maybe I’ll talk about all those in a future post. I’m sure there’s a hell of a lot more, but I think this is long enough to show you that there’s a very vastly different culture in Canada than in America.

You’re essentially our slightly-older sibling — slightly-richer, slightly more entitled, and slightly more prone to getting into drunken bar-fights and doing everything you can to pass off the cost and the repercussions of such. We’re normally the ones to come in and apologize on your behalf, help you clean up some of the mess, and quietly try to make peace with all parties behind your back. Though, with our conservative government, we’re souring on that role, and are more likely to feel lately that we are owed something too.

69 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    chigau (違う)

    As a Canadian, I just want to say, “Fuck You” to everyone who thinks Canadians are Polite™.

  2. 2
    michaeld

    As a Canadian, I just want to say, I’m sorry for the way chigau is acting I’m sure they’re just having a bad day. :)

    :P

  3. 3
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh, I should definitely caveat that the politeness phenomenon is averaged over the population.

  4. 4
    Félix Desrochers-Guérin

    @chigau And I would add “Mange un câlisse de char de marde”.

  5. 5
    cubist

    Canada is a part of the United States which has figured out how to remain outside the jurisdiction of Washington, DC—and you selfish bastards won’t tell the rest of us how you did it!

  6. 6
    trinioler

    Cubist, it all started when we* burnt the Whitehouse down…

    *In reality, it was mostly Canadian militia and British “redcoats” that did this in the War of 1812. By the way, check American textbooks vs Canadian textbooks on this one. Most Canadian textbooks tend to say Canada and the US reached an amicable peace, with Canada generally being seen as the winner by Great Britain *and* Canada, while American textbooks say America won.

  7. 7
    Stacy

    Here this ignorant Yank thought you lot just didn’t know the difference between “ham” and “bacon.” Now I’m hungry. THANKS JASON.

  8. 8
    Michael MacKay

    Here’s a tumbler called “What’s Different in Canada”:

    http://whatsdifferentincanada.tumblr.com/

  9. 9
    Apparently Not Erin

    Cubist, there is no hope for the rest of the US…unless you build a time machine. Even then, it probably won’t work. (BTW, I watched Doctor Who on PBS as a child because they didn’t air it in Canada like they did during the PBS telethons).

    Jason, by “averaged over the population”, you mean that Maritimers send out expeditions to other provinces to help increase their politeness, right? Honestly, as rude as I thought Ottawa was, Calgary is worse. Most of the nice, polite people I meet here are from out East somewhere, though there are some Calgary-born exceptions.

    You also forgot the igloos and dogsleds. You don’t get the full run of Canada jokes without the igloos and dogsleds.

    Oh, and our GST is not discounted. We just don’t have any PST and none of that HST business. Sadly, the cost of oil per barrel went down or something and the O&G companies weren’t bringing as much in which caused them to have an issue with the budget this year. I’m all for a provincial tax if it’ll get me doctors and teachers. The people here just don’t want to part with their cash. Granted this is the province that wants to be part on the US so it’s a bad example of how we’re different.

  10. 10
    whiskeyjack

    Y’know, as an Albertan, I get pretty irritated by the stereotyping. We — the western provinces — know the rest of you look down on us and assume we’re all a bunch of backwards, gun-toting, bible-thumping nutbars. I get it. We get it. I’m not saying there aren’t issues here (though I could make a neat little laundry list of issues for any region in Canada, come to think of it). And we do have a large, mostly-rural contingent of conservatives, who unfortunately have historically been over-represented in the provincial government. The times are slowly changing in that regard, with the far more liberal cities finally throwing their weight around a bit more. However, I really do have to wonder if you’ve ever spent an appreciable amount of time in, say, Edmonton (with, for instance, a world-recognized municipal recycling program and a comprehensive homelessness eradication plan coming along rather nicely) or even taken the time to look past the stereotypes before you dismiss us. It’s really disappointing to hear this from you.

  11. 11
    Jason Thibeault

    I see Edmonton much as I see Atlanta, Georgia. It is — being a city — a bastion of liberalism in a very rural very conservative province.

    Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, all we HAVE is rural — except for Halifax (a tiny town compared to Edmonton). The rest of the province is rural, and yet practically the whole province went NDP last election. (It’s flipped back to Liberal now.)

    Don’t take it personally if you’re one of the people fighting the dominant paradigm that people recognize the dominant paradigm.

