Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Usually the thought of Thanksgiving invokes images of family and friends sitting around the dining room table enjoying good food, sparkling conversation and laughter…as well as reminiscing over past thanksgiving disasters like Ms Soapbox’s stuffing that was as dry as sand and Mr Soapbox’s failed experiment involving an oyster.    

However, this year on the eve of the federal election, my thoughts went to a letter written by Canada’s former governor general David Johnston in which he described Canada as “a nation for all nations”.   

To understand the relevance of Mr Johnston’s letter to the federal election we need to acknowledge that, much to our dismay, some Canadians are prepared to sink to the dangerous level of political lunacy we’ve witnessed every day since Donald Trump decided to run for the presidency—yesterday Justin Trudeau had to wear a bulletproof vest at a campaign event in Mississauga.  We’ve reached a tipping point; all Canadians need to stop and ask themselves what it means to be Canadian.         

Former governor general David Johnston

This is where Mr Johnston comes in.   

What is a Canadian?  

David Johnston served as Governor General from 2010 to 2017.  He witnessed the shift in Canadian political behavior and still remains inspired by his vision of Canada.  He sets out this vision in a letter to John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, Canada’s first governor general who died the year before Mr Johnston was born.*

This letter discusses the characteristics that have served Canadians well over time. 

As I list these characteristics consider how they’re reflected (or not) in the actions of politicians vying to become Canada’s next prime minister. 

The first governor general, Mr Buchan, believed Canadians tended to have a limited vision, they compartmentalized themselves and others in little boxes of region, language, religion or ancestry.  Decades later Mr Johnston has taken a more expansive view.  He believes being Canadian isn’t a matter of choosing which box to live in but choosing to stay open “to the world and all the complexity it represents” in order to overcome our differences and minimize the forces that would tear us apart. 

The first governor general believed Canada would “be home to all the peoples of the world”.  Seventy-five years later Mr Johnston says this is indeed the case. 

He says Canadians are inclusive and welcome the contributions of all who live here, we’re honourable, peaceful people who use our military power sparingly but with conviction when necessary.  We’re selfless, “our survival has been sustained by humility and acceptance of our mutual interdependence.”  We’re smart and caring, our concern “for the common good of our neighbours in each community makes us responsive.  We do not abandon our fellows to scrape by in times of distress or natural disaster” but come to their aid.    

Mr Johnston’s description of the nature of Canadians is a benchmark by which the political leaders vying for our votes in the upcoming election should be judged.   

Politicians who create a false narrative of victimhood and stoke anger to the point where a political leader is accused of treason and is forced to attend a political rally wearing a Kevlar vest, surrounded by uniformed security officers, are politicians who have fallen far short of Mr Johnston’s definition of a Canadian.   

A time to give thanks…and to think

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the privilege of living in Canada and to think about which federal party will lift Canadians up, not tear them apart, to satisfy their own political ambitions. 

While none of the federal political parties are perfect, some are significantly better than others.

Vote wisely Canada.

*The Idea of Canada: Letters to a Nation, p 297 

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38 Responses to Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving

  1. ed henderson says:

    I am thankful for the love I receive from my family, that I live in Canada among people who are caring and forgiving, that I have been tolerated by my fellow citizens and I am also thankful that god gave me the insight to see through the greedy selfish motives of so many who want to govern me and take much of what I worked very hard to get and give it to themselves and to others who do not want to earn their way.
    I am also thankful that I was able to help many people who needed help and who intend to help others.

    • Ed thank you for your comments…we are generally aligned in what we’re thankful for with the exception of your comment about seeing through the selfish motives of many who want to govern “and take much of what I worked very hard to get and give it to themselves and to others who do not want to earn their way.”
      Here’s an example of why this is a difficult issue. I recently read an article about a 50 year old IT guy who worked in the oil patch and lost his job. He says he can’t find work in Alberta but he’s too rooted here to move elsewhere so I assume he’ll be dependent on federal Employment Insurance until it runs out and then other provincial social services to tide him and his family over until he either finds a job in his field or decides to do something else for a living. Contrast him to all the people who left the Maritimes and BC to work in Alberta’s oilsands for months and years on end. Should the 50 year old IT guy move to where the jobs are like the guys from the Maritimes and BC, perhaps commuting back and forth every few months to see his family, or is it okay for him to stay here and live on government assistance?

