“I Am A Canadian” (Reader Discretion is Advised)

The Soapbox does not publish rants that appear uninvited in one’s inbox but this one raises some interesting questions for the 2015 federal election.  Here it is:

I AM A CANADIAN

I am in the minority in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and every casino in this country.

I was born in the forties, fifties or sixties, yet I am somehow responsible for some First Nations people being screwed out of their land in the 1700’s!

I pay import tax on cars made in Ontario.

I am allowed to skydive and smoke, but not allowed to drive without a seat belt.

All the money I make until mid July must go to paying taxes.

I live and work among people who believe Americans are Ignorant…These same people cannot name their own country’s new territory.

Although I am sometimes forced to live on hamburgers and don’t have a pot to piss in, I sleep well knowing that my taxes helped purchase a nice six figure home in Vancouver for some unskilled refugee.

Although they are unpatriotic and constantly try to separate…Quebec still provides most of my nation’s prime ministers.

95% of my nation’s international conflicts are over fish.

I’m supposed to call black people African Canadians, although I’m sure none of them have ever been to Africa for that matter.

I am being told that paying a 200% tax on alcohol is fair.

I am also being told that the same tax on gasoline is also fair.

Even if I have no idea what happened to that old rifle my Grandfather gave me when I was 14, I will be considered a criminal if I don’t register it.

I am being told that spending $15 billion to promote the French language in the rest of Canada is fair when the province of Quebec doesn’t support or even recognize the ENGLISH language.

Voice of Fire

I am being told that paying $1 million for 3 Stripes (‘The Voice of Fire’ painting in Ottawa) by the National Art Gallery was a good purchase, even though 99% of this country didn’t want it or will ever see it.

When I look at my pension and realize that I take home a third of what I actually make, I say ‘Oh well, at least we have better health care than the U.S.A.’

I must bail out big corporations who drive their business into the ground and say, ‘yeah that’s ok.’  And when they move all their manufacturing plants and jobs to a third world country and say, ‘no problem.’

I must fork over my portion of the 11.5 million dollars to show the Queen of England and her family a good time visiting in my country even though I can’t afford to visit the province next to me.

Canada is the highest taxed nation in North America, the biggest Military buffer for the United States, and the number one destination for fleeing terrorists.

The Lord’s Prayer is not allowed in our schools anymore because of other religions who chose to move here. But prayer rooms for Muslims are provided.

I am an angry white person.  I am one pissed off taxpayer, who is broke.

I am Canadian!!!

My name is Ben Dover…say it fast!!!

Oh Mr Dover 

My first impulse was to dismiss this as yet another ignorant rant by…who exactly?   Who is Ben Dover (yes I get it).  More importantly who is he mad at?

At first it appears that Mr Dover is targeting progressives.  He thinks his tax bill is too high and his hard earned cash is being frittered away on undeserving non-whites, stupid healthcare programs and elitist artwork.

He attacks Quebec for being hypocritical and the provinces for undermining his freedom by enacting seat belt laws.

But take another look.  Mr Dover is also unhappy with conservatives.  He resents corporate bailouts (eg. Harper’s $3.3 billion government bailout of the auto industry) and the loss of manufacturing jobs which migrated to other jurisdictions—a process that started with Mulroney and NAFTA and has been picking up momentum ever since.  Harper’s Canada – EU deal and the proposed 31 year trade deal with China will exacerbate the problem.

I have no idea who Mr Dover blames for the fish fights, “African Canadians” or Canada being on the flight path between the US and Russia (God, maybe?) but it’s obvious that he blames Harper for being infatuated with British royalty.

It’s not just a rant     

Richard Wirthlin, Ronald Reagan’s pollster, was the first political advisor to move beyond sorting potential voters into “types” (age, gender, ethnicity) and focus on their values.  This allowed politicians to engage with voters on an emotional level.*

The beauty of the emotional connection is once it’s established a voter will support a politician even if he doesn’t agree with everything the politician says.    

And that’s why Mr Dover’s rant is so interesting.  Mr Dover is mad.  This adds a ripple of uncertainty to Stephen Harper’s political-marketing machine.

The Master of the Marketing

Mr Patrick Muttart

When Mr Harper and his strategists prepared to seize power from Paul Martin they recognized that in order win they had to beef up the hardcore conservative voting bloc with votes from the politically disengaged.  In the fall of 2005 they figured out how to do it.

