When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world's peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country's government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I've broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.
So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.
So writes George Monbiot in The Guardian today. I think my favourite line is "[Canada] is now to climate what Japan is to whaling." Although he gets one thing wrong; when he says that Canada is "turning itself into a corrupt petro-state," I'd have to point out that Alberta's been one for forty or fifty years, and the Canadian government has been following suit since Mulroney at least.
Heard Andrew Nikiforuk talk this past week. He too calls Canada a corrupt petro-state. In his recent book, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, he carefully explains the defining characteristics of a petro-state and how Alberta and Canada fit that definition. He then sums it up with what should be a rallying cry (but will never be so): There is no representation without taxation. In his article Declaration of a Political Emergency (pdf) he continues; "Oil hinders democracy and corrupts the political process through the absence of transparent reporting and clear fiscal accounting. Alberta, a classic petrostate, has one of the least accountable governments in Canada as well as the lowest voter turnout."