  12. 12
    cassmorrison

    I’m from Lloydminster – a town of 25000 that’s also progressive – another outlier? What about having high environmental standards that are finally enforceable because of changes at a federal level? What about progressive anti-bullying rules for schools? The PC party is taking on business by making changes that tilt things in the favour of workers. How does that fit in with your narrative about the west?

    The area we are fundamentally different from USians is politics. We think we can make a difference and find a party that will represent us. And I think (hope) we are still more for community than everyone for themselves.

  13. 13
    Wren, a Tru Hoppist

    As an American who has worked in (Ontario) Canada…holy shit some Canadians turn into extreme assholes on the road.

    And “fuck” is used prodigiously in certain circles.

    Cheers,

  14. 14
    Wren, a Tru Hoppist

    Also, I hate calling myself “American” even though I just did it. I try to say I’m from the states, instead of I’m American, but I don’t know if I’m just being pedantic about that. Seems a bit presumptuous seeing as there are lots of countries on the American continents.

  15. 15
    A Hermit

    Pretty good synopsis of the political situation. I’d note another similarity between the Harper Reform/Conservatives and the Republicans party is the war on science…http://lmgtfy.com/?q=harper%27s+war+on+science

    I have to make a minor correction (sorry eh?) but Manitoba is also officially bilingual, although outside St Vital/St. Boniface and a few rural towns you probably wouldn’t notice.

  16. 16
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    I grew up in Buffalo, watching Hockey Night in Canada on the CBC and listening to good ol’ CFNY on the radio. I also love Aero bars. Do I get honorary Canadian status?

  17. 17
    Samuel Vimes

    Seriously, Jason – you didn’t know the Rolling Stones are British? Ah, you young’uns, these days (tsk tsk tsk). :)

  18. 18
    Trebuchet

    @Jason:

    …or the strangeness that is your Iced / Sweet Tea which varies by region…

    My wife likes unsweetened iced tea, but we’ve had a terrible time getting it without tons of sugar in British Columbia.

    @Wren:

    Also, I hate calling myself “American” even though I just did it. I try to say I’m from the states, instead of I’m American, but I don’t know if I’m just being pedantic about that. Seems a bit presumptuous seeing as there are lots of countries on the American continents.

    You sound like my mother. I’ve always disagreed. The USA is the only country in the world which has “America” in its name, but “United States” is used by others, such as the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United States of Mexico).

  19. 19
    Trebuchet

    Dang, blockquote fail. Preview is my friend, if only I’d use it.

  20. 20
    chigau (違う)

    Sorry.

  21. 21
    felixBC

    One huge difference I notice is the attitudes towards guns and gun culture. My attitudes towards them are so different from Americans that any conversation involving them immediately goes haywire, even with dyed-in-the-wool American liberals. It would be simpler if we were speaking different languages, as a warning that we’re not going to be understanding each other.

  22. 22
    DrewN

    You didn’t even mention the clear plastic bags that milk is sold in in Canadaland!

  23. 23
    Jason Thibeault

    Trebuchet: no worries, I fixed it.

    chigau: I lol’d.

  24. 24
    Apparently Not Erin

    Sadly, you can’t get those clear plastic bags in all parts of Canada. But I do love the conversations where Americans just can’t wrap their heads around the concept. It’s always rather funny (and surprisingly once led to a conversation about recycling and which is a better recycling option: plastic bags or 4L/1G jugs).

    As for Western politics, I feel that Wild Rose has far more in common with the CPC than the PCs do. I’m actually rather happy with the progressiveness that the urban areas in Alberta are showing in not only their Provincial votes but also their municipal elections (for those of you who missed Nenshi’s Darwin comment during the flooding this summer, go look it up). If only the Liberals hadn’t picked Trudeau for their leader, they may have made progress out here in the next election.

  25. 25
    wondering

    Speaking as a BCer, I get really tired of AlSaMa being labelled as the western provinces, with Alberta their spokesprovince, like we don’t even exist. What are we, so west we’re east or something?

  26. 26
    left0ver1under

    Canadians can be mistaken for Americans.

    Fixed it for you.

    I’ve lived abroad for over a decade, and have lost count of how many times I’ve used my barely-passable French to avoid confrontations with belligerent locals in various countries (a few dozen, give or take). They (usually drunks, or just anti-American) see a white face speaking English, become aggressive then back off when I say, “Pardon monsieurs, avez-vous de l’heure?” and other basic phrases (in their minds, “no English = not American”). It’s saved my face more times than I care to recall.