Patrick Muttart, Harper’s chief marketing guru, developed a way to identify citizens who would support the Conservatives and those who would not.  He segmented voters into four archetypes:*

  • “Dougie”, a politically apathetic single guy in his late 20s who worked at Canadian Tire and might be interested in crime and welfare abuse.
  • “Rick and Brenda”, a common-law couple with working-class jobs who might be concerned about rising taxes and keeping their home.
  • “Fiona and Marcus”, a high-income, childless couple living in an expensive condo and not fussed about high taxes.  They are Liberal and not worth pursuing.
  • “Zoe”, a single urban female and yoga/organic food aficionado who lives in a Toronto highrise.  She is a Liberal or New Democrat and also not worth pursuing.

Muttart’s archetypal strategy worked.  Harper won a minority government in 2006 and a majority government in 2011.

But here’s the catch.

While Harper’s “tough on crime (and now terrorists)” bills may satisfy ”Dougie”, the stagnation of the middle class due to globalization does nothing to help “Rick and Brenda”.  And as much as “Ben Dover” would like to see massive tax cuts, his quality of life will not improve.  In fact it will deteriorate as the government withdraws funding from public services and infrastructure.

The Real Joe Canadian

What are Rick, Brenda and Ben going to do?  Will they succumb yet again to another round of promises of tax cuts and balanced budgets or will they feel betrayed and abandon Mr Harper?  Will they respond to Mr Trudeau’s siren call (“protect the middle class”) or pile on with Mr Mulcair when he thrashes Mr Harper for misbehavior?

Whatever happens, one thing is clear.  The 2015 election belongs to the party best able to package its message in punchy ads, short on substance and long on emotion, like the original I am Canadian ad  introduced by Molson at the 2000 Academy Awards.

One thing is certain I’ll take Joe Canadian over Ben Dover any day.

*Shopping for Votes by Susan Delacourt, pp 110, 199

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23 Responses to “I Am A Canadian” (Reader Discretion is Advised)

  1. diamondwalker says:

    .. this is an excellent post .. thank you ..
    .. and how you’ve presented and considered the rant .. is exceptional

    .. Its an interesting.. and to me.. very effective mode of expression
    The Ideas, concerns, anger, frustrations, realities.. all weld themselves together
    as one Canadian, links themselves to many Canadians
    who can identify with one or many of the issues..

    I’ve been thinking of creating an ‘I am … ‘ rant myself
    thinking that my concerns or warnings may connect better
    to fellow Canadians, via such a lyrical or poetic approach

    Hopefully I can be as successful as ‘Joe’ or Ben …

  2. Carlos Beca says:

    I believe she is right about the 2015 election and the cycle of deceipt of our pseudo democracy will continue.
    Personally I am not sure this is fixable anymore. It is like an old house and renovations versus a new one.
    I sure hope so.

    • Carlos, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to fix the house without having to tear it down completely, but the progressive parties are going to need a lot of help. Harper’s conservatives, aided by groups like the Manning Centre, have collected piles of money to buy the services of data collection/analysis companies. Susan Delacourt says that one such agency, Responsive Marketing Group, was honoured by the Manning Centre in 2009 for raising more than $75 million for right-wing causes across Canada.

      Social media is a very powerful tool. It can get the message out instantly–if it’s smart and moving. A classic example (put out by an British online content company naturally) shows a blind man begging for pennies. His cardboard sign says “I’m blind. Please help”. He gets very little money until a smart looking woman changes his sign to read “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it”. When he asks her what she did she says “I wrote the same but in different words”. That’s what people respond to nowadays. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzjEzohHmaM I defy anyone to watch that clip and not get emotional.

  3. Midge says:

    Awesome insight as usual Susan.

    Yes, Mr. Dover is really angry, but I would like to ask him – exactly what he has done to make things better? Does he vote and who has he voted for?

    • Exactly Midge! Unfortunately Mr Dover doesn’t think it’s his job to follow politics. He’s abdicated that responsibility to the politicians and when a politician slips off the leash and the leash is picked up by big business or special interest groups, you’ve got a heap of trouble. So I think we need to make Mr Dover care again. The progressives may not have as much money the conservatives but we know smart people and we can all read Frank Luntz who advised the Conservatives right after they came into power that they needed to keep their messages “crisp and clear and repeated and common”.