  2. Einar Davison says:

    Well Susan thank you for your thought provoking blog, and the discussions mostly good, occasionally bad that come from them. I know I’m not happy with the choice we have during this election, I think we could do so much better. However they are still choices which a lot of other nations don’t get. We can choose to be as engaged or not as we want to be. It is fitting that you mention former GG David Johnston. As GG he was the Canadian head of the Order of Canada and the motto is what we all should strive for by discussion, by respectful debate and by selflessness…”They desire a better country”.
    I am thankful for the journey to build that better country mostly good, occasionally bad, but hopefully a country that all will feel comfortable in and willing to play their part in building that better country. So I’m thankful for the journey, and I’m thankful for fellow travellers like yourself who desire, dream, struggle and hope that we’ll always leave Canada a little better than we found it. Happy Thanksgiving Susan, keep trying the stuffing we all get better when we keep trying.

  3. Hello Susan. I am thankful for my family, for being fortunate to be born in this country, for what I have around me.

    You mention about being Canadian. I saw parts of the debate last week. I thought Andrew Scheer’s name calling of our PM was disgusting and disrespectful. Whether you like PM Trudeau or not, he is my PM, and to disrespect him, is to disrespect me and in turn Mr. Scheer I have no respect for you because you have no respect for me. Mr. Scheer’s opening remarks do not reflect being Canadian. Canadians are better than that.

    Then I heard about PM Trudeau having to wear a bulletproof vest and I thought the fact that someone actually made death threats was disgusting. That’s not being a Canadian. I love my country because I thought we were better than that, we are above name-calling and my God we do not threaten people because of our differences.

    I am so thankful to be born in this country and to raise my family in this country. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    • Joanna, I agree with you. This business about PM Trudeau being forced to wear a bulletproof vest at a rally is appalling. The RCMP are monitoring the threats he’s getting and decided the ones made prior to the Mississauga rally were sufficiently serious to provide him with extra protection, including additional security. The rally was delayed by 90 minutes and his wife Sophie who was supposed to introduce him, did not appear on stage. What’s really disgusting is the anti-Trudeau crowd is now saying Trudeau faked the whole thing to gain sympathy. They seem to forget that Alberta protesters met Trudeau with placards demanding he be hung for treason and rich Calgary businessmen are all over social media saying what Trudeau is doing is treasonous.
      I’m reminded of the incident in 2016 where a 29 year old father of two shot up a Washington pizzeria because he believed the fake news that said it was a cover for a child sex slave ring run by Hillary Clinton.
      If a voter truly believes the PM is guilty of treason, he/she might try to kill him to save the country from an evil PM.
      This kind of behavior has been on the rise since the election of populist politicians in the US and Canada. It has to stop. And one way to stop it is to vote against populist politicians who’ll say anything to get into office.