    You’re essentially our slightly-older sibling — slightly-richer, slightly more entitled, and slightly more prone to getting into drunken bar-fights and doing everything you can to pass off the cost and the repercussions of such.

    I can’t believe you forgot Trudeau’s quote on Canada and the US (or at least, you didn’t quote it):

    “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

    Read Scandinavia and the World for that cartoonist’s take on England and his “sons”. It’s fairly accurate.

    http://satwcomic.com/

  27. 27
    Anthony K

    I see Edmonton much as I see Atlanta, Georgia. It is — being a city — a bastion of liberalism in a very rural very conservative province.

    You should see Edmonton as Statistics Canada sees it: one of two very large urban population centres in a region that’s 83% urban. The only provinces with a smaller proportion of rural inhabitants are BC and Ontario.

  28. 28
    carlie

    Also, I hate calling myself “American” even though I just did it. I try to say I’m from the states, instead of I’m American, but I don’t know if I’m just being pedantic about that. Seems a bit presumptuous seeing as there are lots of countries on the American continents.

    Time for an anthem:
    I am not American

  29. 29
    Anthony K

    Interestingly enough, the prairie provinces (along with two of the territories and British Columbia) lead the country in the number of godless people, according to the 2011 National Household Survey*:

    Yukon: 49.9%
    British Columbia: 44.1%
    Alberta: 31.6%
    Northwest Territories: 30.5%
    Manitoba: 26.5%
    Saskatchewan: 24.4%
    All Canada: 23.9%
    Ontario: 23.1%
    Nova Scotia: 21.8%
    New Brunswick: 15.1%
    Prince Edward Island: 14.4%
    Nunavut : 3.0%
    Quebec: 12.1%
    Newfoundland & Labrador : 6.2%

    *Percentages are the number of people identifying as agnostic, atheist, humanist, no religion, or
    No religious affiliation n.i.e (where n.i.e. indicates ‘not included elsewhere’ i.e. respondents not included in other categories.)

    So, that’s a thing.

  30. 30
    Mary L

    The US and Canada share a very large border and don’t have large weapons pointed at each other on that border. Neither country is perfect and most likely, will always bicker, but we can be proud that we’re not a military threat to the other.

  31. 31
    whiskeyjack

    No, it’s not that. Like I said, I know there is work to be done. Absolutely and without question.

    But what troubles me is that, in a discussion where you’re casting yourself as an expert on Canadian-culture-as-opposed-to-American-culture (which is fine, in and of itself) you essentially say that those weirdo prairie provinces aren’t *really* Canadian,and that the people are less friendly, less progressive, less polite — less, by your definition, Canadian. That’s really inaccurate and incredibly unfair.

    There’s no reason to be ashamed of us. We’re as imperfect as any other region, but we’re undeniably Canadian and by and large hold the same values that you identify as markers of “Canadianishness”.

    And it’s not just you. I get that too. Working in a creative field, I’ve noticed that “Canadian Literature” all originates in Toronto and everything else is “regional”. For example. We face an uphill battle to even be taken seriously, and attitudes like yours are as much a symptom as a cause.

    We’re not your embarrassing, bucktoothed cousins. Challenge that assumption, that’s all I’m asking. And don’t exclude us from your ideal of Canadiana, especially when we’re actually on board with it.

  32. 32
    whiskeyjack

    Anthony K:

    Yeah, that was another point I wanted to bring up, but I didn’t want to spin off on a total rant. :) Jason refers to the Wild Rose Party as Christian Dominionists. Well… not really. Don’t get me wrong; they’ll never have my vote, but while they’re definitely the hard right and have more than a sniff of the libertarian about them, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them that.

    They also lost the last election after a huge scandal erupted where it was revealed that one of their candidates had preached against homosexuality years ago. Even our rural conservatives couldn’t stomach that.

  33. 33
    whiskeyjack

    cassmorrison:

    No, you’re not outliers. That’s the thing. Edmonton, and to a slightly lesser extent, Calgary, have always been these bastions of progressive values (there’s a reason they call us Redmonton). But smaller cities like Lloydminster, Grande Prairie, Red Deer — they’re becoming political forces to be reckoned with. Even ten years ago, you couldn’t win a provincial election without the support of the rural communities. Cities like yours don’t hardly count as rural (haven’t for a while) and are starting to throw their weight around a bit more, too. As the Albertan political landscape changes, it will be because of the change in the smaller cities.

