By Philip Cross, February 26, 2021
Tristin Hopper’s weekend article in the National Post asked why Canada can’t get things done anymore, from procuring vaccines to renovating 24 Sussex Drive. Malaise about Canada’s performance is entirely justified as our pampered public sector fails to deliver and few Canadian brands dominate in the global marketplace.
Canada’s image was not always so dim. As the resource boom started in 2003, The Economist featured a cover story about “Cool Canada,” featuring a moose wearing hipster shades. With oil and gas prices soaring, Prime Minister Stephen Harper trumpeted Canada as an “energy superpower.” Our technology sector hit a home run with the Blackberry cellphone. The Great Financial Crisis further boosted our international stature, showcasing the world’s soundest banking system. Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney parlayed this into becoming the first foreign-born head of the Bank of England. It seemed Canada understood banking better than anyone else.
Even our public sector seemed admirable by international standards. The 2009 Obamacare debate in the U.S. was filled with envious references to our health-care system, while obtaining a university education here required much less student debt. The World Bank touted “the Canadian Pension Model” to the world. By 2012, the National Post’s Joe O’Connor could write that “Canada got its swagger.” Justin Trudeau’s election in 2015 briefly made him a global hero to progressives before images of blackface, accusations of scandal, and a failure to deliver results dulled his allure. The boast that “the world needs more Canada” reached peak popularity with our 150th anniversary in 2017, although for many outside Canada it really meant “the world wants less Trump.” With Trump gone, Canada becomes easy to ignore.