  4. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. In Canada, we may not have it perfect, but we still have it better than many other parts of the world. We really are blessed. We should be thankful everyday for what we have, and share with those who have less than we do. I did see some of the federal election debate, and it was basically a gong show. It seemed like what goes on in the House of Commons. There was no civility, and the politicians were talking out of turn and arguing. There were some other controversial events that happened. Some so called “media” outlets were given access to be part of the debate, after they challenged being denied. You know who I mean. One of them thrives on presenting misinformation and has questionable “journalists”. I heard about another “media outlet” in America making some unproven allegations against Justin Trudeau, and people were thinking it was factual. It was timed right before the federal election, and the “article” had no author. It was from some publication called the Buffalo Chronicle. I also recall hearing about Justin Trudeau having to wear a bullet proof vest. There were people who were brushing this off as some type of staged election ploy by Justin Trudeau. I don’t think this is something people can mock, or think is a set up. In Alberta, there was someone who was on social media, and was posting that they Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau should be killed. The police took that very seriously and the person was arrested. What are we coming to if this type of thing is happening? On different social media platforms, including YouTube, there are people who advocate harm to Justin Trudeau. It is quite deplorable. The legal authorities need to crack down more on this. I remember hearing that Rachel Notley was the most threatened premier in Alberta’s history. This is very scary. I already voted in the advanced polls, and am thankful that I have the opportunity to vote. We may have a minority government. We will have to wait and see what happens. Hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Dwayne, I agree with your point that our political leaders and the police must take these threats seriously, I also agree that it’s shocking that we find ourselves in this horrible place where it’s par for the course for politicians and other public figures to receive death threats for expressing their views. I believe it’s not a matter of us becoming more intolerant but rather the rise of populist politicians who’ve made it okay to say openly the things people used to whisper behind closed doors.
      I’d be fine with a minority Liberal government backed by the Greens and the NDP. Elizabeth May made it clear she’d work with a coalition and Jagmeet Singh just announced he’d be prepared to do the same in order to keep the Conservatives out of power. Had Trudeau brought in proportional representation when he had the chance we wouldn’t be sitting on this knife edge now, but better late than never.
      What will be fascinating will be watching the CPC dump Scheer, they’re already talking about Peter MacKay as a possible replacement and of course there’s good old Jason Kenney hanging around in the background trying to figure out how he’s going to throw his hat in the ring for the CPC leadership race while at the same time staying on as Alberta’s premier in case he loses.

  5. lindamcfarlane says:

    Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all
    I do not believe that comparing ourselves to other countries is a healthy way of progressing in our infinite journey to a better world. We do better than many countries but we also fall short against many others and the problem with comparing is what is happening right now both at the provincial level as well as federal. Mediocre choices and solutions to just make it within the umbrella of the rest of the so called developed world. We should have our own objectives and strive for them. It does not take much to achieve the average because we are rich and privileged.
    This situation for example with the ‘War Room’ in Alberta is nothing but a direct challenge to our rights as citizens and we barely hear a sound. We can no longer leave our phones and TVs and convenience to stop something as offensive as this new institution. To make it even more horrendous, it is not subject to Freedom of Information Act, meaning we are not allowed to know what Jason Kenney and his gang of goons is doing to our private information when they decide one of us is a problem to their secrets. In the old language this is called Secret Police in the lines of the Stasi in East Germany – imagine if Rachel Notley had created something like this? It would be on the first pages of all right wing dominated papers as a direct affront to democracy.
    Jason Kenney is simply bringing into the provincial government his real beliefs of secrecy and unfair play that is all over the last election for the leadership of the UCP. This man is a crook but satisfies business interests.
    The RCMP is still going around the corners because of course they also are under the invisible hand of the UCP fundamentalist views on economic and social issues.
    We believe in a democratic state that defends our interests as citizens not consumers.
    Right to your MLA and to Jason and to the UN is necessary to let them know what you think about it
    I am going to offer them to put my name in their secret files along with Greta Thunberg.
    Come Get me if you dare – bunch of illiterates trying to bully us into submission.

    • Fair point Carlos. Canada would be better served charting its own unique path forward than being smug and doing very little because we’re better than the worst of the lot.
      While I don’t know if Kenney is a crook, he’s definitely in politics to represent business. The recent story about 54 care workers being laid off at a Vegreville seniors care facility illustrates this. The privately run facility is switching its contract from one private service provider to another. The employees were in the middle of labour negotiations but all that went poof when the contract was switched. Now they get to reapply for the jobs they previously held at $8/hour less. This demonstrates the upheaval that privately provided seniors care creates for the staff and the residents and their families. Our health minister Tyler Shandro said he won’t intervene. Of course he won’t intervene, Jason Kenney made it crystal clear that the UCP is the free market party, the focus will be on protecting the profit of the facility’s owners, not the well being of its staff and residents.
      I agree with everything you’ve said about the War Room. Unbelievable.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Crook (definition) – a person who is dishonest or a criminal.

        You do not think Jason Kenney is dishonest?

      • carlosbeca says:

        I think he is very dishonest
        As far as being a criminal it is arguable because to me what he did in San Francisco against gay men is morally criminal. The civil criminal side is for the courts to decide.