    Now we need a politically-viable party that’s not the PC or the WR. *crosses fingers, wishes on stars, etc.*

  34. 34
    Anthony K

    We’re not your embarrassing, bucktoothed cousins.

    Not since our last hockey fight, anyway. We’re all bridgework and veneers now.

    Don’t get me wrong; they’ll never have my vote, but while they’re definitely the hard right and have more than a sniff of the libertarian about them, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them that.

    Yeah, calling them Christian Dominionists isn’t very accurate. They’re right wing, undoubtedly, and have a strong streak of libertarianism, but unless I’ve missed something, they’re economically conservative, but not so much socially, other than the example you cite (and probably a few others.)

  35. 35
    whiskeyjack

    Anyway, Jason, I just want to say that I’m not angry with you. A bit defensive, maybe, but I just get so tired of this stuff. If you ever wanted to visit Edmonton, I’d totally go for coffee with you and make sure you saw the highlights. :) I’m happy to change your mind.

    Also, we have “possibly the best patisserie in Canada,” so suck it. Bwaha. ;)

    http://life.nationalpost.com/2012/11/19/edmonton-may-just-be-home-to-the-best-patisserie-in-canada/

  36. 36
    Anthony K

    No, you’re not outliers. That’s the thing. Edmonton, and to a slightly lesser extent, Calgary, have always been these bastions of progressive values (there’s a reason they call us Redmonton). But smaller cities like Lloydminster, Grande Prairie, Red Deer — they’re becoming political forces to be reckoned with. Even ten years ago, you couldn’t win a provincial election without the support of the rural communities. Cities like yours don’t hardly count as rural (haven’t for a while) and are starting to throw their weight around a bit more, too. As the Albertan political landscape changes, it will be because of the change in the smaller cities.

    That seems to be how things are shaping up.

  37. 37
    whiskeyjack

    Anthony K: Actually, I’m encouraged by their existence. They’re all the disaffected former PC folks, wringing their hands over how far left the provincial PC has moved (and to be honest, the provincial PC isn’t really analogous to the federal PC, not here anyway). They’re a protest party for the disenfranchised right-wingers. They might have some success for now, but I don’t see them being major contenders for very long.

  38. 38
    Anthony K

    Hey, I think they’ve even done some good as the official thorn in the PCs’ sides.

  39. 39
    whiskeyjack

    Not enough good. Don’t start me on Redford and what they’ve done to the U of A. Those people need to be horsewhipped.

    I used to volunteer for the provincial Liberals (health problems made me stop). If they could just get their poop in a group…

    Ah well.

  40. 40
    leftwingfox

    whiskeyjack: Holy crap, that patisserie is a block from where I used to live! I used to go to the Roxy all the time with my allowance back when it was a bargain movie theatre.

    Unfortunately, I was living out east when it opened, and my parents are living in Camrose now. I’ll check it out next time I visit my friends in town.

  41. 41
    Jason Thibeault

    I am more than willing to admit that the information I have about life in the Almost-West is third-party, peppered by online whinging by people who’ve themselves lived there and felt it oppressively religious and rural. That your experience on the ground is drastically different is not really a surprise, and I’m open to changing my mind about it.

    But in fairness, I never once tried to characterize you as “buck-toothed”.

    :)

  42. 42
    whiskeyjack

    Hah. Fair enough. We have good, strong, Ukrainian teeth out here. ;)

  43. 43
    whiskeyjack

    leftwingfox: The Duchess is one of my favourite places on earth, at the moment. Last year they made a scale-replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral out of gingerbread for Christmas. Little gummy gargoyles and everything.

    Anyway, that neighbourhood has dramatically changed even in the last couple of years. Lots of money and fine things to spend it on these days. Funny though, I was just in Camrose visiting friends yesterday. It’s such a laid-back little place. Nice walking paths, too, for a sunny winter afternoon. :)

  44. 44
    Jason Thibeault

    I suppose also that it’s possible I’m confusing some of my anecdata about Wild Rose with the Christian Heritage Party. They’re DEFINITELY Christian Dominionists.

  45. 45
    whiskeyjack

    True. And I do hate to split hairs here, but they’re also a federal, not provincial, party — except for BC.

    They’ve also, to my knowledge, never won a seat anywhere.

  46. 46
    sinned34

    “Couch”, Jason? Don’t you mean “chesterfield”?

    I think the Arrogant Worms (from Edmonton, where I wasted a half decade of my life that would have been better spent back in good ol’ BC) say it best on how Canadians feel about Americans:

    We won’t say that we’re better, it’s just that we’re less worse.

