The car raced past and then slowed, pulled over and finally stopped. As I walked up, the driver rolled down his window and smiled.
“Hop in,” he said. “Sorry mate, for a second there I thought you were a Yank.”
Fortunately, the New Zealander had seen the Canadian flag sewn onto my backpack. He picked me up just because I was a Canadian — and everybody liked Canadians.
It wasn’t the first time that happened as I toured down the Coromandel Penninsula that summer so long ago. True, I had to put up with a little ribbing now and then — “kick a Canadian and they’ll apologize for being in the way of your foot!” — but it was all good-natured.
We had a good reputation as a nation back in 1983, when we had an entity known as the Government of Canada. We were looked at as the Boy Scouts of the world.
Oh how things have changed.
These days, the seemingly re-named entity — now the Harper government — can be relied upon to win pretty much every booby prize available at international conferences because of their environmental obfuscation, delay, denial and open dishonesty about the crisis facing the world in terms of global climate change.
These days, under the Harper government, we seem to have entirely replaced our highly-respected role as peacekeepers with “standing tall on the international stage” — which appears to mean taking part in pretty much every military adventure initiated by our neighbours to the south.
Similarly, what had been seen as an even-handed treatment of sensitive trouble spots in the Middle East has been replaced with an unwavering support for Israel, regardless of what they do or to whom they do it. That’s a good part of the reason we lost our seat at the UN Security Council for the first time ever.
I don’t know about you, but after five years of this control freak in office, I’m sick of this. I don’t want to be embarrassed by my country. I want my old Canada back.
I want to be able to say I live in a country where we take the lead in doing the right and necessary things to protect the environment and — let’s dream a little — to maybe roll back some of the damage that has already been done.
I want to live in a Canada where we focus our priorities on taking care of our people, rather than squandering our national treasure and energy on foreign military adventures.
I want to live in a land where our government gives its people the opportunity to be the very best they can be, for the benefit of the entire society, not just themselves, corporations or a monied elite.
I want to live in a Canada that is seen as an impartial and respected arbiter of international disputes, a nation that can be trusted and relied upon to help other nations come to satisfactory, non-violent conclusions.
No, I’m not a dreamer. I’m awake — fully awake to the reality of what our country used to be and what it is rapidly becoming.
Come on people. There’s a federal election on. This is the time for all of us to wake up, analyze the situation in which we find ourselves and realize we have the opportunity to actually do something about it.
Be strategic. Make your vote count on election day. It’s pretty much the only tool we have, so let’s use it.