      • Carlos, you’re right, Mr Kenney is dishonest and that would make him a crook by the definition you’ve provided. I agree with you that what he did in San Francisco to deny gay men the right to be with they dying partners was morally wrong. Depending on what the investigation into wrongdoing in his leadership campaign turns up, he may fall into the definition of “criminal” as well. Not that his supporters will care.

    • Dwayne says:

      Carlos Beca. I see what you are saying. The war room is really pointless. It will not make oil booms come back again. Another business was fined in relation to the Kamikaze scandal, but that’s just a slap on the wrist. Most of the media ignores this. Shameful.

      • Dwayne, I’m curious to see how the “War Room”–which was renamed the “Alberta Energy Information Centre” on Oct 1 and re-renamed the “Canadian Energy Centre” on Oct 11–will respond to Greta Thunberg coming to Alberta. Her message is simple: “Listen to the scientists”. What will the War Room say to counteract Greta’s message, “don’t listen to the scientists,” or “the science is not yet settled” notwithstanding the 97% of scientists who’ve published their concerns about climate change in peer reviewed publications? When Greta’s visit to Alberta goes viral, and it will, Alberta will look even more selfish and backward than it has to date.

    • This was a great article Carlos that, from everything I’ve read, accurately reflects why countries like the US adopted an economic system after WW2 that rewarded workers with job stability and good incomes (it was a way to avoid workers turning to communism and the middle class turning to fascism) and how all that changed when the left wing morphed into the intellectual elite and the right wing morphed into the business elite.

  7. Interesting video Carlos. Professor Panitch talks about the failures of socialism and argues for a new kind of socialist that would develop outside of existing parties but would influence them to be more socialistic (and democratic) . He also said the 21st century was a time of discovery and we must figure out how to do socialism without repeating its failures because the alternative, capitalism “is throwing up undemocratic alternatives”. This is borne out by statistics which show more than 25% of Americans are okay of some form of authoritarianism.
    Between this and climate change we’ve got our work cut out for us.
    By the way, I’ve talked to a few people about Greta Thunberg coming to Alberta, they’re as keen as I am to show up and support her.

    • Dwayne says:

      Susan: Reading right winged media, like The Edmonton Sun, I see the letter writers. It’s sad what they say. They compare environmentalists to communists. One letter writer raked Greta Thunberg, Elizabeth May, Jagmeet Singh, Rachel Notley, Naheed Nenshi and Justin Trudeau over the coals for supporting climate change, and tries to blame them exhaling carbon dioxide for polluting the Earth. They then make the claim that the earth was a lot warmer when dinosaurs roamed the world. They also made a remark about how water vapour traps heat, better than carbon dioxide does, and that NASA knows that. Other letter writers compared environmentalists to communists. This is just laughable how foolish certain people are. Another recent letter writer to the Edmonton Sun made a claim that Alberta did not have a carbon tax before Rachel Notley was in power and falsely claims she did not campaign on it. The letter writer forgot that Ed Stelmach put in a carbon tax for Alberta, and that oil companies have been championing a carbon tax way before Rachel Notley was premier. Preston Manning, Stephen Harper, and even Andrew Scheer have said they support a price on carbon. Stephen Harper even praised Ed Stelmach for putting a price on carbon. Are these politicians, and the oil companies communists too, for supporting action on climate change?

      • Dwayne, thanks for providing us with a glimpse into the minds of the anti-climate change wingnuts. As you point out their justification for rejecting the science is ludicrous. It always amazes me that people with absolutely no education in climatology have the nerve to deny the science that the majority of climatologists, including those at NASA, say is a scientific fact. My position is this: if the overwhelming majority of scientists say climate change is a serious problem, I will accept the science. If at some point down the road another overwhelming majority of scientists say they’ve discovered new evidence that climate change is not a problem, I’ll accept the science.
        The bottom line is exactly what Greta says: Listen to the scientists.

      • Jerrymacgp says:

        @Dwayne: “Then they make the claim that the Earth was a lot warmer when dinosaurs roamed the world”. So, in fact, there was indeed a global temperature spike in the late Cretaceous period, which corresponds with the closing millennia of the Age of Dinosaurs …

        That fact doesn’t weaken the arguments for combating climate change, since as far as anyone knows, dinosaurs did not have a global industrial economy to protect from rising temperatures and extreme weather events, or shoreline population centres — we call them “cities” — to protect from rising sea levels.