    Back when I was 16 I took a trip with my church group to convert the heathens in England (weird story, won’t get into it here). While in Newton Aycliffe, I stopped into a little corner store to buy a chocolate bar. There was four people in line ahead of me at the till. The second person must have been a friend of the shopkeep, because they sat there and chatted for at least five minutes about stuff that I could barely understand because of the British accents and odd (to me) slang. The cashier eventually helped everyone, and then it was my turn.

    I asked for a chocolate bar, and, hearing me speak, the shopkeep immediately said happily, “Oh, what fun. A Canadian!”

    I replied, “Wow, how did you know? Most people in the UK hear my accent and assume I’m an American.”

    He responded, “There were two reasons I could tell you were Canadian. First, you Canadians speak faster but more clearly than Americans. Second, you were willing to wait in line without complaining.”

  47. 47
    anthrosciguy

    Face it, without the Queen and the Mounties, why, you’re just Americans!

  48. 48
    Wren, a Tru Hoppist

    @ Trebuchet #18

    I haven’t thought of it like that. However, I have had people (from Mexico and South America) tell me that they are Americans too. My experiences make me want to avoid excluding people on the same continent as me by claiming that only us USA people are Americans.

  49. 49
    ildi

    It’s just more rare than that a Canadian knows about The Rolling Stones

    Really? Rolling Stones? Who hasn’t heard of the Rolling Stones, no matter where they’re from? Have Canadians heard of this crazy new music genre called rock and roll?

  50. 50
    Anthony K

    ildi, I think that what Jason means by this:

    That’s not to say there aren’t Americans with whom I can bond over Kids In The Hall, or who know who The Tragically Hip or Amanda Marshall are. It’s just more rare than that a Canadian knows about The Rolling Stones (post-pub edit: whom I’m told are actually Brits, heh) or Kanye West, or who watches American Idol or Saturday Night Live.

    …is that it’s more common for Canadians to know about American pop culture than for Americans to know about Canadian pop culture.

  51. 51
    cuervocuero

    Jason, yah, you’re thinking of Christian Heritage when you say a party of Domionists (and not the kind of Dominionists whining about how we shoulda stayed ‘Dominion of Canada’) but we forgive you because we know you’re from “Down East”.

    The Wild Rose party has its generous share of Christian theocrats trying to run as candidates until they open their mouths to honestly speak their Bible Law Uber Alles and get removed from the stage for queering the WR pitch.

    Wild Rose is the latest incarnation of the undead SoCred party hoping to grow up into US Republican wannabees. They can’t get elected as SoCreds so they invented a new name. Same mentality for the “Saskatchewan” party and the BC ‘Liberals’. Can’t get elected under their old corruption ridden names so they went full wolf in political sheep ghillie suit.

    But if you want a big difference between Canada and the US, how about the fact we have NO laws restricting women’s right to safe, legal pregnancy termination and national equal marriage, both for yars and yars now without Armageddon descending upon us. AND the great majority of our population favours both to remain legal?

    Also too, three downs, not four; this seems to freak USians out a lot. I still remember Fran Tarkington being asked on NFL tv who was the greatest quarterback EVAH and he unhesitatingly replied “Ronny Lancaster” to the blank-eyed confusion of the other commentators…which segues into RIDERSRIDERSRIDERS!!1!! being screamed from sea to sea to sea this past weekend.

    And maybe I’m wrong about you Easterners, but it seems Canadians still have awareness of our natural spaces and ‘small towns’, even when raised in cities, which could be a result of having 1/10th the population of parts south of the Medicine Line.

  52. 52
    ildi

    AK: You’re right, I left the “than” out of “than that” as I was processing. Whew!

  53. 53
    24fps

    WTF is AlSaMa?! Never heard the term before. Must have been made up in the CotU, because nobody on the prairies uses it.

    You’re hearing from a lot of Albertans, but I’ve lived in Saskatchewan most of my life, and have recently relocated to Manitoba. Neither of them are like Alberta!

    Well, Saskatchewan is becoming more of a caricature version of Alberta. Conservative government is trying to out-conservative the Wild Rose party without saying so directly right now (which is why I moved), but that’s the province that gave us all socialised medicine, so give us SK lefties a nod, would you please? Certainly there are some dyed in the wool socialists in the urban centres in Saskatchewan, we just didn’t have electoral power because the ridings were set up to split urban neighbourhoods and combine them with largely rural populations.