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan you asked for any links on current issues.
    Here is one I think is important

    http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/chris_hedges_crisis_zones_collapse_and_the_antidote_to_defeatism_20140210

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    Here is a better one. Very important for those activists that are too linear and do not asks about the real questions at the root at the problems.

    • carlosbeca says:

      I am sorry but it di dnot work the way I expected – Once you click on ‘Play All’ click on playlist on the top left and select the one for Peter Joseph – the Zeitgeist Revolution
      I apologize – I cannot delete it now 🙂 🙂

  6. Thanks Carlos! I’m impressed that you were able to attach it somehow to your comment in the first place!!!

    • Carlos Beca says:

      🙂 🙂 well I did not know that was the difficult part!!!

      • Mary Thygesen says:

        Carlos, that clip from Chris Hedges is very relevant to Susan’s article. Thanks. The part on crisis cults and how we can’t move to hope (or anywhere) unless we’re willing to look unflinchingly at the problem(s)….which may include us too! eek

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Mary I am happy you found it relevant. Chris Hedges is very good but he does not hide anything and reality these days is quite depressing.

      • Carlos, excellent link to Chris Hedges. In part 2 the interviewer asks him about how we go about changing the world given what we now know about global corporate power and its willingness to cannibalize the natural environment and human labour to achieve higher profits.

        Hedges said we have to recognize corporate totalitarianism and resist, even if it looks hopeless. That got me wondering, what does resistance look like? The general public doesn’t follow political policy discussions. Many don’t know the difference between an MLA and an MP. They see themselves as taxpayers, not citizens. Their focus is low taxes so I can spend more, not civic responsibility so we can all live a better life. How do we penetrate that mindset?

        That’s why I was suggesting that we have to come to the public in a way that they’ll accept—that includes getting their attention with a 30 second sound bite. Once we have their attention we can move on to a deeper discussion, but until then they’ll tune us out as useless elitists who don’t know what we’re talking about.

        Okay over to you and Mary. I’m relatively new to Chris Hedges and would love to hear more about how to move forward.

        Thanks again Carlos for posting the link. By the way, I couldn’t get the other one to work properly. What was the title? I’ll see if I can find it on Youtube.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Thank you Susan. I am glad you enjoyed it.
    The title is Inside the Zeitgeist Revolution – important concepts there in my opinion.

  8. David Grant says:

    Thanks for the posting. These sound like my relatives, neighbours, and friends. I gave up on these rantings a long time ago because I have found out that you can never reason with these people. I can’t take someone seriously who says that the Quebec provincial government doesn’t promote English. As one lived in Quebec City for 5 weeks as part of the Explore Program to teach Anglophones like myself French, English is not suppressed by the Provincial Government. There are plenty of signs that are bilingual. While the Voice of Fire isn’t “my cup of tea”, there is plenty of diverse art in the National Art Gallery. His comments on being a minority reminds of the Alberta Alliance candidate who said that “he had the caucausian advantage”. These people, I think feel threatened, and I don’t think they can relate to the changing realities in Canada. I think it is better to work under the assumption that there are more people who don’t think that way, than those who do. I think that percentages of those who voted in the 2011 election would back that up. Take care.

    • David, I agree with your point about these ranters feeling threatened. Either that or they’re suffering from the Dunning Kruger effect—a friend pointed me in the direction of research that confirms that ignorant people don’t realize they’re ignorant (for example they don’t know how to think logically so goof ball things, like creationism, make sense to them). The good news is that they can be trained to think logically—if they have an open mind. And there’s the rub.

  9. David Grant says:

    This post doesn’t shock me at all given that these are the sentiments I read everyday in the Calgary Herald and Sun and hear almost everywhere. They are beginning to sound like a broken record, although this song wasn’t great the first time it was played!!!! Outside of listening to the populist concerns about the loss of manufacturing jobs, it is difficult to know what to do. When you mention the idea that organized labour might play a positive role in society, they tend to dismiss it outright. A lot of the more xenophobic rantings sound like someone who can’t adjust to the changing realities of Canada. This is something we will have to deal with for a long time.

  10. David Grant says:

    Susan is right about trying to get through to he more reasonably minded people. I think it is worth making the effort even if you aren’t always successful. I do draw the line with family, because that is just too difficult to deal with. It is worth the peace of mind to avoid those conversations at times. In any cases, you just have to try to pick your battles.

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