        Not only that, but the Cretaceous global temperature rose over a period of several million years, whereas the modern anthropogenic global warming crisis has temps rising over a span of two or three human generations, a geological blink of an eye.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Yes he is speaking about the ‘Social Democrat’, ‘third Way’ …etc that fails to change much because they are so embedded in the neoliberal framework.
      The NDP is such a party and a clear example of the inability to really be able to change much.

      • Carlos, it’s interesting that you mention the NDP, certainly at the provincial level they moved much closer to the centre than anyone expected and as a result they left some of their beliefs behind. Although I have to say they did work hard to protect unions and do what they could for citizens as opposed to corporations. Alberta is a tough province for progressives, let alone socialists. We’ll see how Albertans feel about voting UCP after they suffer through four years of austerity and corporations continue to rack up profits.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Albertans in general do not mind corporations take it all – it has been discussed ad nauseam everywhere and in 43 years nothing changed. The Norway trust fund has even been discussed in our legislature and made no impact whatsoever.
        Corporations are now taking the whole cake and we are still giving them more. So I am not sure there is a possible fix for this province mentality. It is like talking to Born Again Christians – they cannot even hear what you are saying. Along with most people in Africa, we are the best types for this kind of exploitation.
        I have been in Alberta forever and I have never been able to make it through and have been called many names for simply trying to fight for our own interests.
        Greta Thunberg apparently is coming to Alberta and I fear for her safety. First the government will do nothing to protect her and second it is a waste of time. I am sure she has a lot of friends and fans here but not worth the visit. I admire her courage.
        She will be in our provincial STASI database – that is all she will get.
        We have a long way to go. This morning the editorial of the Edmonton sun was titled ‘A coalition government isn’t the Canadian Way’ – even the understanding of democracy is hard to grasp in this province. If one cannot bully their ideology down the throat of everyone else then it is worth it. I am starting to wonder if it is even worth to talk about it.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        sorry I just realized there is an error
        the sentence should be ‘If one cannot bully their ideology down the throat of everyone else then it is NOT worth it.’

        I agree with you the NDP tried and did make some difference. The results are obvious.
        If you do not destroy the public system or make them suffer then you are not doing governing. That is the belief. At the same time people scream loud if their public services do not give them all the conveniences of a well supported system. It is all so strange approaching the absurd. To me it is pure illiteracy. Most people haven’t a clue of how a government works and what taxes do.
        Anyway enough. Thank you for the blog. It is probably the only one in this province where people have a real chance to discuss these issues.

  8. Michael says:

    Thanks for your always interesting thoughts and comments.

    Two corrections, though, at the risk of sounding pedantic:

    David Johnston was GG from 2010 to 2017, not from 2000 as your typo suggests. I wonder how that whole prorogation business would have gone if in fact Johnston (an experienced lawyer, academic and administrator) had been GG instead of Michaelle Jean at that time.

    Second, John Buchan, one of my heroes, was the 15th Governor General of Canada (since confederation), but I see where you are coming from in that he was the first appointed after the Statute of Westminster of 1931, and thus the first decided on by the Monarch of Canada in council.

    • You’re right Michael, thanks for catching that typo, I’ve fixed it. And yes wouldn’t it have been interesting if it were Mr Johnston and not Ms Jean who had to address the prorogation issue. She said she made Mr Harper wait for hours before rendering her decision to demonstrate that prorogation was not something to be taken lightly; frankly I think making Mr Harper wait for her decision had no impact because in the end he got what he wanted.
      Mr Johnston referred to what he calls “the crucial first decade” following the passage of the 1931 Statute of Westminster as one that created unease in Canadians who were uncertain where “their primary loyalty should lie–with Britain or with Canada or somewhere in between.” He credits John Buchan with persuading Canadians that having multiple loyalties was a good thing and they should broaden their loyalties as much as possible especially as they grow older.