    Manitoba is light years to the left of Alberta politically. It’s actually got an NDP government provincially and has a totally different attitude to the arts and culture sector to either of the other two prairie provinces – they actually value and support theirs. Alberta has chronically starved the arts and has killed off its TV industry a couple of times. Saskatchewan just killed theirs even deader (like I said earlier, trying to out-conservative Alberta) and Manitoba has the best supports for cultural industries in the entire country. Night and day!

    It’s true that all three provinces have “bible belts”, but Alberta’s is the most pronounced. Saskatchewan’s tends to be an extension of Alberta’s in the southwest region. Manitoba has their as well, but it doesn’t seem to be quite as pronounced. Most of it tends to be very rural. Winnipeg has a small but thriving Jewish community as well.

    In short, the prairies are not at all homogenous.

    The politeness factor: Anecdotally, I was retrieving my suitcase at an airport in Washington when a man ran his Samsonite over my foot while I was wearing open-toed shoes AND I APOLOGISED. I know, very Canadian. But honestly, people are usually very friendly out here and mostly very polite. You can drive like a total idiot and nobody honks at you. Drivers stop for pedestrians whether they’re at crosswalks or not – try cutting across mid-block in TO or Montreal! As much as Toronto. In fact, I find that Torontonians, out here, have a rep for being ruder, but don’t see it when I’m in TO. I think it’s just general bias. Torontonians think we’re all stupid for being out in “the regions” and we think Torontonians are by definition snotty. Well, sometimes they are. But not always.

    And CanCon. Well, I make CanCon for a living (television documentaries). It’s interesting that even the television channels that are offshoots of American channels, like Discovery, are different in their programming. What works for the Discovery audience in the US does not work for Discovery here, even though there is some crossover. We do have different tastes up here – we’re more likely to go for some of the smart programming, even though we like a certain amount of the dumb stuff. Really, we’re sort of in between the UK and US in our likes as tv content consumers.

    Our music scene is also quite a bit different, too, and unusually strong in “the regions” (includes Maritimes as well!).

  54. 54
    24fps

    @ cuervodecuero

    Urgh, the Riders. People are total idiots about “Rider Pride” in Saskatchewan. It’s like they’ve been collectively lobotomised during football season. One of the things I don’t miss about SK.

  55. 55
    Anthony K

    Well, Saskatchewan is becoming more of a caricature version of Alberta.

    That’s a shame.

    but that’s the province that gave us all socialised medicine, so give us SK lefties a nod, would you please?

    For sure. Let’s hear it for Tommy Douglas, the Greatest Canadian!

    Manitoba has the best supports for cultural industries in the entire country.

    I think the Winnipeg Fringe has begun to rival the Edmonton Fringe in terms of attendance over the last five years or so.

    Drivers stop for pedestrians whether they’re at crosswalks or not – try cutting across mid-block in TO or Montreal!

    A friend from Toronto who stayed here for a couple of years used to laugh at how little Edmontonians knew of the ‘art’ of jaywalking. (Bred and born in TO, he took his jaywalking seriously.) But my favourite story was from an Australian friend of mine who was here doing her PhD. One day she happened to be standing on the sidewalk, a little too close to the curb. A motorist, thinking she was about to jaywalk, stopped for her. So, even though she had no intention of crossing the street, she did so just to be polite, and waited for the motorist to pass before walking back across the street to her original position. That’s when she realised she’d be Edmontonianised.

  56. 56
    Anthony K

    In fact, I find that Torontonians, out here, have a rep for being ruder, but don’t see it when I’m in TO. I think it’s just general bias. Torontonians think we’re all stupid for being out in “the regions” and we think Torontonians are by definition snotty. Well, sometimes they are. But not always.

    No discussion about the characteristics of Canadians and Torontonians in particular is complete without a reference to this most likely untrue urban legend.

  57. 57
    cuervocuero

    24fps, The Riders are to Saskatchewanian expats as the Newfoundland tv cable channel in the mine camps is to thems away from “The Rock”. A piece of the sod you can take with you when you’re forced to leave for economic reasons. I live in Alberta but I still tell people I’m *from* Saskatchewan. The Shibboleth is pronouncing our Cree originated provincial name without hesitation or fear.

    Maybe this kind of familial regional bickering is another cultural difference between Canada and the US.

  58. 58
    sambarge

    Well, Jason, no huge criticism but your history of Canadian politics is not terribly accurate, detailed or historical. Then again, perhaps that wasn’t the intention of the post after all.

    cassmorrison @#12:

    What about having high environmental standards that are finally enforceable because of changes at a federal level? What about progressive anti-bullying rules for schools? The PC party is taking on business by making changes that tilt things in the favour of workers. How does that fit in with your narrative about the west?

    Are we talking about a provincial Conservative government here? Because the Federal Conservatives have done nothing to protect the environment, children or workers and have actively worked to weaken protections of all of those groups/things in the past 8 yrs. The current “budget” omnibus bill will roll back workers rights and health & safety about 60 yrs and that’s par for the Conservative course. Cuts to government programs have consistently been to information gathering and fact-based work (particularly at Parks Canada and Environment Canada) which has set back environmental knowledge and protections. The current “anti-online bullying” bullshit bill is more about monitoring Canadians than protecting children from bullies. I mean, Harper IS a bully, for crying out loud.

    But maybe you’re talking about a provincial government and I’m misunderstanding your post.

  59. 59
    chrisdevries

    Actually, regarding school textbooks, the vast majority of science books I’ve seen in schools have been Canadian-published (usually Ontario or BC). Also, the curricula amongst the Western provinces (Ontario-west, excluding Alberta, I believe) have been re-written over the last decade, and I am almost positive the recommended texts are all Canadian (even if some schools are choosing to stick to the ones they already have from the 80s).

  60. 60
    chrisdevries

    I am Manitoban by birth and residence, although I lived in Montreal for several years recently, and I have come to the conclusion that people in the big eastern urban centres are basing their understanding of Prairie culture (political, religious, socio-economic, etc.) from information that *might* have been partially true in the 1980s. As Anthony K mentioned, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes are all more religious, overall, than every single Prairie province. We have a significant and increasing immigrant population and yet the integration factor seems to be much higher here than out East. That’s not to say that the “mosaic” model isn’t fully functional here, just that it seems that the people who benefit most from the cultural traditions brought here by recent immigrants are the rest of us, those whose grandparents were born here. Although the point of a cultural mosaic is that the whole society benefits from its diversity, it seems more people here consciously recognize just how more enriched their lives are because of that diversity (than in Quebec and the urban jungle that is southern Ontario). And while rural areas tend to be more conservative and religious, there really aren’t that many people who live in rural areas anymore.

    Politically, we’ve had a series of NDP majority governments since 1999, and while the provincial NDP is perhaps slightly more centrist than the federal NDP (providing wider appeal), they still have managed to stick to their socialist principles (although raising the PST by one percent to help pay down a deficit caused by severe flooding in 2011 is not a popular move, it was a necessary one I think, and in accordance with left-wing politics). Also, as unpopular as the tax hike was, I fully expect the next provincial election (in 2016) to be a real battle, not a shoe-in for the PC, because it may end up that the tax hike stimulates the economy as jobs are created to re-build infrastructure and put into place new flood defense measures. You can bet that the NDP did polling to judge the fallout of their (then-proposed) legislation and are unsurprised thus far.

    And finally, unlike Saskatchewan and Alberta, Manitoba has no real oil wealth (a few wells in the extreme far west of the province notwithstanding), and thus no oil money to be greedy with and pissed-off about when it is shared with everyone else. The trigger-conservative issue here, where everyone turns into a racist fuck, is aboriginal policies, probably because Winnipeg has such a high aboriginal population and because the cultural mosaic model continues to fail us here (though I’m not sure why). Amongst recent and distant immigrants, diversity is mutually-beneficial, while there is still an accepted range of cultural norms that are adopted by everyone. People don’t move to Canada because they want to make it exactly like their home, but some of the practices and traditions they do wish to continue make all our lives better. Why cannot native Canadian culture flourish in the same way that East Indian, or Chinese culture flourishes? Why is there still rampant racism in the country that was second in the world to embrace gay marriage? I am told Australia faces similar problems…interesting anyway.

  61. 61
    Gord

    “AlSaMa?” I can’t believe Manitoba got somehow sluiced together into Alberta in this. I’m as shocked by this as anything an American visitor has gotten wrong about the place where I live (and I’ve been asked, “where do you keep all your dog sleds?”).

    Manitoba and Alberta are nothing alike. Bill Blaikie and Judy Wasylycia-Leis are from Manitoba. Steve Harper and Ralph Klein are from Alberta. See? Bill. Judy. Steve. Ralph. Different!