  9. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I think the UCP will ignore Greta Thunberg. It’s how they will act. Their loyal base will mock her, I’m pretty sure of that.

  10. GoinFawr says:

    “What is a Canadian”?
    Good question. But, more importantly in light of the next election: Who is an United States citizen?
    (Hint: rhymes with “smear”)
    Oh, and Mr.Scheer wants to “renounce” that connection? (Well, NOW anyway. How convenient.)

    But doesn’t that sound a bit harsh, especially to conservatives? I mean: the US is Canada’s largest, most important trading partner, no?

    • GoinFawr says:

      (Well not “more” importantly… “just as” maybe.)
      I only ask because I wonder if, to the ‘conservative’ voter, if dual citizenship with that nation is considered a bug, or a feature?

      • Carlos Beca says:

        GoinFawr you surprised me with that question.
        Of course it is a feature – there is no society – just markets and individuals. Whatever advantages you have as a person the better for competition. Unfortunately there are still some awful social rules that they have to follow to get to power although of course they also do not believe in government. Well again if it is for personal advancement then it is alright – you know what I mean. Just like Justin Trudeau, the rules are in the safety boxes of all the Kochs, Agha Khans…etc. Simple game for those who always win.

  11. Carlos Beca says:

    I am proud of Edmonton today. An amazing number of people marched to the legislature for Climate Change. Despite organized intimidation, for sure friends of our Premier, who showed the same ability during the UCP election, there was no problem.
    These crooks had the guts to occupy the area between the Legislature grounds and the crowd to stop people from reaching the main area where the building is. Like those that only understand bullying they covered part of their faces and intimidated what was mostly younger people that peacefully just wanted to walk and join others to bring attention to an important issue.
    I was personally challenged by one of them but fortunately not physically. They were in the middle with police around just bullying people to not move forward. The police did not stop them and basically stayed neutral which is probably what they were told to do but I have a message for the police chief – there is a difference between good and bad and police exists to protect us from the bad. These people should not have been allowed to bully and stop the march. Just because they have corporate money behind then does not make them more important than the rest of us.

    Of course no one from the government came out. They barely understand an adult conversation.
    I gained more respect for our younger generation especially for the friendly and mature way they behaved every where. The references to our indigenous peoples and their clear support, along with a couple of nice songs and full speech in Dene made it all a great experience.
    I am definitely proud of Edmonton.

    • Dwayne says:

      Carlos Beca: There were pro oil & gas people at that rally. Did they ask the premier who was elected by questionable means, what he would do about the $260 billion bill to cleanup abandoned oil wells in Alberta? This was started by the Alberta PCs, in the early 1990s. It is another one of many very costly mistakes the Alberta PCs did, starting when Peter Lougheed was not the premier. The UCP has already made around $15 billion in mistakes so far.

  12. Carlos Beca says:

    This is what our premier can say about it.
    I have only one word for you – listen to what people are saying. No one is asking to do any of what you are accusing them of. No one is asking to eliminate planes and jobs. What we are asking is that you allow the process of change to a better less polluting future to go on instead of cancelling and try to stop the progress of renewable energy.
    Stop the propaganda of those that support your garbage. Any one with a half brain knows that developing more solar, geothermal or wind is way better for our environment than what you are proposing. You claim to believe in markets so let those markets decide. You stopped help to renewable energy projects so do the same to oil and gas and let it be. There are thousands of jobs to be created in the new industries.
    Finally please realize that yes the cell phones are charged with energy from gas and coal plants but you forgot to mention that also from wind and solar. We are not idiots we do not need your playschool instruction on where energy comes from. GROW UP

    Susan this has nothing to do with your post but I have no other place to be able to discuss or talk about these issues. Your blog is the only one I feel comfortable talking to people that are genuinely interested in a serious conversation.

    • Carlos, a friend of mine in Edmonton encouraged me to come up for this march so I hopped on the Red Arrow and went up to Edmonton. I’m really glad I did. Thousands of people showed up to show Jason Kenney and those idiots leaning on their airhorns that not all Albertans have drunk the kool-aid. It was a magnificent rally. I’m going to blog about it on Sunday. We can have a fulsome discussion then. Talk to you tomorrow.

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