    And in keeping with the Manitoba-Saskatchewan rivalry that has been our way for-like-ever, I can’t say anything good about Saskatchewan without suffering a twinge of pain, so I’ll just say instead that they’ve at least made an excellent buffer zone between the goodness that is Manitoba and the awfulness that is Alberta!

  62. 62
    A Hermit

    Hats off to my `Toba homies! We should all head down to Sals for a Nip!

  63. 63
    24fps

    @ cuervodecuero – The Rider Pride thing wears thin when you live in Saskatchewan, and particularly in Regina. I’ve lived within earshot of Taylor Field for most of my life. And I think football is possibly the second most boring sport in the world. So between that and the green zombies, it’s a piece of Saskatchewania I do not miss!

    I also don’t have any problem saying I’m from Saskatchewan. And yeah, I had to move for economic reasons as well. But the province is going through a serious character change over the last 5 to 10 years, and it’s not for the better. The provincial gov’t wants to be Alberta – but not the Alberta of Naheed Nenshi and Redmonton, the charicature version where we’re all oil cowboys. Lots of dick-swinging, lots of mashing down the socialist history of the place – and there was some serious socialist fermentation back in the day!

    So my Saskatchewan is dying, and I don’t wish to know the “new” Saskatchewan that is emerging. Hello, Manitoba!!

  64. 64
    cpps

    Another important distinction seems to be the Canadian sense of regional identity vrs the American sense of national identity. I don’t know if this is quite as true throughout the country but from Quebec eastward most folks identify quite strongly with local communities and cultures (Quebequois, Acadians, bands of first nations, baymen Newfoundlanders, etc) while identifying only incidentally as Canadian. Americans on the other hand seem to have a strong sense of national identity that is just as important or more so than more regional identities. You can always tell you are in the states when playing Geoguesser because every other person has an American flag on their lawn.

    This sort of thing might go some ways towards explaining Canadian politeness. Our identity is connected to actual people and communities around us which promotes a sense of solidarity with and responsibility towards fellow humans. American identity is tied to an abstract geo-political entity. I’m not really sure what that does but I’m pretty sure it’s not helpful.

  65. 65
    Quixotic James

    A reluctant Albertan here, chiming in. The GST is the same in Alberta as it is in the rest of the country: 5%. Some provinces have harmonized sales taxes, and Alberta does not have a provincial sales tax to harmonize with the GST. That may have led to the belief that our GST is “steeply discounted”.

  66. 66
    left0ver1under

    A travesty and massive insult of the country occurred at a hockey game. (I’m 50% each serious and sarcastic here.) A third-rate American “singer” altered the lyrics of “O Canada” to include some from a hideous American “song”.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/islanders-anthem-singer-replaces-o-canada-lyric-line-050232711–nhl.html

    I’m no fan of religious mention in “O Canada”, but that’s a non-issue compared to this abomination.

    The lunatic fringe really are in the twilight’s last gleaming.

  67. 67
    birger johansson

    In regard to Oslo, I would say places like Oslo and Stockholm are just part of Ur-Canada where they still speak Norse. I mean after the Iapetus Ocean closed up, Laurentia and Baltica were one single unit
    Besides, both Canada and Norway have fjords and reindeer. Much more important than some silly “flags”.
    (BTW, the Swedish national anthem does not mention Sweden, so we are not comitted to nationalism that way)

  68. 68
    cee

    oi! calgarian here, and this shit ain’t true. well the making buckets of money while destroying the earth, that’s true. but Alberta has a 10% flat rate tax, the most regressive tax in the country. there is no provincial sales tax, and albertans do not pay health care premiums (something I still think is a huge mistake, but I objected to ralphbucks, and nobody here listens to anyone who objected to ralphbucks because only communists do that.)

    And calgary might host the biggest rodeo in the world or whatever but Calgary is a bunch more liberal than you make it out to be. Not saying there’s no right wing jabberwockies, because there are – it’s more like people have no idea how socialist they really are because they don’t know what socialism really is.

  69. 69
    Anthony K

    and albertans do not pay health care premiums (something I still think is a huge mistake

    One of the odder ‘benefits’ of Albertans’ paying health care premiums was that Alberta Health could make fairly good inter-census-year population estimates based on the number of people who paid premiums (and those whose premiums were paid by their employers or the federal government.)

  1. 70
    Why I Hate (And Love) Canadian Content Laws | Meddling Kids

    […] was reading Lousy Canuck’s blog today, and there’s a post there called Skepticon: Not My Canadian Pride! which I quite enjoyed. I was going to write a post mentioning a few more of those small cultural […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>